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TRP Global Technology PRGTX Upcoming Manager Change

edited January 11 in Fund Discussions
I don't own the fund, but just noticed this on the M* website. This is a copy & paste from part of their fund analysis. The fund has had very good years in up markets under the past several managers, but was down -55.5% in 2022. After 2022 the fund's 5 year average return is barely positive, .32% as of 1/10/23. Current manager is being replaced after only managing the fund for 3 years. Sounds as though there were some differences of opinion regarding portfolio construction and risk management between TRP management and the fund manager.

An unexpected manager swap and investment process pivot lead to a downgrade of T. Rowe Price Global Technology’s Morningstar Analyst Rating to Neutral from Silver.

Manager Alan Tu’s pending departure from this strategy raises a variety of questions that will take time to answer. Consistent with his predecessor, Tu managed the strategy in an aggressive fashion, posting strong results during bull markets in 2019 and 2020, but a tremendous drawdown of over 50% in 2022 led T. Rowe to make changes. Disagreements around Tu’s portfolio construction and risk management amid the tumult led the firm to conclude that analyst Dom Rizzo would be a better fit at the helm. Rizzo became comanager on Dec. 1, 2022, and will assume sole control on April 1, 2023. Rizzo is a reasonable match for the role but has just seven years of industry experience. Rizzo started his career covering small- and mid-cap tech hardware stocks in the United States, then moved to London to pick up coverage of European technology, including a handful of Asia-based companies. He does not have prior portfolio management experience.

Rizzo will manage the fund according to a different mandate. The new approach emphasizes greater diversification across secular themes and individual stocks. Rizzo’s goal is for the strategy to enjoy good—although perhaps less exceptional—performance in up markets, with more manageable downside during drawdowns. His investment guideposts are to invest in companies in secular growth industries with products that are mission-critical for customers, ideally at a time when business momentum is trending upward, and valuations are reasonable. Rizzo says he will rely on these pillars to create a portfolio capable of performing well in a variety of market environments, guided by his outlook over the next 18 months.

While the strategy’s new design seems reasonable on paper, its implementation hasn’t been tested. Further, the transition comes after a period of very weak performance and introduces the risk that the more-conservative portfolio may not make up lost ground in a strong rally as quickly as it would have under its previous iteration. The strategy still benefits from a deep team of capable analysts, and it’s possible Rizzo will be able to successfully steer the fund to success, but the picture is cloudy at the moment.

This strategy has historically been aggressive and highly differentiated from common technology benchmarks, but it will become tamer under its new structure. Manager Alan Tu and his predecessor Josh Spencer kept a relatively concentrated portfolio of stocks with large weightings in fast-growing companies with big potential—and a high level of volatility. Incoming manager Dom Rizzo will ply a modified approach that seeks to smooth out the strategy’s historically lumpy returns by including more-mature companies such as Apple AAPL and Microsoft MSFT, greater industry diversification, and smaller weights in stocks with a wider dispersion of outcomes.

Rizzo targets an 18-month time horizon in his process, which emphasizes buying companies in secular growth industries with products that are mission-critical for customers, ideally at a time when business momentum is trending upward and valuations are reasonable.

Rizzo’s framework is reasonable, but whether he can execute it well is yet to be seen.

This portfolio will undergo changes as it transitions from current manager Alan Tu to successor Dom Rizzo on April 1, 2023. Because of its mandate shift, investors should expect more prominent positions in more-mature mega-caps such as Apple AAPL and Microsoft MSFT. Rizzo believes these companies can still offer good risk/reward despite their size and the alternative of younger companies with faster growth. Rizzo also suggested that the number of stocks held will likely increase somewhat. Under Tu, the portfolio has held 40-60 stocks.

Rizzo indicated that he won’t shun companies with high upside and volatility but is likely to be more particular about when he owns them and at what position size. Tu was highly attuned toward a stock’s upside and was willing to hold large stakes in companies in which he saw the greatest potential. That included a rough stretch in 2022 when many of his holdings saw large share price declines amid slowing growth.

Rizzo will work with Tu to methodically transition the portfolio to its desired state over the following months to April 2023.


  • edited January 11
    IIRC, back when I held it, Josh Spencer ran the fund fairly aggressively, too ... but he managed it quite well. I always liked PRGTX but think it got a bit reckless and IMO became addicted to Hopium(tm) in recent years (like Cathie Wood), so perhaps the manager change is deserved.

    A 55% loss is inexcusable, in my view. Growth was rapidly falling out of favor as rates rose, yet I guess Tu stuck to his plan and rode it all the way down instead of trimming or moving more into safer holdings and/or cash. Reminds me of DODFX sticking to financial stocks during the GFC because it was "the plan" ... or Arnott holding a 20% short S&P position in his fund during years of a bull market because it was "his model."

    When the situation changes, what would you do?
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