DETROIT (MarketWatch) — General Motors Corp.
is making another push to market its asset management services to other companies by dropping its name from the in-house unit that already oversees $132 billion in funds.
The auto maker said Monday that it will re-brand General Motors Asset Management, or GMAM, as Promark Global Advisors, Inc. in an effort to win more external business alongside its oversight of GM’s own pension plans for employees in the U.S., Canada and some other countries.
GM accounts for around 80% of managed funds, with outside employee benefit plans, foundations and other clients making up the balance.
The move comes eight years after GMAM first moved beyond managing money for the auto sector – it still has the account for bankrupt parts maker Delphi Corp. – by winning a contract to oversee funds for Xerox Corp. , the copier maker.
“GM remains our largest client and we expect the company to continue to be a vital part of our business,” Nancy Everett, Promark CEO and chief investment officer, said in a statement Monday. “The experience gained through this relationship enables us to bring a unique perspective and commitment to managing the plan assets of other firms, a fact we are highlighting with the new brand.”
While its Promark funds earned a reputation for low costs and relative outperformance, GMAM has faced tough competition from established fund managers and consultants seeking business from companies outsourcing the oversight of employee pensions.
GMAM earned a reputation as one of the first and most aggressive corporate entrants to seeking outperformance through alternative investments, notably hedge funds. However, it sliced the percentage of funds in alternatives to 6% at the end of 2008 from 13% a year earlier. Most of the switch was into bonds, its largest asset class at 61%, according to a regulatory filing by GM. Equities accounted for 24% and real-estate for another 9%.
The re-branding exercise represents a marketing about-face for GMAM, which had previously highlighted its relationship with the auto maker as a strength. Marketing material on its Web site noted: “The investment programs offered to our clients are the same ones in which GM’s benefit plans participate.” Some of GMAM’s senior executive team, including its CFO and chief operating officer, joined from GM or its GMAC financing arm.
Everett, who joined the company in 2005, has said in the past that GMAM was not being run as a profit center. A GM spokeswoman said the auto maker has no plans to spin the company off as a separate entity.
The shrinking band of defined-benefit pension plans in the U.S. withered under the collapse of equity and other asset prices last year, leaving GM’s plan underfunded, though GMAM claims it outperformed peers.
GM last month said its U.S. pension commitments for hourly and salaried employees are underfunded by $12.4 billion, a reversal from an overfunding of $18.8 billion a year earlier.
GMAM funds, many of which are outsourced to external managers, lost 11% last year. It said comparable funds lost 20% to 25%.
Milliman Inc., a pension consultant, said the largest 100 U.S. defined benefit plans swung from an average overfunding of 4.9% at the end of 2007 to being underfunded by 22.8% by the end of last year.
The New York-based group, wholly owned by GM, employs about 140. Under the name change, General Motors Trust Bank, N.A. will be known as Promark Trust Bank, N.A.; and the funds it manages with Promark Global Advisors are called the Promark Funds.
(Doug Cameron contributed to this article)
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