BOSTON — Fans of Putnam Investments' incoming CEO Robert L. Reynolds say the former Fidelity vice chairman has the industry smarts and first-rate people skills needed to breathe new life into the struggling firm.
Even with his enormous cachet, Mr. Reynolds can't hope to quickly revive a money manager weighed down by eight years of dreadful domestic equity returns. Still, his appointment shifts the debate about Putnam from how bad things are likely to get, to how good they can become.
Some Boston-area money management veterans are unabashedly optimistic. With Mr. Reynolds' following among the industry's “best and brightest, this could turn out to be the biggest turnaround story in the history of asset management,” predicted a former senior Putnam executive, who declined to be named.
“If anybody can do it, it's Bob,” agreed Joseph McCabe, Boston-based vice chairman of executive recruiting firm CTPartners Inc., citing Mr. Reynolds' ability to inspire confidence and recruit effectively. “I think in three to five years, you're going to see a completely energized Putnam.”
Skeptics, while conceding Mr. Reynolds' considerable accomplishments, note that putting together an investment organization hasn't been one of them.
Mr. Reynolds made his name building Fidelity's 401(k) retirement business, rather than on the investment side, where Putnam's main challenges lie, said one consultant, who declined to be named. If fixing Putnam's investment factory is the key, “he has no grades there, no specific points I can look to in his tenure at Fidelity, and say "here's the way he can fix that.'”
Another former Putnam executive agreed, saying a lot will depend on whether Mr. Reynolds can “bring in a really strong head of equities.”