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Rating:Top Growing Fund Making Institutional Push Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Top Growing Fund Making Institutional Push

Reported by Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

After landing a spot as one of the fastest growing fund shops in 2002 as measured by Financial Research Corp., Jensen Investment Management is planning to build on pace by building up its distribution efforts to in the institutional channels. To oversee the effort the Portland, Oregon based firm landed David Mertens late last November. It also tapped Nichole Buchman to assist with its client services and consultant relations.

Mertens had headed the institutional and subadvisory sales efforts at Berger Funds before Janus effectively absorbed that complex last year. He made the move to the Northwest fund firm and has been mapping out a strategy designed to crack those markets at Jensen. Buchman, meanwhile had held a similar position at Stein Roe Funds in Chicago prior to joining Jensen. Richard Clark remains in charge of the traditional institutional and intermediary distribution channel at the firm.

The initial efforts at the firm will be focused on building the institutional and high net worth side of the business, said Mertens. Those businesses cover traditional defined benefit plans, managed account programs and defined contribution alliances. He added that the firm has not pursued traditional broker-dealer managed accounts because it does not want to lower its minimums to the level many of those platforms require.

"We don't have the resources to support traditional platforms and we do not want to commoditize the product in any way," explained Mertens. Jensen typically requires a $5 million minimum account size for institutional business.

The push is a response to the burgeoning asset base of the firm's retail fund. Sales were especially strong through the fund supermarkets, including Schwab and Fidelity said Robert Millen, principal of the firm. The fund grew from $118 million at the end of December of 2001 to $1,040 at end of 2002, he told the MFWire.com. "We are continuing to have net inflows," he added while noting the pace as "slowed a little. At the start of March the fund held $1.2 billion in assets.

The firm's ability to attract investors in the bear market is both a tribute to its disciplined, value-focused investment style and its strong ties to advisors. Jensen opened its doors in 1988 as a separate account specialist and focused its distribution efforts in its home territory of the Pacific Northwest.

It opened its first and only mutual fund in 1992. It now has 40 distribution agreements with national distributors and is able to boast a five-star rating from Morningstar.

The firm also hired SunStar about 18 months ago to reach out to the financial press. Since then the portfolio managers of the fund have been quoted in between 40 and 50 publications and made a couple dozen television and radio appearances, said Millen. The best results came from coverage by Kiplinger's newsletter, which as written about the fund multiple times.

"It is amazing how much they must be read," said Millen. "We do track prospect calls and Kiplinger's is one of the ones were there is an immediate response when there is an article." 

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