Even among the pantheon of successful bank mutual fund managers, Stephen A. Lieber stands tall.
Top bank funds rarely outperform all of their nonbank rivals. But Mr. Lieber's largest portfolio First Union Corp.'s Evergreen Foundation Fund has dominated the balanced fund class since Mr. Lieber launched the fund in January 1990. Over the past five years, the portfolio made up mostly of value- oriented stocks and Treasury bonds outperformed all of the 59 other bank and nonbank balanced funds tracked by Lipper Analytical Services. The portfolio which is distributed by a unit of Furman Selz delivered an average annualized return of 20.72% during that period, outpacing the S&P 500 by more than three percentage points per year. And on top of that, the fund managed to outperform all of its bank competition for the past year, with a 23.29% return. For his efforts, Mr. Lieber, a Westchester County, N.Y., native with 45 years of investment management experience, was recently nicknamed King of the Balanced Funds by Fortune magazine. Investors have crowned Mr. Lieber with their dollars. As of Sept. 30, the fund stood at $920 million in assets, more than triple the $290.5 million that was sitting in the account when First Union acquired the Evergreen portfolios in July 1994. Mr. Lieber, who manages two other Evergreen portfolios, attributes much of that asset rise to the marketing boost that First Union's ownership has given to the fund. The Foundation Fund is a big seller through the bank's brokerage network, which stretches from Florida to the Middle Atlantic states.