Putnam Investments on Tuesday took the wraps off what it is pitching as the industry's first batch of target absolute return mutual funds. The four funds seek annualized total returns of 1 percent, 3 percent, 5 percent and 7 percent above those of Treasury bills over a period of three years or more.
"Investors and financial advisors are hungry for solutions that target positive returns in good markets or bad and offer a way to venture back into investing," said Bob Reynolds, Putnam's president and CEO. He pointed out that there is nearly $12 trillion in cash "on the sidelines of the markets today."
"There has been a wide gap between ultra-safe cash 'with minimal returns' and everything else," Reynolds said.
Company Press Release
BOSTON, Mass., January 13, 2009 — Putnam Investments today announced that it has launched the industry's first suite of target absolute return mutual funds designed to seek annualized total returns of 1%, 3%, 5%, or 7% above those of Treasury bills over a period of three years or more. Unlike relative return funds that measure themselves against market indices, Putnam's absolute return funds are designed to provide positive returns over time, with less volatility than more traditional funds, whether markets are rising or falling. "Investors and financial advisors are hungry for solutions that target positive returns in good markets or bad and offer a way to venture back into investing," said Putnam Investments President and Chief Executive Officer Robert L. Reynolds. "Diversification and commitment to absolute return strategies can be crucial to long-term investment success, and we believe investors will welcome the opportunity to invest in these funds."
"This new product line makes Putnam Investments the first mutual fund family to offer individual investors access to a suite of funds that seeks to provide them with a targeted total return for their portfolios and a high degree of transparency,” said Reynolds. "We believe these funds will have extraordinary appeal for financial advisors and their retail customers as well — and not only in rough markets. We expect target absolute return strategies to represent a major share of the entire mutual fund industry in coming years. Putnam Investments is proud to be among the pioneers in bringing these strategies to mainstream investors."
Putnam Investments' new product suite includes four absolute return funds with specific targets, each geared to meet different investor needs and each investing in a different mix of assets:
Putnam Absolute Return 100 Fund – seeks to outperform inflation by 1% as measured by T-bills
Putnam Absolute Return 300 Fund – seeks to outperform inflation by 3% as measured by T-bills
Putnam Absolute Return 500 Fund – seeks to outperform inflation by 5% as measured by T-bills
Putnam Absolute Return 700 Fund – seeks to outperform inflation by 7% as measured by T-bills
By seeking positive returns with less volatility over time than more traditional funds, absolute return funds offer advisors the tools to more precisely customize portfolios and help manage volatility no matter what markets do. "We've seen not only huge market drops but also historically unprecedented volatility,” Reynolds explained. "There has been a wide gap between ultra-safe cash — with minimal returns — and everything else, including the vast majority of mutual funds that measure themselves against market-relative benchmarks. That is why there is something close to $12 trillion in cash on the sidelines of the markets today."
Putnam Investments' new funds aim to fill that gap and allow investors to re-enter the markets, help manage risk, seek positive returns, and customize portfolios based on their own individual return targets and risk tolerance. What is more, Reynolds noted, Putnam Absolute Return 100 Fund and Putnam Absolute Return 300 Fund could be especially useful for investors in or near retirement who seek positive returns over time with relatively limited volatility. Note that these funds are not intended to outperform stocks and bonds during strong market rallies.
"This is the first suite of absolute return funds that offers investors real alternatives to investing in traditional investments,” said Reynolds. "And, unlike many more complex alternative investments, this suite is built from mutual funds — which means they are transparent, highly liquid, and closely regulated. Moreover, these funds have a management fee structure that aligns the interests of manager and investor. It's simple: If the funds don't achieve the returns customers want, we will be paid less. If the funds exceed them, we'll be paid more."
The lead managers of the funds are senior Putnam Investments portfolio managers who currently manage institutional funds with similar absolute return strategies. The lead manager of Putnam Absolute Return 500 Fund and Putnam Absolute Return 700 Fund is Jeffrey L. Knight, Putnam Investments' Deputy Head of Investments and Chief Investment Officer, Global Asset Allocation. The lead manager of Putnam Absolute Return 100 Fund and Putnam Absolute Return 300 Fund is Rob A. Bloemker, Putnam Investments' Deputy Head of Investments and Chief Investment Officer, Fixed Income.
According to Putnam Investments' own consumer research, a suite of mutual funds that seek specific, positive returns over time is something that investors are interested in. A December 2008 Putnam Investments survey of 1,349 individual investors found that 49 percent described themselves as "scared” in the current market environment, 41 percent described themselves as "muddled,” and 29 percent described themselves as "paralyzed.” The survey also found:
Two thirds of the surveyed investors said that the value of their investments was down dramatically.
Two thirds believe that they cannot reach their financial goals with only money-market funds and other cash equivalents.
Financial advisors, too, show keen interest in the concept of absolute return. A December 2008 Putnam Investments survey of 611 advisors found that:
Eighty-six percent of advisors were "somewhat” or "very” interested in absolute return funds that seek to provide positive returns over a reasonable period of time, independent of market moves.
Nearly two thirds of advisors interested in absolute return funds said they would use them "to control overall portfolio risk.
According to Strategic Insight, approximately 95 percent of all existing mutual fund assets currently seek a relative return, with only about 5 percent seeking absolute return. The new Putnam Investments' absolute return funds suite is unique, since no other mutual fund complex has developed a full suite of choices that financial advisors can use to customize client portfolios without adopting a one-size-fits-all approach.
About Putnam Investments
Founded in 1937, Putnam Investments is a leading global money management firm with over 70 years of investment experience. As of December 31, 2008, Putnam Investments managed $106 billion in assets, of which $54 billion is for mutual fund investors and $52 billion is for institutional accounts. Putnam Investments has offices in Boston, London, Tokyo, and Singapore. For more information, go to www.putnam.com.