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Neuberger Berman Hires Emerging-Market Debt Group From ING

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May 1 (Bloomberg) -- Neuberger Berman Group LLC, a New York-based asset manager that oversees $216 billion, hired 22 people including 19 from ING Investment Management Co. to build out its emerging-markets debt team.

Neuberger’s emerging-market debt group will be led by Rob Drijkoningen, who will be based in The Hague, and Gorky Urquieta in Atlanta. The group will manage bonds denominated in U.S. dollars and local currencies, corporate bonds and Asian debt strategies, Neuberger said today in an e-mailed statement. The former team at ING Investment Management oversaw $16 billion in emerging-market debt assets.

Neuberger Berman is expanding its group as emerging-market fixed income funds have surged in popularity with investors. Large-scale poaching of investment teams from rival firms, known as liftouts, are rare in the money-management industry. In 2007, Deutsche Bank AG hired 16 members of the bond team at Amvescap Plc, now known as Invesco Ltd. Jeffrey Gundlach in 2009 took more than 40 members of his team from TCW Group Inc. to a new firm he founded after being dismissed over a dispute.

“It is not uncommon for two or three people to switch firms,” Geoff Bobroff, a consultant based in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, said in a telephone interview. “For this many people to leave is unusual.”

Neuberger Berman’s Chief Executive Officer George Walker said that the hiring of the managers was the result of a “long process,” while declining to provide details. The new managers will oversee institutional accounts as well as U.S. and European mutual funds that will debut later this year, said Walker.

‘Right Individuals’

“Emerging-market debt is a large, important asset class and we have been looking for a number of years to find the right individuals to come join us,” Walker said in a telephone interview.

Emerging-market bond funds worldwide attracted $59.7 billion last year, compared with about $9 billion in 2011, according to data from Morningstar Inc. in Chicago. Emerging-market debt funds hold about $290 billion in assets, according to Morningstar.

“For investors it offers a combination of decent yields and issuers with good economic fundamentals,” Cameron Brandt, director of research at EPFR Global, a Cambridge, Massachusetts firm that tracks the flow of money into funds, said in a telephone interview.

Lehman Buyout

Founded in 1939, Neuberger has about $97 billion of its assets in fixed income. The company is majority-owned by its employees and is in the process of buying out the remaining stake in the firm held by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

The bulk of Neuberger’s assets are in separate accounts, said Walker. The firm had $33 billion in U.S. mutual fund assets as of March 31, according to data from Morningstar. Neuberger’s oldest mutual fund, the $1.3 billion Neuberger Berman Guardian Fund, was created in 1950. The fund beat 80 percent of peers over the past five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A call to ING Investment Management was not returned.

To contact the reporter on this story: Charles Stein in Boston at cstein4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story: Christian Baumgaertel at cbaumgaertel@bloomberg.net

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