Making even more of a Horlicks out of MGAM

Whatever the precise reasons for Nicola Horlick's "suspension" as pensions supremo at Morgan Grenfell Asset Management - and it seems to be the old story of the brightest and best attempting to jump ship - it cannot be seen as anything other than another severe blow to this beleaguered organisation. Nobody is indispensable, but Ms Horlick was a key part of the team recruited by the now departed Keith Percy, and a vital part of the success achieved by MGAM until Peter Young so spectacularly called time.

With backing as powerful as Deutsche Bank, it seems unlikely that MGAM is going to evaporate as a business overnight. It takes quite some while for pension fund trustees to disentangle the complex arrangements that go with choosing a particular fund manager, even if they feel minded to do so. But what's happening now at MGAM is typical of all people businesses plunged into sudden and unexpected crisis. The best people bide their time, then when they find the right opening and opportunity, they jump.

Loyalty still counts for something at MGAM. It was apparently one of those she tried to recruit who shopped her, or so the rumour mongers say. And Morgan Grenfell itself says she severely overestimated the numbers who would want to join her in walking to another organisation. Even so, there are still some mighty disaffected people round there. Staff at MGAM should have shared in the City bonus bonanza this year - bonuses big enough to pay off the mortgage, as one rival fund manager gleefully describes them. As it is the bonuses paid next month are likely to be small, or certainly were going to be until this happened. With MGAM's reputation all but demolished by the Peter Young fiasco, the situation may not be much better next year either.

If Ms Horlick has indeed been attempting to poach internally, then Deutsche can hardly complain. Not so long ago it poached an entire team from ING Barings and got sued into the bargain for doing so. This is a dog eat dog business and Deutsche ought to know it. Its foray into Anglo-Saxon securities trading and fund management none the less looks like being an increasingly expensive one. Already the MGAM debacle has cost pounds 400m in compensation. Now it is all too possible it will end up without much of a fund management operation to boot. What a business.

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