When picking a potentially successful mutual-fund manager, "look for someone with a solid strategy, and who looks ahead" - perhaps six months to a year, says Marion Schultheis, a managing director at J.&W. Seligman & Co., in New York.
To some degree, she could be talking about herself. Ms. Schultheis heads up the growth investment team for Seligman and oversees the Seligman Capital Fund.
While she may lack the superstar status of other fund managers, Schultheis is getting noticed for her fund's recent performance. The mid-cap growth fund was up 34 percent through Sept. 18. Seligman Capital is in the top 3 percent of all 8,040 equity funds (including multiple share classes) for this year, according to financial services firm Lipper Inc. It has also garnered five stars for top performance from information firm Morningstar Inc., in Chicago.
Schultheis has consistently shown talent throughout her mutual-fund experience, analysts note. When she was with IDS Advisory Group (the fund arm of American Express) back in the early 1980s, she won a "rookie of the year award," for her analytical skills.
While at IDS in 1987, she won the "best sell award" for her quick decision to sell off holdings in the Gap, a retail stock. She made the call when the stock was selling at $74. Not too much later the stock was limping along at $17 a share.
While she's armed with an undergraduate degree in math and an MBA in finance, Schultheis relies on her staff to do an involved mathematical analysis of a company's stock. Only those with the best marks are added to the 60 or so stocks that make up the portfolio of the Seligman Capital Fund.
But stock-picking and -selling skills also involve intuition and a sort of future vision, she says, a skill usually reserved for the lead manager in a fund.
In her case, she looks at both the underlying fundamentals of a firm, as well as industry and economic trends. Many of her picks in the past year, such as in the "specialty" pharmaceutical area, have already attained their two-to-three year targeted goals, she says. Thus, she is constantly rethinking the overall framework of her fund.
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