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The enduring legacy of Franklin Templeton’s Mark Mobius

Despite a career spanning more than four decades and a reputation that epitomises the era of the ‘star’ fund manager, the octogenarian is adamant he has no plans to retire anytime soon. He says he wants to carry on working “until the very last” [breath], like Hollywood actress Judy Garland.

“Judy Garland dropped dead while she was working. What I do hasn’t changed. I’m still going to visit clients and companies that we invest in. I enjoy what I do and that’s very important,” Mobius says.

Team player

However, Mobius has spent the past decade preparing for the shift in responsibilities, he says, grooming “the next generation of leaders”.

He will hand the reins to his protégés, Allan Lam, Carlos Hardenberg and Chetan Sehgal, who will take the lead on the Templeton Africa, Asian Growth, Asian Smaller Companies and China funds.

“We’ve always had a team-based approach, where we had analysts co-operating in the running of the funds. Now, it’s formalised,” says Mobius, who will take on the role of chairman of the group. Mobius will continue to manage the Templeton Asean fund, which in the past year has beaten its benchmark index by almost 50%.

The changes come as part of a broader reshuffle following the appointment of Stephen Dover as group chief investment officer last year.

Inveterate traveller

In the US, peers voted him one of the top-10 investors of the 20th century, putting him alongside Warren Buffett, Julian Robertson and George Soros.

A gruelling travel schedule means he has spent most of his career on an aeroplane and the pioneer, well-known for his dazzling white suits, shows no signs of slowing down. 

“I just came back from Washington DC. In a few days, I head off to Romania. Then from Romania, I go to Dubai, and so forth and so-on, so I’m travelling a lot,” says Mobius, who began his career in the now-defunct international securities firm Vickers Da Costa.

Were he to retire, the investment guru cites Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro as the developing markets beach he would decamp to. He names Emirates as the best airline for his travels, followed by Singapore Air. 

“I avoid using American Airlines. It’s all about the staff, they treat you like cattle. I avoided United, way before that incident,” he adds, referring to United Airline’s recent public relations disaster where 69-year-old doctor, David Dao, was hospitalised after Chicago aviation police dragged him from a plane sparking international outrage.

Emerging market legacy

Assessing his legacy, Mobius cites his greatest success as growing Franklin Templeton’s flagship emerging markets unit from just three employees and a single fund in 1987 to more than 80 staff in 18 offices around the world, with the Luxembourg-domiciled suite of vehicles offering 40 funds.

“Growth emerging markets (flagship fund) started with $100m. Now there’s $26bn in funds. In terms of countries, we’ve gone from six to 70 countries where we invest,” he adds.

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Part of the Mark Allen Group.