Platinum Asia has had an impressive but volatile long-term track record under multiple portfolio managers, outperforming the Morningstar Category benchmark and peer average over the trailing five-and 10-year periods to Dec. 31, 2023.

However, given the recently accounced changes we have downgraded the strategy from a Bronze Medalist Rating to Neutral. A Neutral Medalist Rating indicates a fund in which we do not have a strong positive or negative conviction. In our judgement, they are not likely to deliver standout returns, but not likely to seriously underperform either.

Platinum Asia is available to investors through the Platinum Asia ETF (ASX: PAXX) and through a managed fund.

Changes to the Platinum Asia team

Cameron Robertson has been elevated to sole lead portfolio manager, with Andrew Clifford stepping off the strategy, and Kirit Hira stepping down to an analyst position within the Asia team.

The March 2024 restructure also resulted in a reduction in the headcount of the broader analyst team. Four analysts along with three portfolio managers departed the firm. This is an incremental negative as it has the potential to diminish the research effort.

The Asian team appears somewhat siloed in the new structure, with two dedicated analysts. Although we would expect healthy collaboration across the broader team to continue, as the global strategy has maintained a long-held overweighting in the Asian region.

Our updated rating

The removal of Andrew Clifford’s direct involvement in this strategy following a major team restructure in March 2024 sees our conviction in Platinum Asia’s team diminish.

We are also cautious regarding the impact of cost reductions and restructuring across the broader group. The strategy has been transitioned to a sole portfolio manager model under Cameron Robertson, with Andrew Clifford stepping off to focus on Platinum International, and Kirit Hira stepping down to an analyst position.

Robertson was appointed co-portfolio manager in 2021. Before that, he had been a co-portfolio manager on Platinum International Technology since 2017. We have yet to gain conviction in his abilities as a sole-portfolio manager, which hasn’t been helped by his tenure coinciding with a period of Platinum’s contrarian style being mostly out of favor.

A cost-driven headcount reduction in the overall team (four analysts and three portfolio managers departed) is disappointing. This leaves us more cautious on our overall view of Platinum Asset Management as a Parent. While cost-cutting may be good for shareholders in the short term, we would prefer to see the investment team insulated from disruption, and purely focused on delivering alpha.

The Platinum investment approach, based on detailed fundamental bottom-up stock analysis but incorporating emerging trends/themes, has not changed since Kerr Neilson and Andrew Clifford founded the firm in 1994.

In the period under Clifford, Robertson, and Hira some minor changes to portfolio construction were evident because of the differences in their respective sleeves, with characteristics such as turnover and number of holdings being the key areas of difference; this has not been detrimental to the strategy. We do not expect major changes under the sole leadership of Robertson going forward.

Overall, this is an investible strategy for investors seeking dedicated Asian exposure, but given the team restructure our preferences now lie elsewhere.