Investors crave stability. They like to invest in companies and funds that have a longstanding management team. Change makes people nervous, especially when it is occurring at the top levels of management. So when a fund company turns over its top spot four times in seven years, investors may have good reason to be concerned.
It's lonely at the top
It looks like the revolving door at Pioneer Investments continues to spin. After being bought by European bank Unicredito Italiano in 2000, Pioneer has filled its CEO position four times. During this time, the firm has also lost several wholesalers and portfolio managers, including prominent bond manager Margie Patel. The latest in the string of high-profile departures is the firm's executive vice president and head of distribution, who is leaving at the end of June for personal reasons. There is some speculation that the outflow of personnel is a result of a culture clash between Pioneer and its new European parent.
In general, I don't think investors should focus too much on the management changes going on at the executive levels of their fund company. What is happening within each specific fund is much more relevant to investors. As long as management at your particular fund has not changed, and as long as changes at the top do not affect how your managers are investing, you shouldn't worry. However, in Pioneer's case, the level of executive turnover points to some more serious concerns regarding the sustainability of the company's culture.
Does this employee turnover mean that shareholders should dump their Pioneer funds and run for the hills? Not just yet. If your Pioneer fund is still a good fund, there's no need to panic. In an attempt to prove you can still find a good fund at a company with turmoil at the top levels of management, I took a look at Pioneer's offerings and tried to identify some of their best funds.
And the award goes to ...
I did uncover some Pioneer funds that appear to be pretty decent investments. For example, the Pioneer Fund
But the fund that stood out the most to me was the Pioneer Cullen Value Fund
Pioneering the future
No doubt Pioneer has some work cut out for it in trying to stem the flow of talent. If there is truth to the rumor that the turnover is a result of a culture clash between Pioneer and its parent company, this job will be especially difficult. If you currently own any Pioneer funds, stay put as long as there are no direct changes to the management or process at your fund. But keep a very watchful eye on the goings-on at the organization. The minute this executive shuffling looks like it will have an impact on day-to-day fund operations, you may need to pull the trigger.
If you are not a current Pioneer fundholder and were thinking of buying, you might want to hold off for a bit to see if things settle down at the firm's highest levels. See what happens in the next few months, and watch for any further high-profile departures. If none occur, you can feel more comfortable buying into one of the Pioneer funds.
Many fund companies face problems with employee turnover at some point. As long as they can keep continuity at the fund level and eventually work to level off the turnover, the firms will escape relatively unharmed. Here's hoping this is the case with Pioneer.
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Fool contributor Amanda Kish lives in Rochester, N.Y., and does not own shares of any of the companies or funds mentioned herein. Paccar is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.