As a Goldman Sachs & Co. analyst, Mark P. Hurley ruffled feathers by telling money managers to get big, get a niche, or get out.
Mr. Hurley is now getting a niche for himself.
The 39-year-old former director of resolutions at the Office of Thrift Supervision started a mutual fund company, Undiscovered Managers, late last year in Dallas.
The company's seven mutual funds-which use outside managers with unusual investment strategies-are targeted at bank trust departments, financial advisory firms, and retirement plans.
Mr. Hurley said he wants his company to provide his target audience with easy access to fund managers with strong performance records. And he plans to keep his funds nimble by keeping them small.
In a 1995 Goldman white paper, Mr. Hurley argued that small money managers could operate only if they had unusual or niche strategies.
He also predicted that by 2000, an industry consolidation would create 20 to 25 money management leaders, each with more than $150 billion under management.
The Undiscovered Managers' niche strategies are: behavioral growth by RJF Asset Management Inc.; all-cap value by E.R. Taylor Investments Inc.; small-cap value and hidden value by J.L. Kaplan Associates LLC; core equity by Waite & Associates LLC; real estate investment trusts by Bay Isle Financial Corp.; and special small-cap by Kestrel Investment Management Corp.
Mr. Hurley said he selected managers with track records that have not correlated to typical strategies and who provide excess return relative to risk.
For instance, Kestrel, which will close to investors at $160 million, beat its benchmark, the Russell 2000 index, by an average of 10 points per year for the last four years.
"For a bank trust department, they can't just sell their products to clients," Mr. Hurley said. "Clients want to see other products. The stuff you want to bring in at the margin are things you wouldn't want to do (yourself) anyway."
To reach financial advisers, the funds became available last week through Charles Schwab & Co.'s institutional marketplace, with minimum investments of $250,000. The minimum investment can be made by an adviser or a trustee on behalf of clients.
Leading the firm's charge into trust departments is Rick Holland, who last week left Goldman, where he was a vice president for investment product sales through banks.
Mr. Hurley left Goldman in 1996 for a short stint in marketing for institutional asset management at Merrill Lynch & Co. He and Mr. Holland are president and managing director, respectively, and partners of the new firm.
The fund managers themselves and Amresco Inc., a Dallas-based financial services company, own minority stakes.
Though Undiscovered Managers is set up to give the money managers access to investors they could not reach on their own, one trust banker said Mr. Hurley probably will fare better with financial advisers.
"Bank trust departments are looking for something predictable, a brand name, not necessarily shoot-the-lights-out performance," the trust banker said.
Eli Neusner, a senior consultant with San Francisco-based Spectrem Group, agreed that trust departments are hard to get into because they are "inundated" by mutual fund companies and prospective subadvisers.
"It's going to be tough for them," Mr. Neusner said, "no matter how stellar the performance is."
But a consultant to trust departments said there is room for a company such as Undiscovered Managers.
"If you have a client with $250,000, and $25,000 needs to go into a niche, it's very difficult to get them there with a product that has any sizzle," said James D. Kemp, principal of Antaean Solutions, Dallas.
Though some clients might ask, "Why do I need a manager that nobody discovered when I can go with a big name?," Mr. Kemp said many wealthy investors' snob appeal translates "unknown" into "exclusive."