Matthew Dobbs, manager of the Schroder Asian Alpha Plus, will step back from full-time fund management from 31 March 2021. Dobbs' long-term colleague Richard Sennitt will take over as lead manager of the fund, with support from Abbas Barkhordar.
Dobbs has managed Schroder Asian Alpha Plus since launch in 2007. He is a highly experienced investor in Asian and emerging markets and has spent his entire investing career at Schroders since 1981.
It's not unusual to see someone step back from fund management after this length of time, though we're pleased to hear he's not immediately retiring. Until late 2021, he'll take on an advisory role, in which he'll offer ongoing support to portfolio managers and analysts at Schroders, and continue to analyse company and market data.
Who are the new managers?
Sennitt is another veteran Asian fund manager. He joined Schroders in 1994 and has since focused on Far Eastern markets. He has worked closely with Dobbs since 2007, and helped to build Schroders' Asian equities capabilities based in London, along with its range of Asian and smaller companies funds.
Sennitt is already alternate manager of Asian Alpha Plus, so he knows the portfolio well. He has also managed the Schroder Asian Income Fund since 2006, as well as a few other Asian income portfolios that are run in a similar fashion. In addition to taking over Asian Alpha Plus, he'll assume responsibility for the Schroder Asia Pacific Fund, an investment trust currently managed by Dobbs.
Sennitt will hand over some of his existing responsibilities to other team members, to free up some of his time to focus on these portfolios. This includes stepping down as co-manager of the Schroder Small Cap Discovery, which he's co-managed with Dobbs since 2012. You can find out more on what's happening with this fund in our latest update.
Sennitt already uses a similar fund management style to Dobbs – he mainly looks for quality companies with high or more sustainable growth prospects and an advantage that helps them stand out from the competition. In Asian Alpha Plus he will also invest in some companies that are currently out of favour and have the potential to recover at a later date.
Barkhordar joined Schroders in 2007 and has since been an analyst on the Emerging Markets Equities team. While this is a different region, it has significant overlap with Asia. He has also spent time working with Sennitt in the past, including providing analytical coverage of some companies held in Sennitt's funds. While we are encouraged he has applicable analyst experience, this is Barkhordar's first fund manager role, and as such he does not have his own track record.
What happens next?
It's always disappointing to see such an experienced investor step back from fund management. Dobbs has delivered excellent performance over the years*, and built in-depth knowledge of Asian and emerging markets. Past performance isn't a guide to future returns, and remember investing in emerging markets makes this fund higher-risk. The manager also has the flexibility to use derivatives which, if used, adds risk.
The manager isn't handing over the mantle just yet though. He'll continue to manage this fund until the end of March 2021, along with alternate manager Sennitt and the existing support he receives from his wider team. Succession planning has always been important to Dobbs, and we believe he wants to ensure his funds are left in good hands once he steps back. He has also committed to continuing to work with the new managers until the end of 2021, offering guidance where needed and mentorship to the analyst team.
The new fund managers will use the same long-standing investment process, and continue to work closely with the wider Asian Equities team that has been vital for providing investment ideas and ongoing analysis over the years. That said, all investors bring their own personality to a portfolio, so some changes should be expected over time.
This fund is currently on the Wealth Shortlist. Given Dobbs' ongoing involvement with the fund, and the quality of the team around him, we currently retain our conviction and don’t see the need to remove the fund from the list. However, we remain in close contact with the managers, and will continue to monitor the situation and any changes to the fund closely. We will inform investors if our view changes.
|Annual percentage growth|
| Aug 15 -
| Aug 16 -
| Aug 17 -
| Aug 18 -
| Aug 19 -
|Schroder Asian Alpha Plus||33.5%||33.1%||3.4%||1.8%||17.7%|
|Schroder Asia Pacific Fund PLC||34.9%||31.9%||3.4%||0.7%||15.6%|
|FTSE Asia Pacific ex Japan||34.3%||23.7%||2.4%||1.7%||7.9%|
|Schroder Small Cap Discovery||27.6%||13.0%||-4.5%||-2.9%||3.8%|
Past performance isn't a guide to the future. Source: *Lipper IM to 31/08/2020.