Nigel Thomas, fund manager of the £2.96bn AXA Framlington UK Select Opportunities fund is to retire in March 2019 after 39 years in the industry.
Thomas, one of the industry’s best known names, will continue work with his successor Chris St John until he leaves next year. St John, who has worked with Thomas for more than 13 years will become lead manager on the fund, with effect from 31 December, AXA IM said in a statement.
According to AXA IM statistics, Thomas has returned 380% to investors and has been first quartile since inception (2002) outperforming the FTSE All Share by 143%.
Mark Beveridge, global head of AXA IM Framlington Equities, said: “We are looking forward to continuing to work with Nigel over this coming year, but would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Nigel for his time at the company, his dedication to his unit holders and to the UK Equities desk.”
“At AXA IM we take succession planning seriously and identified Chris St John, pictured left, as the clear successor for this popular fund back in 2013. He got a great track record as lead manager on the successful AXA Framlington UK Mid-Cap fund [and] we launched an offshore multi-cap UK equities fund nearly two years ago that has raised £140m.”
Thomas said: “I have loved my time in the UK equity market and working with the Framlington equities team. We are a close knit team who share best ideas and often enjoy a lively debate.
“I have worked with Chris St John for 13 years and we have very similar investment styles; he and the wider UK equities team have contributed a huge amount to the idea generation that I have implemented as I managed the UK Select Opportunities Fund.
“I have 70% of my SIPP invested in this the fund and plan to keep it there – testament to my faith in Chris to continue to deliver superior returns for clients. As I always say, ‘things will not necessarily get better or worse – they will become different’, and I am very much looking forward to the next chapter.”
Simon Dorricott, senior fund analyst at Morningstar, said: “When we look at active managers in the UK equity market, Nigel Thomas stands out from the crowd. He has had a long and successful career spanning over 30 years, handsomely rewarding investors who have stuck with him over time.
“His successor Chris St. John currently manages a mid-cap offering, Axa Framlington UK Mid Cap, and in 2016 the group launched the Axa WF Framlington UK fund for him. The aim being to provide him with experience and a track record managing an all-cap fund, in advance of him succeeding Thomas on Select Opportunities.
He has been allowed to pursue his own approach on that product and, although it is only a short period of time, he has succeeded in outperforming Thomas, albeit still slightly underperforming the FTSE All-Share Index and UK Flex-Cap category average.
“We will be meeting with Chris St. John in the near future to more fully understand his investment approach and how he will adapt to UK Select Opportunities, which is considerably greater in size (GBP 2.95bn) than his current mandates.”