Fitch Places AllianceBernstein Thematic Research Portfolio's Rating "Under
NEW YORK & LONDON -- June 24, 2013
Fitch Ratings has placed AllianceBernstein Thematic Research Portfolio's
'Satisfactory' Fund Quality Rating "under review". The fund is managed by
AllianceBernstein L.P. (AB; 'A+'/Stable/'F1').
AB has restructured its Thematic equities product as part of a broader effort
to improve underperforming funds and simplify portfolio management hierarchy
in AB's equity lineup. The fund's lead portfolio manager (PM) Cathie Wood has
the left the Thematic research team and AB on 30 June 2013. The chief
economist Joseph Carson is also off the team but will remain with the firm.
In their place, Daniel Roarty will lead the strategy in a new group titled
Global Growth and Thematic Equities, which had approximately USD4.3bn assets
under management (AUM) in Thematic products and USD3.1bn AUM in
International/Global Growth products using 31 March2013 figures. Mr. Roarty
oversees and is responsible for the global construction of these portfolios
within AB. Also as part of this change, Tassos Stassopoulos will join the team
as a portfolio manager. Mr. Stassopoulos has been with the
Global/International Growth Team for five years. Amy Raskin will remain in the
new group as PM and a director of research. Vadim Zlotnikov will remain as
chief market strategist and Investment Advisor.
Restructuring for the fund is being undertaken to reduce portfolio volatility
and shorten theme duration in order to better match client risk appetite. Mr.
Roarty plans to further diversify the fund across themes (six to 10 versus
five to eight previously), while also decreasing its' sensitivity to
macroeconomic trends, both of which should serve to dampen volatility. Fund
strategy will remain focused on secular trends, bottom-up stock picking and
benchmark unconstrained investment.
The fund has lost 23% of assets through May 31, 2013, but has retained the
majority of remaining funds following the restructuring. As of 31 May 2013 the
fund had USD81ml in AUM. The fund returned +5% year-to-date (YTD) versus +9.2%
of its benchmark, while ranking in the fourth quartile among its peers which
returned +7.9% YTD. On the volatility side, the fund managed with a 15.4%
standard deviation YTD versus 10.8% of the benchmark, while ranking fourth
quartile (most volatile) among its peers which managed an 11% median standard
deviation YTD. Lipper consistent return score remained at 1 out of 5 on a
Although departure of the fund's lead PM represents a loss of experience for
AB and the fund, Fitch takes comfort that AB is taking steps to reduce
volatility in the portfolio, add further diversification and further integrate
it with AB's growth equity research teams.
Fitch will monitor the fund's status across three key areas: first, the
stability of the remaining investment team; second, the stability of the fund
in terms of style; and third, its ability to maintain and improve upon its
performance track record. A material deterioration in any of these areas could
lead Fitch to consider downgrading the fund.
AB is a global, diversified asset manager (USD443bn AUM at March 31, 2013),
approximately 64% owned by AXA S.A. ('A'/Negative/'F1'). Equities represented
32% of AUM.
Fitch's Fund Quality Ratings combine Fitch's experience in qualitative fund
analysis with rankings and performance data from Lipper, a Thomson Reuters
company. Fitch's Fund Quality Ratings offer an independent, forward-looking
assessment of a fund's key performance and risk attributes and consistency of
longer-term returns, relative to peer group or benchmarks. The ratings focus
on the fund manager's investment process, key fund performance drivers, risk
management, and the quality of the fund's operational infrastructure.
For more information, please see www.fitchspotlight.com/FQR.
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Applicable criteria, 'Fund Quality Rating Criteria', dated 19 September 2011,
is available at www.fitchratings.com.
Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
Fund Quality Ratings Criteria: Assessing Funds - Investment Processes and
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Yuriy Layvand, CFA
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Fitch Ratings, Inc.
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Manuel Arrive, CFA
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Aymeric Poizot, CFA, CAIA
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