A $200 million seed mandate and backoffice support are understood to have lured AllianceBernstein’s growth equities team into boutiquedom.

The portfolio manager for the highly rated team, seven-year AllianceBernstein veteran Johan Carlsberg, said he was on “gardening leave” and unable to comment about any new arrangements, although he said he would be able to do so in a couple of weeks.

The other three Aussie equities growth managers who have left, and are also currently on gardening leave, are analysts Bruce Smith, Andrew Martin and Stephan Andre.

Speculation on the new home for the team, which had managed $1.5 billion for AllianceBernstein including a sizeable retail chunk for parent, Paris-based Axa, has been intense. National Australia Bank-owned incubator, NabInvest, has been mentioned by many observers as a strong possibility, as a sort of pre-emptive strike by the team against the possibility of Axa Asia-Pacific becoming owned by AMP, whose own manufacturing capability would overlap with AllianceBernstein’s in many instances. Meanwhile Amundi Asset Management was understood to be researching an Australian equity capability last year.

Michael Bargholz, chief executive of AllianceBernstein in Australia, said while the resignations last Wednesday were disappointing, he was confident the replacement team managing the portfolio were capable and experienced enough to continue the investment process which had delivered outperformance for about eight years.

The new portfolio manager is Ed Rayner, who is being supported by Michael Peet, David Robinson and Shane Kelly.

“That’s an advantage of being a big global manager,” Bargholz said. “We can provide resources where required.”

He said the firm would “think carefully about the future configuration” of its Australian growth strategy.

Bargholz declined to say how many client funds were invested in the strategy.

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