Investment Strategy
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About the Editor
Russel Kinnel is director of manager research for Morningstar, Inc. and editor of Morningstar FundInvestor, a monthly print newsletter for individual investors. He also writes the Fund Spy column for Morningstar.com, the company's investment Web site.

Since joining the company in 1994, Kinnel has covered the Fidelity, Janus, T. Rowe Price, and Vanguard mutual fund families. He helped develop the new Morningstar Rating for funds and the new Morningstar Style Box methodology. He also is co-author of the company's first book, The Morningstar Guide to Mutual Funds: 5-Star Strategies for Success, which was published in January 2003.

 
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About Russel Russ' Photo
Russel Kinnel,
Director of Manager Research and Editor, Morningstar FundInvestor
Russel Kinnel is director of manager research for Morningstar, Inc. and editor of Morningstar FundInvestor, a monthly print newsletter for individual investors.
Featured Posts
Rating News From Two Funds, and More
Senior Morningstar analyst Kevin McDevitt has reaffirmed Akre Focus' Morningstar Analyst Rating of Silver after putting it under review at the start of May when a comanager abruptly left the firm. Here's Kevin's detailed and balanced take on the situation:

A comanager departure hurts Akre Focus, but the remaining team is strong enough to keep the fund's Morningstar Analyst Rating at Silver.

Comanager Tom Saberhagen left this fund and its parent firm unexpectedly in late April 2019. He and comanager John Neff joined Chuck Akre in 2009. The two continued on a parallel track, becoming partners at the firm in 2013 and comanagers on the fund in August 2014. It appeared the duo would succeed Akre when he retired or substantially reduced his responsibilities.

Saberhagen's departure throws a wrench in those plans. Akre and Neff won't say why Saberhagen left, only to note that it was somewhat unexpected and abrupt. Saberhagen hasn't yet given the reasons for his decision, either, so trying to understand why he left is purely speculative at this point. But his departure is certainly a loss. It exacerbates the key-person risk surrounding Akre and perhaps Neff. Plus, it thins the team overall. For now, they don't plan to fill Saberhagen's seat. Most of his coverage has been picked up by Chris Cerrone, who has been with the firm since 2012 and is the team's longest-tenured analyst.

Nevertheless, while these concerns are real, they are not dire. Although Akre is 76 years old, he remains very involved in the fund's management. Moreover, Neff has now been with the firm for about a decade and a comanager for nearly five years. He is the natural successor to Akre, and he seems prepared for this eventuality. The team also benefits from the support of analysts Deanna McGreevy and Ben Fox, both of whom have been at the firm for about five years. Finally, it's possible that the team will add another analyst if the right candidate appears. Akre also has a history of successfully training analysts, dating to his days managing FBR Focus (now Hennessy Focus HFCSX).

For these reasons, the fund retains its Silver overall rating and Positive People rating. The biggest negative remains the fund's high expenses, which look especially egregious given its $10 billion asset base.

PGIM
Over in the fixed-income asset class, senior analyst Eric Jacobson confirmed PGIM Global Total Return's GTRAX Silver rating after looking into a pending comanager retirement. Here's the crux of his conclusion for the People Pillar section of the fund's analysis:

PGIM announced in April 2019 that comanager Arvind Rajan would retire at the end of the year. He joined the team in 2015 and contributed to running PGIM's global strategies but served in an oversight rather than day-to-day role. Meanwhile, comanagers Robert Tipp and Michael Collins have been on board for more than 16 years and nine years, respectively, and were joined by global-focused colleague Matthew Angelucci in October 2018. We have elected not to change the fund's People Pillar or Analyst Rating as a result of Rajan's departure.

Collins and Tipp also comanage Prudential Total Return Bond PDBAX and Prudential Absolute Return Bond PADZX. They are backed by a fixed-income group with significant research manpower, including roughly 200 portfolio managers and analysts, mostly based in Newark, New Jersey. The group also draws on a large team focused on proprietary analytics, risk management, and performance attribution. The managers' record and substantial resources earn it a Positive People rating.

Collins also manages some of the firm's other multisector strategies. He has been at Prudential since 1986 and has experience as a high-yield manager and developing proprietary quantitative international interest-rate and currency models. Tipp has been with the firm since 1991; he heads its global bonds team and drives global rate positioning for several portfolios.

The Late Jack Bogle's "Cost Matters Hypothesis" 
This is looking less and less like theory and more and more like practical reality in a growing area of the money management and retirement industry: target-date funds. Demand for low-cost options is driving flows and dictating the structure of target-date mutual funds, says Jeff Holt, director of multi-asset and alternative strategies for Morningstar, in this summary of Morningstar's 2019 Target-Date Fund Landscape Report.

 

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