A Wide Umbrella

June 2, 2009

Most financial services firms would be proud to trace their origins back to just a few decades. Nuveen Investments in Chicago can trace its roots back to the 1890s, when it financed the building of roads, bridges, sewers and other infrastructure in the growing Windy City.

The firm has now grown and transformed into an asset manager for wealthy individuals and institutions that has a group of boutique investment firms under its umbrella, each specializing in a particular market area.
Nuveen most recently added Minneapolis-based Winslow Capital Management to its collection of independent asset managers. Winslow and Nuveen's six other boutiques manage about $130 billion in assets for clients. Nuveen has about 950 employees.

"Ours is a unique business model that gives us an advantage throughout various markets," says Mark Anson, Nuveen president and executive director of investment services. Anson, previously the CEO of the British Telecom Pension Scheme and CIO of CalPERS, says he is able to bring to Nuveen a deep understanding of the institutional marketplace and its more sophisticated strategies, which are increasingly being used by high-net-worth individuals.  

The bedrock of the Nuveen investment strategy is to support its independent investment teams as they explore different areas of the market, each relying on their particular expertise, Nuveen officers say. In addition to Winslow Capital, Nuveen works with HydePark, NWQ, Nuveen Asset Management, Santa Barbara, Symphony and Tradewinds.

The firm handles investment assets institutions and for individuals falling mostly in the $1 million to $20 million range.

"We have a heritage of private equity financing that dates back to long before it became the hotbed of interest it is now, more than 100 years later," Anson says. "We did successful infrastructure investment banking for 60 years, and then in the late 1960s and 1970s, we entered the retail municipal bond market. From there, we built our expertise with independent asset managers, each with their own unique research team.  Today, we have highly specialized portfolio management and analyst teams that look at all the market possibilities and evaluates them based on clients' needs."
That research has led Nuveen to some different conclusions, says Anson.

"For instance, in the municipal market, most managers have relied on an insurance wrapper around municipal bonds. We rely heavily on our own credit research, which put us in good standing throughout the liquidity crisis of the last two years," he explains. "We also look at the larger economy and the opportunities it provides.

"We are in a recession that is already deeper and longer than that of 2001 and 1990-1991. My own personal sense is that it will continue into the fourth quarter of this year and it is affecting every developed nation. Globally, we are seeing an economic slowdown that dictates being more conservative," Anson adds. "We are keenly aware of the rough sledding that is going to continue for the course of this year, and look to our boutique asset managers to know their individual market areas well."

The newest manager, Winslow Capital, is a large-cap growth manager with $5 billion in assets under management. The firm is considered more aggressive than most with a talented, embedded team of portfolio managers.

"Like the other firms that came under our umbrella, Winslow will maintain their separate identity for branding, investments and process. We supply the back-office and middle-office management, but we let them do the investing," Anson explains.

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