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Western Asset Hires Agarwal as It Rebuilds Securitized Team

Western Asset Management Co. hired Anup Agarwal as head of structured products as the fixed-income unit of Legg Mason Inc. rebuilds its securitized-debt team.

Agarwal joins Pasadena, California-based Western Asset after four years at Stark Investments, an alternative-investment firm where he was head of consumer finance, according to a note to clients today, the contents of which were confirmed by Legg Mason spokeswoman Mary Athridge. The firm also lured back Ben Hunsaker after the portfolio manager left the team earlier this year, Athridge confirmed.

Agarwal, who previously ran credit and research for mortgage- and asset-backed securities at Invesco Ltd., replaces Paul Jablansky, who resigned last month. Over the past two years, fixed-income assets under management at Baltimore-based Legg Mason fell by about $15 billion to $351 billion, even as all bond mutual funds expanded by more than $500 billion, according to company disclosures and Investment Company Institute data.

In addition to Jablansky, Deborah Slogoff, who oversaw commercial-mortgage bonds and consumer asset-backed securities at Western Asset, also left this month after almost 11 years, Athridge confirmed. Slogoff declined to comment on her plans when reached by telephone. Christopher Medema, a junior member of the team, also left earlier this year, Athridge confirmed. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

‘Match Up’

Last year, Ron Mass departed after 21 years at the firm. Mass had been Western Asset’s head of structured products before becoming co-head when Jablansky arrived in 2011. Dan Krup also left to become a director at hedge fund 400 Capital Management in October.

Agarwal’s “background and investment philosophy match up really well with our firm,” James Flick, Western Asset’s director of global client service and marketing, said in a telephone interview.

He has experience managing teams and with a range of structured products, as well as government-backed mortgage securities, Flick said. He also has worked with “long-only,” unconstrained and alternative mandates, including a mortgage opportunity fund at Milwaukee-based Stark, he said.

Legg Mason Chief Executive Officer Joseph A. Sullivan, whose firm has struggled to reverse redemptions, said in an interview last month he’s focused on acquisitions to boost the firm’s assets and is looking to buy a non-U.S. equity unit and expand its alternative-investment offerings.

Money that Western Asset manages in structured products has fallen to $16 billion from a peak of $80 billion as the market shrank, according to Flick. The outstanding amount of U.S. home-loan bonds without government backing has dropped below $900 billion from $2.3 trillion in 2007, Federal Reserve data show.

“We still have a huge commitment to this sector, but the actual workload is way, way down,” Flick said. He said the firm thinks investing in the debt can offer greater returns than some other products.

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