is the latest fund shop hoping to smush together a few staggering growth funds and slim its ranks of growth specialists.
On Monday, the Denver-based firm said it would merge its reeling
New Generation fund into its winded
Mid Cap Growth fund, and its bruised
Select fund into its bleary-eyed
Growth fund. All that reeling and blearing will be history by April if shareholders approve. The proposal is unusual because it combines poor-performing funds with one another, rather than merging money losers with funds that have superior track records.
The firm, a
sibling under the Stilwell Financial umbrella, also said portfolio manager Mark Sunderhuse, who managed the New Generation and Mid Cap Growth funds, will leave Dec. 28.
While all tech-heavy growth funds have been under pressure since the
peak last year, these four have fallen further than the vast majority of their peers. In a statement, the company said the mergers are the result of investors' reluctance to sink money into hyperaggressive funds.
The upshot: Over the past two years, fund investors, fund managers and fund companies alike have learned why it's not a great idea to make a big bet on the sector du jour, namely technology stocks.
Over the past three years, the New Generation and Select funds, both classified as mid-cap growth funds, have kept half their money in tech stocks, on average, according to Chicago research house Morningstar. That led to outsize gains in 1999 but has since created steep losses.
While fund mergers typically feature a sagging fund being swallowed by one with a better track record, that isn't the case here.
The Mid Cap Growth fund, just shy of its three-year anniversary, is down 43% over the past 12 months. And the Growth fund, a large-cap growth fund, trails more than 70% of its peers over the past one, three, five and 10 years.
Jay Tracey and Paul LaRocco will run the Mid Cap Growth fund and the New Generation fund after Sunderhuse's departure. Tracey has worked on Berger's Growth and
Large Cap Growth funds for a little more than a year. Both funds trail their average peer over the past 12 months. LaRocco has run the Berger
Small Cap Growth fund since the end of last year. The fund trails 96% of its peers since then.
These moves come on the heels of similar growth-fund mergers and/or manager departures at
Vanguard. The bottom line is that pros and amateurs got too excited about growth investing in general and the tech sector in particular during the past few years.
Ironically, the oversupply of funds catering to those areas is unwinding just as their sails are filling with wind: The average tech fund is up 16% over the past 90 days, trouncing every other category.
Ian McDonald writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to
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