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Thursday, June 19, 2003

Whiston Finds New Help

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

Janus Capital has turned to a defined contribution specialist, Girard Miller, to fill its open chief operating officer position. The move may not be a surprise considering the background of CEO Mark Whiston. The rookie chief himself made his name at Janus by running defined contribution marketing for the Denver-based fund firm.

The hiring is also another clue for those hoping to solve the puzzle of what Janus will look after Whiston is finished making over the shop. To purge Janus after its investment mania binge during the bull market, Whiston is stressing basic operations and distribution, adding advisor sold funds and deemphasizing the star culture that permeated the firm under founder Thomas Bailey. Indeed, Whiston's task is akin to bringing discipline to a schoolroom in which the previous teacher had ceded the authority to students.

When he joins Janus at the end of June, Miller will be handling all day-to-day operations at the fund manager. That job may also put the 52-year-old in line to replace Whiston at some point. Indeed, Whiston praised Miller's leadership abilities in a statement announcing the hiring.

"Girard's strong leadership skills and proven ability to enhance operating margins will be a distinct asset as we create an even more competitive and profitable business model for Janus," Whiston said. "As I continue to focus on improving fund performance and broadening our product lineup, Girard will play a key role in implementing our strategy, orchestrating the operational aspects of our business and ensuring that Janus runs efficiently."

Admittedly, Miller is taking a step down in rank to take the job, but he may be hoping that the move will raise his profile in the long run. Until now, he has been the CEO of the ICMA Retirement Corporation. That firm is a sleepy, Washington-based full-service administrator servicing state and local governments by administering their defined contribution programs.

During his nine years at the helm of the 457 plan provider, Miller has grown assets under management at the provider by an average of 20 percent annually. To continue to grow that business at such a clip in the current bear market would have been a challenge. ICMA has felt more Nationwide's sharp elbows since it entered the 457 business by acquisition about four years ago. And, as a competitor in a two-horse race there are not a lot of new clients to win over.

Miller, like most top executives, is ambitious. Before joining ICMA he was at Fidelity for six years and finished his tour of duty there as a senior vice president and head of Fidelity's national business unit for public funds. He left Fidelity less-than-happy about losing the top spot at Fidelity's 401(k) business to Robert Reynolds.

Meanwhile, Whiston also said that Janus continues its search to replace Helen Young Hayes after her surprise retirement in April.

"We're interviewing CIO candidates who could also serve as president, reflecting the vital role this person will play in leading the company's investment team and representing Janus in the marketplace," Whiston said. "We're being very deliberate in our search and, based on the high-caliber people we've seen, are confident that we'll attract the right person."

* * *
Janus International has tapped a new sales director for its Asia-Pacific ex-Japan region to replace Joann Ma. Ma jumped to Invesco at the start of June after less than a year at the firm. At Invesco, she rejoined Alex Lee, who she had also worked with at New Alliance Asset Management.

Johnny Wong will fill in for Ma and report to Howcy Yeung, regional director. He will be based in Hong Kong and be responsible for developing distribution arrangements for Janus' 15 funds in the region. Wong was most recently at HSBC Asset Management. He joined HSBC when the bank purchased Sinopia Asset Management in 2000 from France's CCF. 

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