US mutual fund giant Putnam Investments has hired a former investment specialist at Zurich Financial Services, Peter Walsh, to head up the group’s Australian retail business.

This follows the expiry of its exclusive distribution arrangement with BT Financial, which is expected to be confirmed soon. Walsh will start on April 24, joining Martin Frank who heads Putnam’s institutional business. As reported last month in I&T News, BT is expected to sign up US quant manager AQR Capital as its main global fund manager, effectively giving the firm an entry into the Australian retail market with a global equities mandate of about $4 billion. AQR, which has a range of long-only and long/short funds, some of which are closed, already has some institutional clients in Australia courtesy of Russell Investment Group. A spokesperson for Putnam was unavailable for comment yesterday. Putnam took over the management of global equities and currency for the former Rothschild Australia Asset management’s range of international, regional and sector and diversified funds in 2002. This was then inherited by BT, along with international bond management and alternatives alliances, as a result of Westpac’s acquisition of Rothschild, followed by BT. Putnam’s investment style for the main BT mandate is best described as growth at reasonable price (GARP), however, the US-based manager has a full range of multi-style investment teams. Last year, Dirk Morris, Putnam’s head of currency and director of Australasian business, left the company.

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