Morningstar Inc. last week gave The Charles Schwab Corp.'s target-date funds a “negative” rating, pointing to a revolving door of managers.
Analyst David Falkof gave the rating to a slate of funds in Schwab's series, going from 2010 up to 2040.
Going back nearly four years, Schwab's fund series has had a series of different managers take the helm: Series manager Daniel Kern left Schwab in 2011 after running the funds since October 2008. He was replaced on an interim basis by Mike Gilliam, who oversees the manager research team at Schwab's collective-trust business and has run the trust's target-date portfolios since 2007, according to Mr. Falkof's report.
At the end of February, Schwab installed Zifan Tang, a veteran of Barclays Global Investors, as Mr. Gilliam's permanent replacement. Mr. Gilliam oversaw the Schwab target-date series for only seven months.
Mr. Falkof noted that though Ms. Tang spent 12 years at Barclays and worked on asset allocation models there, she was still new to portfolio management.
She “has no previous public track record managing money,” Mr. Falkof wrote. “While Gilliam has a record on the trusts and is involved with the series overseeing the underlying managers, the ultimate portfolio decisions are now in the hands of a novice manager.”
But Schwab spokeswoman Alyson Nikulicz said: "The target-date funds are under the direction of a highly capable team, led by Omar Aguilar, chief investment officer, equities for Charles Schwab Investment Management (Inc.)." She noted that Mr. Aguilar, who oversees Ms. Tang, has 18 years of experience, including managing index, quant equity, asset allocation and multimanager strategies.
"We also continuously evaluate the assets in these funds to determine whether they are best invested in internal or external managers, and make changes when appropriate," Ms. Nikulicz added.
In her two months at the helm, Ms. Tang hasn't made any changes to Schwab's target-date series. But Mr. Falkof noted the underlying funds are far from perfect. For instance, in mid-2011 — after Mr. Kern's departure — Schwab removed a requirement that at least 75% of its target-date assets be invested in proprietary funds.
But a good portion of the series' fixed-income investments — about 67% — remains held in Schwab Total Bond Market and Schwab Short-Term Bond Market index funds, which have fallen short of their benchmarks, Mr. Falkof noted.
Schwab Total Bond Market “made substantial out-of-index bets, causing it to underperform its benchmark by 10 percentage points in 2008,” he wrote.
The discount brokerage has taken some steps to improve its target-date performance. Those efforts include bringing in some non-proprietary funds, adding both PIMCO's flagship Total Return Fund and Loomis Sayles Investment Grade Bond Fund to its fixed-income sleeve.
Darla Mercado is a reporter with InvestmentNews, a sister publication of Pensions & Investments.