CDC IXIS Asset Management Advisors Group is one of the few investment management firms with a heritage dating back to 1816, when Louis XVIII of France founded Caisse des Depots Group to protect bank deposits from Napoleon's raids.
The Boston-based firm, with $118 billion in assets in the U.S. and a total of $293 billion worldwide, is also one of the few to represent a network of 16 best-of-breed affiliates and business partners. These include Loomis, Sayles & Co., Harris Associates/Oakmark Family of Funds, Reich & Tang Capital Management and AEW Capital Management.
This network of load and no-load mutual funds, retirement products, separately managed accounts and variable annuities, all across the board - growth, income, value, fixed income and equity, gives CDC IXIS Asset Management Advisors an array of quivers to offer wirehouses, says John T. Hailer, president and chief executive officer. When calling on major wirehouses, CDC IXIS specialist wholesalers team up to offer solutions of clients' own investment discipline choice, Hailer says. CDC IXIS offers "top-flight investment management" across the board, and does not push product, Hailer says.
"A real key here is strength through diversification. At any given time, whether it's growth, value, bonds or equities, there's always going to be a style that's doing well," Hailer says.
In fact, the CDC Nvest Strategic Income Fund's one-year return through Nov. 30 was 11.1%, and the Oakmark Equity & Income Fund returned 0.8%, versus the benchmark S&P 500's negative 16.5% return over the period.
And Morningstar honored Bill Nygren, manager of the Oakmark Fund and the Oakmark Select Fund, domestic equity fund manager of 2001, while Dan Fuss and Kathleen Gaffney, managers of the Loomis Sayles Bond Fund, were nominated as bond fund managers of the year in 2002.
"At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is performance," Hailer said.
"The multi-manager approach is very much in vogue," notes Geoff Bobroff, a mutual fund consultant based in East Greenwich, R.I. "The intermediary market seems to want best of breed."
The few other firms that have tried this approach, however, including Old Mutual, slipped in this approach, primarily because "there were competing styles within their own organization," Bobroff cautions.
That is not an issue at CDC IXIS, Hailer says, since stockbrokers themselves seem to now be moving to a team approach, and the entire CDC IXIS firm has been built with an eye toward teamwork and strength in the sum of its parts, Hailer says.
"The investment firms we purchase are happy about it, for they realize we are not just making an acquisition but are forming a true partnership, with an eye toward growth, at the same time they keep their independence," Hailer says.
"It is hard to be the master of everything," agrees James Cotto, managing director with Cotto & Padovani Financial Services Group of Wachovia Securities, in Mount Kisco, N.Y. "If your style is growth, it's going to be hard to do value well. I believe in the philosophy of a multimanager approach."
All the while that CDC IXIS Asset Management North America, formerly Nvest, was going through its rapid-fire acquisitions during the mid 1990s, adds Laurence Dwyer, senior vice president, corporate communications, the company's game plan was to build a truly diversified network of investment choices. While equities, particularly tech stocks, were knocking records out of the park, Nvest management did not lose sight of the wisdom of diversification, Dwyer says. (Nvest was acquired by Paris-based CDC IXIS Asset Management Advisors Group in October 2000.)
"When Peter Voss came in as CEO of Nvest 10 years ago, his intention from the very start was to develop a very strong, decentralized, diversified firm," Dwyer adds, noting that this is how the firm was able to recruit Hailer from Fidelity Investments, where he had served most recently as senior vice president, international.
Since joining CDC IXIS in 1998, Hailer has busied himself, explaining the firm's mission to financial planners, broker/dealers and other distributors. Whether CDC IXIS becomes a household name is not important, Hailer explains. Getting CDC IXIS' affiliates recognized as the premier providers of investment choices among the investment community is Hailer's No. 1 goal.
And if Hailer is successful, there should be other signposts along the way. One is to boost the firm from ninth position of the top 10 players in separate accounts to one of the top five, with a market share greater than 1%.
Another signpost: more, highly selective acquisitions. "We're always looking for value-add partnerships, opportunities to add on complementary investment disciplines, whether the deals are external or internal," Hailer explains.
A final signpost: for CDC IXIS to build on its global strength, particularly in Europe, where CDC is a well-known name. "One of the great things about this company is that it has the vision of a global player and takes opinions from across the board on how to strengthen the company," says Hailer.