Should You Invest In Rookie Funds?

By Lisa Smith AAA

Investing with experienced mutual fund managers is a time-tested strategy. These industry veterans have established track records that enable an investor to more easily learn about the managers, and establish a comfort level with their strategies and credibility. Research providers, such as Morningstar, make the search for data even easier; but what about the rookies?

New funds are launched all the time, and fund managers with new ideas sometimes deliver impressive growth, right out of the box. How can you tell if a new fund will be a winner or a loser? How do you know if you should take a chance on a new fund? Read on to find out.

SEE: Will A New Fund Manager Cost You?

Look Before You Take a Chance
While investing in a new fund might seem like taking a shot in the dark and hoping for the best, first impressions can be deceiving. Although a specific fund might be new, it's possible that it is being run by an experienced fund manager with a long and distinguished track record. Likewise, the fund complex itself could have a strong history of launching successful new products. Nothing is certain, and even veteran managers can stumble, but there are many ways to research a new fund before you decide to add it to your portfolio.

Managers
Start by doing research about the fund manager. How long has the manager been in business? How much of that time was spent running a strategy that is similar to the new fund? Was the previous fund successful?

You'll also want to find out how long the manager has been with his or her current employer. If the manager has had a long tenure with the organization, what role did he or she play before taking over the fund? Has the manger been in the business long enough to have seen both bull and bear markets? Determining the answer to these questions will help you figure out whether an experienced manager is running the show, an experienced assistant manager is now taking the helm of his or her own fund, or if a true rookie is making a debut.

Fund Complexes
Next, thoroughly review information about the fund complex. Is the rookie fund the latest product from a reliable old fund complex? Does the organization have a long history with the type of strategy the new fund offers? Many firms specialize in small cap, growth, value, socially responsible and other strategies, and have strong track records of launching successful offerings. In many cases, a new fund is managed in a manner similar to an existing product.

When a new fund is similar to an existing strategy, the name of the new fund sometimes provides insight into this type of scenario. Names, such as Large Cap Growth I and Large Cap Growth II generally denote situations where strategies are similar. You'll want to know if the fund complex has a good track record of launching funds that last, and whether they have historically lowered fees as assets under management have risen.

The Fund
The fund itself is also a valuable source of information. To learn about the fund, read the prospectus and check the fund's track record - even if it's short. How did it fare against its benchmark in terms of returns, alpha, beta and turnover? Does the fund's history demonstrate a rigorous adherence to the stated investment strategy? Are the fees high or low when compared to similar, competing funds?

The Bottom Line
While time-tested strategies and tenured managers appeal to the risk-averse among us, the opportunity to take a chance on a rookie in the hope that you find the next all-star player can be a power draw. If you can resist the urge to take a chance, be sure to thoroughly research the fund before investing.

If you do all of the research that you can and still like what you see, it could be time to put down the money to invest in a few shares of the fund. Adding a rookie fund to your portfolio should, like all risky moves, be done in moderation. Put a small amount of your assets in the fund as part of a well-diversified portfolio. If the manger does well, you will enjoy the gains. If the manger doesn't do well, the bulk of your portfolio will not be exposed to the damage.

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