The portfolio managers at Lord Abbett were so busy, the company decided to hire assistants for them and in the process created a new kind of job: "client portfolio managers."
"Client portfolio managers are really an extension of the portfolio management team," explained Daria Foster, a partner and senior director of marketing and client service at Lord Abbett & Co. LLC, Jersey City, N.J.
"It's hard for portfolio managers to respond to clients' questions on a timely basis because they're busy managing money," Ms. Foster added.
"The client portfolio managers provide a deeper level of client service, beyond monthly reporting. They often represent the portfolio managers at board meetings to answer questions about a portfolio's strategy, holdings, reason for buying and selling certain stocks," she noted. "It's been very successful all around. If the portfolio managers spend time on all this, they don't have the time to do their basic job."
The client portfolio managers sit in on investment meetings and can also conduct research with the analysts. "They do everything the portfolio manager does except buy and sell," said Ms. Foster.
Lord Abbett has five client portfolio managers, who provide coverage for the investment teams with the most relationships, and the company might add more if assets require it, she said.
Andy Washburn, vice president marketing for American Express Funds, Minneapolis, said the arrangement works well for his group. "Lord Abbett is one of 20 subadvisers for our American Express Partners Funds. We use the client portfolio managers frequently to talk to our plan sponsors and 401(k) participants. They (the client portfolio managers) can articulate the strategy and fill an important role for our clients, to help them understand what's happening and how the money is being invested. We need to be judicious about how we use the portfolio managers' time. The client portfolio managers allow the portfolio managers to spend more time managing money," Mr. Washburn said.