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Monday, April 3, 2006

Vanguard Tapping Quant Managers

by: Armie Margaret Lee

Vanguard is increasingly enlisting firms that specialize in quantitative investing for its actively managed funds.

Valley Forge, Pennsylvania-based Vanguard, the country's second largest fund company, has sent $170 billion, or over half of the $290 billion under external management, to Boston advisers, The Boston Globe reported.

For instance, Acadian Asset Management, which started managing parts of Vanguard's Global Equity fund in 2004, now oversees $2 billion of assets. Then there's Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., which manages $4.5 billion from three Vanguard funds and Franklin Portfolio Associates, which oversees some $9.2 billion of assets.

So why is Vanguard turning to such firms? Joseph Brennan, principal of Vanguard's portfolio review group, said bringing in firms with the quantitative approach to investing provides diversification.

The move may also be explained by the dearth of areas in which Vanguard might create new index funds. ''There aren't too many new indexes they can add to their family without, as [Vanguard chief investment officer] Gus Sauter has referred to it, slicing the baloney too thin," Daniel Wiener, editor of a Vanguard investment newsletter, told The Globe.

John Cone, chief executive of Franklin, said quantitative funds lessen risk compared to other approaches. "A lot of traditional managers do a superb job, but their year-over-year results tend to be more volatile. Part of the appeal of quant managers has been the risk control they bring," he said.

Vanguard tends to put together advisers with different investment styles in the same funds. An example is the Vanguard Equity fund, which has returned 15 percent, outperforming its benchmark by 5 percent, over the past five years.

The fund has been managed by Jeremy Hosking of Marathon Asset Management in London. In 2004, Vanguard tapped Acadian to co-manage the fund. 

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