"If there's ever a management credibility question for me, I walk away."
-- Blaine Rollins, Janus fund manager, 1999
Management credibility issues loom large over
funds these days, making many investors seriously consider walking away. If you're a fed-up Janus fund investor, rest assured. There are plenty of options.
The Denver fund firm has given fund holders a number of reasons to be unnerved. The latest blow was last week's news that Janus was among the firms that
allegedly allowed a hedge fund to reap huge profits at the expense of the fund holders.
That isn't the only red flag for Janus investors. The fund firm has had a major brain drain of fund managers, and has yet to fill the vacant chief investment officer post. With few exceptions, the firm's funds haven't proved they can perform well in anything other than the euphoric bull market of the 1990s. Despite concluding a lengthy battle to extricate itself from parent
, Janus still finds itself in a rebuilding phase. Consider the inexperience at the upper ranks: At 15 prominent Janus funds, the average manager tenure is a slim 3.9 years. At the
Dodge & Cox Stock fund, there are 10 managers with an average 22 years at the helm.
Given the ghastly cocktail of poor performance, inexperienced managers and a breach of fiduciary responsibility, it is a marvel that Janus funds still manage $150 billion in assets -- down from $300 billion in 2000 due to market losses and redemptions, but still up from about $3 billion a decade earlier. This sum demonstrates profound investor confidence or inertia -- or merely mislaid hopes that individuals can get their money back. Wake up, Janus investors!
The millions of investors in Janus funds need to look long and hard at Janus and the alternatives. Of course, Janus may right its troubled ship and emerge as a great shop for decades to come. Janus has moved
quickly to address investor concerns following last week's news. The question for investors is: Are you comfortable placing that bet? Answering "no" can be a bit daunting, because it means you now have to go find alternatives.
To get you started on considering your options, we'll offer a look at Janus's large growth offerings, some advice on how they stack up and a few alternatives from actively managed funds, index funds and exchange-traded funds.
Large Growth Funds
Janus offers five major large growth funds, which remain the firm's bread and butter. Here's a look at all five offerings.
1. (JANSX) Janus (JANSX)
Created in 1970; managed by Blaine Rollins since Jan. 1, 2000.
Negative 20.26% a year, top 62% of large growth funds.
AOL Time Warner
The flagship fund gets high marks for having a low expense ratio, and Rollins has turned in decent performance at other Janus funds before taking the helm, but it's hard to find other reasons to justify holding onto it because its huge asset base makes it lumbering. Rollins has moved to broaden beyond tech.
Investors looking for an alternative might want to consider
T. Rowe Price Growth Stock fund (PRGFX), which is first among several funds that better reflect the "growth at a reasonable price" mission.
Created in 1991; managed by David Corkins since 1997.
5.75%, top 12% of large growth funds.
The Growth & Income fund has been a beacon of consistent, market-beating returns under Corkins, whose investment style looks prudent next to Janus stable mates but racy compared with other growth and income funds. It also has low expenses, thanks to less-frequent turnover of its holdings.
If you're diametrically opposed to Janus or if the uncertainty at the parent company makes you skittish, maybe you should get out. Otherwise, short of Corkins leaving, there's no reason to jump ship at Growth & Income.
Created in 1993; managed by Corkins since Feb. 1, 2003.
21.34%, top 32% of large growth funds.
Mercury's rising was impressive in the late 1990s, but it fell pretty painfully as well. Warren Lammert left the fund in 2003, and Corkins has taken over and tinkered a bit with the holdings but appears to be keeping to the same go-go growth approach --
are among the newer purchases. The one-two punch of a new, potentially overextended skipper and a fund firm in turmoil makes this a difficult pick to rally behind.
Mairs & Power Growth (MPGFX),
another solid pick, is a great Midwestern fund that sticks to what it knows best, and has managed to post great growth in good times and bad.
Click here for a recent interview with co-skipper Bill Frels.
4. (JAVLX) Janus Twenty (JAVLX)
Created in 1985; managed by Scott Schoelzel since Aug. 1, 1997.
Negative 0.73%, top 63% of large growth.
Microsoft, ExxonMobil and
It's hard to be a concentrated fund with $10 billion to put to work. Schoelzel holds a mere 24 stocks in the fund -- a few more than its name suggests -- and while he has moved into health care and financial services, it remains a bit tech-heavy. Schoelzel's performance over three years and year-to-date rank in the bottom 15% of large growth funds; the fund everybody once wanted to get into looks a lot more like a fund that everyone should get out of.
Former Janus skipper Tom Marsico runs two solid concentrated funds. I'm partial to
Marsico Growth (MGRIX), but
Marsico Focus (MFOCX) has been a worthy choice as well.
5. (JAOLX) Janus Olympus (JAOLX)
Created in December 1995; managed by Claire Young since Sept. 11, 1997.
5.37% a year, top 14%.
Maxim Integrated Products
Olympus had a similar trajectory as Mercury: outsize returns in the late 1990s, outside declines in the bear market. Skipper Young has moved beyond a devotion to tech alone -- you'll find
While the newfound discipline is welcome, investors looking for a fund that didn't have to learn about bubbles the hard way might want to consider
ABN Amro/Montag & Caldwell (MCGFX), helmed by
veteran skipper Ron Canakaris, who lagged a bit during the frothy late '90s but made up for it on the back end.
The Index Route
Investors who feel burned by actively (mis)managed funds -- or
who are just warming to the low-cost, steady returns of passive funds -- have many options to consider as replacements for large growth funds.
If you want to go the index fund route, the
Vanguard Growth Index (VIGRX) is a great choice. It offers a dirt-cheap expense ratio of 0.22%, a 10-year average annual return of 10.47% that beats 88% of actively managed peers and a firm with a long reputation for keeping the individual investor's interests front and center.
Exchange-traded funds -- those passively managed funds that trade like stocks -- also offer plenty of solid alternatives. ETF giant Barclays offers two decent options: the
iShares S&P 500/Barra Growth Index ETF
iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index ETF