EM fund management: So long, Mark Mobius

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Mark Mobius, the white-suited, shaven-headed, Bond villain-named investor who is surely the most famous emerging-markets funds manager alive, is retiring after 30 years of travelling the world on behalf of Franklin Templeton Investments.

An interview with Mobius – and our correspondents have done many over the years – tended to follow a familiar pattern. First: “Hi. I’m in Ankara/São Paulo/Johannesburg/Almaty” (the list of alternatives was truly endless). Second, an optimistic appraisal of his favoured emerging markets of the moment. Third, a roar of jet engines, punctuated by a shout of “Hold on, we’re taking off. I’ll call you later.”

Mark Mobius

The Gulfstream IV from which these calls would most commonly be made and received was a key part of the Mobius brand: a man who travelled so much on behalf of his funds that it was cost-efficient to do so on a dedicated private jet.

But, in the final analysis, was Mobius actually any good? A graph of the Templeton Emerging Markets Fund relative to its benchmark looks pretty grim. According to Franklin Templeton’s own numbers, the A (Ydis) class of the fund with dividends reinvested has delivered a cumulative 307.94% from inception in 1991 to December 31, 2017 – while the MSCI Emerging Markets Index has gained 880.86%.

Mobius looked cool, though.