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Experienced Investor

Should you invest in new funds or wait for a three-year track record?

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This week saw Jupiter launch a brand new Asian Income fund, but how long should investors wait before deciding when to invest in a new fund?

New fund launches from fund management groups are a very common occurrence. Hardly a week seems to pass by without something new to come out to tempt investors with and this week was no different with Jupiter’s announcement of the much anticipated launch of its Asian Income fund, which is run by Jason Pidcock.

As a bit of background. Piddock joined Jupiter at the start of this year having previously ran a similar fund at Newton, which he managed since its launch in 2005. Indeed the Newton Asian Income fund was one of the first funds on offer to UK retail investors hunting for dividend paying companies in the Asia region.

Traditionally, investors would hunt for yields in the UK space, with the IA UK Equity Income sector now housing of £57bn and perennially topping the monthly sales charts. However the past decade has seen this search extended globally and Asian funds have proved popular.

As such, when Piddock’s departure to Jupiter was announced it led to a spate of headlines, with investors in his Newton fund left wondering should they stay or should they move their money over to his new fund.

It’s the age old question when a manager leaves. Another, however, is how long should investors wait before investing in a fund that has only just launched.

While it’s not officially written down as one of the 10 commandments, most advisers or professional fund buyers follow the three year rule. That is they will only invest in a fund once it has obtained a three year track record. That way they can judge how good the manager is and try and limit the chances of suffering painful performance early on.

However, this seems to be one ‘rule’ that is very much down to interpretation and Hargreaves Lansdown’s head of research Mark Dampier is one such fund picker who questions its logic.

“We do not follow funds, we follow managers,” Dampier says.

“There were some advisers preaching about waiting a certain time period to invest in Neil Woodford’s new Woodford Equity Income fund when it launched in June 2014. However if you had waited six months before putting in you would have lost a lot of the performance he has already achieved.”

The point Dampier is stressing, is that just because a fund may look new and shiny, and not necessarily have a performance track record to back it, the person who is running it does. For example, investors can look to the performance Piddock achieved in the 10 years running his previous fund to get an indication of what his new fund, which follows the same investment process, will be about (although past performance is no guarantee of future performance etc etc).

“Unless that fund manager was part of a big team and may not have been solely responsible for his previous fund’s track record, you can get a pretty good idea about his new fund and not have to wait three years before investing,” he says.

For new funds run by new managers the rule is different. Here Dampier does advise investors wait before piling in. However in cases like this he argues that three years is not nearly enough time to sit on the sidelines.

“Five-to-seven years would be my minimum,” he says.

“You need to see how the manager performs over different cycles and three years is not enough time to see this.”

As it happens Dampier says he will be putting his money in the newly launched Jupiter Asian fund, all predicated on the manager’s previous track record.

John Husselbee, head of multi asset at Liontrust at Asset Management, says the three year rule has to be qualified on who is actually buying a fund. As a professional fund buyer he says it is a rule that is easier to ignore because he has more experience and knowledge of how fund managers work, allowing him to make a judgement call on day one on any new fund they may be managing.

However for the DIY investors who don’t have day-to-day access to the managers, nor know how they specifically run money, he says waiting three years is a “sufficient” period of time to assess if they can repeat their successes from any other their previous funds.

“If it is a brand new strategy and a new manager three years is not nearly enough,” he adds. “You have to be able to judge over a full market cycle and this can take anywhere between five and 10 years.”