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Fisher Investments’ assets climb despite controversy

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Via Financial Times

The controversy over lewd and sexist remarks by billionaire asset manager Ken Fisher has not deterred some investors from putting more money with the firm that bears his name.

Assets under management at Fisher Investments hit a record high of $115bn at the end of October, according to the website of the Camas, Washington-based group.

Mr Fisher ignited a firestorm with offensive comments at a conference on October 8, triggering almost $4bn in withdrawals as several US public pension plans announced they would sever ties with the firm and Fidelity and Goldman Sachs terminated contracts under which Fisher managed money for some of their funds. 

At the investment conference Mr Fisher compared the wooing of wealthy clients to “trying to get into a girl’s pants”.

The well-publicised institutional client withdrawals have been outweighed by inflows, however, and Fisher Investments’ assets have risen from the approximately $110bn it managed on October 8. The increase reflects in “equal parts net inflows of new client assets and rising market value of assets”, John Dillard, senior vice-president at Fisher, told the Financial Times.

Mr Dillard quantified the net inflows in the past several weeks at $3bn from “institutional investors, private clients and 401(k) [retirement savings] plan sponsors”. 

He said the withdrawals had been negated by double-digit gains in the US stock market, which hit a new record this week, and “the trust that our new and current clients place in us each and every day”.

Mr Dillard added: “The firm is on track to have increased assets under management at the end of November.”

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Mr Fisher launched his eponymous investment company in 1979, building it to become a midsized player in the asset management world and sending his personal net worth to $4.2bn, according to Forbes magazine.

The firm has continued to grow this year; as of December 31 2018 it had been overseeing $94bn.

About a third of the money Fisher manages comes from institutional investors, such as government pension funds, private endowments and foundations. The bulk, however, comes from individual clients, filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show. 

“It is reasonable that the new inflows are happening because investors will chase stock market performance,” said Todd Rosenbluth, senior director of ETF and Mutual Fund Research at CFRA.

In recent weeks, Fisher has ran an advertising campaign that showcased female employees and managers. One full-page advertisement — headlined “You Heard Their Story. Now Hear Ours.” — featured seven female employees and said 63 per cent of Fisher’s staff had a female manager. In an open letter in the Camas-Washougal Post-Record, Mr Fisher apologised to fellow residents for “some inappropriate remarks”.

Mr Fisher wrote a regular column for the Financial Times, which was ended in mid-October when news of his conference comments emerged.

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