Some of the best youngish managers around.
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By Russel Kinnel | 06-04-07 | 06:00 AM | Email Article

The following article originally appeared in Kiplinger.Trailing return figures have been updated through May 31, 2007.

Russel Kinnel is director of manager research for Morningstar and editor of Morningstar® FundInvestor℠, a monthly newsletter.

When I look for undiscovered funds, I'm usually looking for funds with experienced managers who have great track records but who haven't attracted a lot of assets for one reason or another. However, I also like to look for young managers who appear to be rising stars. Funds with promising young managers have the same potential as emerging-growth stocks in that they could provide great returns for a long time (but you don't want to bet your whole nest egg on them). If you're really cautious, simply put them on your watch list.

Young Lions
Cory Gilchrist runs  Marsico 21st Century  in the patented Marsico style, blending top-down themes with bottom-up growth-stock picking. The key difference with this fund is that Gilchrist targets companies of all sizes, whereas founder Tom Marsico's funds focus on big companies. Gilchrist, 36, has been at the helm for four years--four great years, I should add. The fund has outstanding three- and five-year records, thanks to the efforts of Gilchrist and his predecessor, so this fund's $1.8-billion asset base may well be in the $5-billion range before you know it--his kind of numbers will draw a crowd. You may want to get there first. The fund returned an annualized 19.7% for the three years to May 31, versus 13.0% for Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

Donald Kilbride, who manages  Vanguard Dividend Growth , is a rising star at a rising fund. Although Kilbride has been at the helm for only a year, there's a lot to like here. Kilbride, 42, hails from asset manager Wellington--a firm with a deep bench and a great record with Vanguard funds, including  Windsor ,  Wellington , and  Health Care . In fact, Kilbride assisted on the Wellington fund before taking the reins at Dividend Growth. Because Dividend switched from a utilities focus to a broad dividend mandate, its past record looks weak, as reflected by its 2-star rating. However, Kilbride's focus on finding good values among dividend-paying stocks fits well with the fund's tiny 0.38% expense ratio. Look for it to generate healthy income and nice returns. The fund returned 24.2% for the 12 months to May 31 (versus the S&P 500's 22.8%).

Darren Maupin, 30, took over  Fidelity Aggressive International  in 2006 after working as an analyst for about eight years. Maupin is a breath of fresh air at Fidelity, where most managers trade rapidly and hold hundreds of stocks. He runs a focused portfolio with a disciplined value strategy that concentrates on companies with clean balance sheets and strong cash flow. He lets cash levels build when he can't find good stocks. In short, he sounds much more like a Warren Buffett than a Peter Lynch or a Will Danoff. Sounding like Buffett isn't the same thing as producing returns like Buffett, but Maupin is one to watch.

Minyoung Sohn has run  Janus Fundamental Equity  for two years and  Janus Growth & Income  for three years. He served as an analyst at Janus for six years before that. I prefer Fundamental Equity as an expression of Sohn's focus on growth at a reasonable price. He looks for companies with strong, sustainable cash flow and a catalyst for future growth. Compared with some of the better-known Janus fund managers--Scott Schoelzel at  Janus Twenty , for instance--Sohn is more valuation-conscious. You'll see a few growth darlings but mostly stocks like  J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.  and  General Electric . Sohn, 31, is considered a comer at Janus. He has been getting his feet wet at Fundamental Equity--its return over his two years with the fund is well ahead of that of the S&P 500. With this experience, plus three years at Growth & Income under his belt, he should be ready for great things.

Kilbride at Fund Conference
By the way, for those attending our annual investment conference in June, Donald Kilbride will be on a rising stars panel. Hope to see you there.

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Russel Kinnel does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar's editorial policies.
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