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Are these the 3 best fund managers on the ASX?

Credit: 16:9

The last 12 months has been a tough period for many fund managers and this is now being reflected in the share prices of those listed on the ASX.

Not only has it been difficult to attract new fund inflows because the market volatility has kept investors on the sidelines, but performance fees are also likely to be subdued as equity markets around the world struggle to make significant gains.

Even worse is those fund managers who have underperformed their respective benchmarks and will rely solely on management fees to generate the bulk of their earnings.

It’s not all bad news for investors however.

Fund managers are highly leveraged to equity markets which means any improvement in the markets will see a more than proportionate improvement in earnings and subsequent increase in their share prices.

With the share prices of most fund managers now well below their 52-week highs, this means now could be a great time to pick up shares at an attractive level. For investors looking to leverage off an improvement in the equity markets it’s hard to go past the following three fund managers:

Platinum Asset Management Limited (ASX: PTM)

Platinum currently has around $24.7 billion in funds under management (FUM) and is led by billionaire investor Kerr Neilson. Unfortunately for the company, very few of its funds have generated a positive return over the past 12 months and this has been appropriately reflected in its share price. The shares were hovering around $8.40 a share in early December, but are now trading closer to $6.20. Although this appears to reflect poorly on the management team, its long term performance has been exceptional with most of its funds delivering double-digit returns over three and five-year periods. As a result, I would be happy to back Platinum over a longer time frame and view the current downturn as an opportunity to pick up the shares at an attractive valuation.

Magellan Financial Group Ltd (ASX: MFG)

Magellan is a leading international fund manager with strong brand recognition and robust institutional support. The company is headed by Hamish Douglass and after a strong level of inflows during March, the manger now has $39.4 billion in FUM. Just like Platinum, Magellan has suffered from short-term negative performance especially from its $7.7 billion flagship Global Fund. The combination of a stronger Australian dollar and weaker international equity markets have seen the fund’s returns decrease by 4.2% over the past six months and this has seen the company’s share price fall from over $28 per share in December to the current share price at around $23. Despite this short-term speed hump, Magellan’s performance remains impressive over a long period and its strong reputation should see the company receive more funds from domestic investors who are increasingly searching for more diversification through international equities.

BT Investment Management Ltd (ASX: BTT)

BT has been one of the best performing shares on the ASX over the past five years, delivering shareholders an average annual return of 35.5%. The manager has been strategically increasing its presence in the UK market and this has really accelerated the growth of its FUM over the past few years. BT now has around $77.2 billion in FUM although this has been negatively impacted by the recent weakness in the British Pound. While there is the potential for further weakness of its UK operations, as the British decide whether or not to exit the European Union, I beleive this short term uncertainty has provided a good opportunity for longer-term investors. Much of the negativity appears to have already been priced in and I think the shares could rebound strongly once that uncertainty is removed. At under $10 a share, BT appears to be an attractive growth and income investment.

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Motley Fool contributor Christopher Georges owns shares of BT Investment Management and Platinum Asset Management. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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