After two tough years for its aggressive growth style, Janus is asking a pair of fund managers to start coaching analysts. The goal is to beef up the Denver firm's much ballyhooed research efforts.

On Feb. 1 Jim Goff will leave his post as manager of Janus' struggling

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Enterprise,

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Adviser Aggressive Growth and

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Aspen Aggressive Growth funds to become the firm's director of research. Jonathan Coleman, an analyst who co-managed the mercurial

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Venture fund from 1997 through 2000, will take his place.

Helen Young Hayes will become managing director of investments, while remaining co-manger of the

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Overseas and

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Worldwide funds.

The firm says it's making the moves in an effort to mentor its growing, 43-member analyst corps. Janus had hinted at

tweaking its research process during a year-end press briefing.

"Our analyst staff has nearly doubled during the last four years," CEO and founder Tom Bailey said in a statement. "It's critical that each and every one of our analysts is exceptionally trained and mentored."

Suffering shareholders of Janus funds should be cheered. The reason: Having Goff and Hayes as coaches should help fill a void created when former chief investment officer Jim Craig

stepped down in September 2000, and could help managers avoid outsize losses like those of the past two years.

In some 17 years with at Janus, Craig had run the flagship

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Janus fund,

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TheStreet Recommends

Balanced and

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Venture funds, among others. He'd also become a mentor to the firm's younger managers and analysts.

Rightly or wrongly, many observers saw Craig as the architect of the Janus style, in which managers are encouraged to use their own research to find fast-growing companies. Moreover, they aren't discouraged from making big bets on those companies and their industries.

Janus managers loaded up on volatile stocks like

Nokia

,

Ericsson

and now-bankrupt energy trader

Enron

, though the firm says a quick exit avoided losses in the last case. The firm's tech- and telecom-heavy growth funds rang up big gains in 1999 as the average Janus growth fund rose more than 80%. Predictably, the gaudy returns led to record sales that forced several Janus funds to close to new investors.

But lots of funds rode those same sectors down, suffering worse than most growth offerings since the Nasdaq's peak in March 2000. Goff's Enterprise fund was actually among the firm's most disappointing performers over the past two years. The fund fell 31% and 40% in 2000 and last year, respectively. Each loss trailed more than 90% of mid-cap growth peers, according to Chicago research house Morningstar. Goff has run the fund since its 1992 launch and has trailed his average competitor in five of the past seven calendar years.

Coleman's tenure on Venture, which is closed to new investors, was marked by feast-or-famine results. In 1999, for instance, the fund trounced the market and its peers with a 141% gain. But in less growth-friendly years like 1997 and 2000, the fund gained 13% and lost 46%, respectively. In each case the fund trailed more than 80% of its peers.

Despite Janus' struggles over the past two years, investors haven't given up on the firm. Sagging returns have whittled its retail stock and bond-fund assets, to $111 billion at the end of last November from $168 billion on Nov. 30, 2000, according to the latest data from Boston fund consultancy Financial Research. That said, redemptions outpaced investments last year by just $11 billion through Nov. 30, even though many of the firm's most popular funds aren't accepting money from new investors.

While some of this fortitude is due to investors' faith, some is due to Janus' prescient move into the adviser-sold channel, where cash flows have been solid. Still, it's impressive when you consider that a high-profile offering like the closed

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Janus Twenty fund is averaging a 9% annual loss over the past three years, which trails far behind the average large-cap growth fund. Then again, the quietly solid performance of funds like

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Janus Growth & Income, illustrate why many might be holding on. Manager David Corkins has led his average competitor each year since taking the fund's reins in 1997.

Hayes, a former Morningstar manager of the year, has managed to maintain solid long-term rankings vs. her foreign-fund peers despite a blue period in 2000 and 2001.

In the wake of two years' losses, a less risky approach might already be in effect at Janus. Many managers

backed off many of their former favorite tech stocks last year and several Janus funds'

tame returns during the recent tech rally points to a more diversified strategy.

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

imcdonald@thestreet.com, but he cannot give specific financial advice.