Nigel Thomas, active manager at AXA IM will retire this year, after 39 years in the industry, and having run the AXA Framlington UK Select Opportunities fund since 2002.
He will be replaced by Chris St. John, who currently manages the AXA Framlington UK Mid Cap portfolio, and since 2016 the AXA Framlington UK fund. Thomas will work with St. John until he leaves. The two have worked together for 13 years.
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 as the clear successor for this popular fund back in 2013. Not only has he got a great track record as lead manager on the successful AXA Framlington UK Mid-Cap fund, but we launched an offshore multi-cap UK equities fund nearly two years ago that has raised £140m.”
Nigel Thomas, fund manager of the AXA Framlington Select Opportunities fund, said in a statement: “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. Chris’s experience investing in UK small and mid-cap companies is particularly relevant as he takes the lead on this fund later this year – these areas have been an important source of alpha generation for the UK Select Opportunities fund, with currently over 50% of the fund invested in these areas of the market.”
“I have 70% of my SIPP (Self Invested Personal Pension, an option under the UK pensions regime) invested in 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, commented on the announcement that: “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. He took on the AXA Framlington UK Select Opportunities fund in 2002 and under his tenure, has returned an impressive 366% compared with 228% for the FTSE All Share index.”
“His successor Chris St. John…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 (£2.95bn) than his current mandates. In the meantime the rating on Axa Framlington UK Select Opportunities is moved to Under Review.”