Changes ahead for Franklin Templeton’s muni department

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Franklin Templeton is undergoing some major changes in its municipal bond department — with the arrival and departure of two longtime industry veterans in the coming months.

After nearly three decades, Ben Barber, who has more than 28 years of experience in the municipal mutual fund industry, is returning to the global asset management firm to head up its fixed income municipal bond department just as his predecessor, Sheila Amoroso, recently announced her retirement.

As a senior vice president and director of municipal bonds, Barber will assume responsibility overseeing $68 billion of municipal bond investments when he officially joins the firm on April 27, according to a spokesperson.

Barber will be based in San Mateo, Calif., and report to Sonal Desai, chief investment officer of Franklin Templeton Fixed Income.

Ben Barber
Ben Barber

The California-based investment management firm operates in 30 countries, has more than 70 years of investment experience and about $688 billion in assets under management as of January 31, 2020.

Franklin Templeton’s 31-member municipal bond team manages a wide variety of single state and national municipal bond strategies for investors in the U.S. and beyond with a comprehensive line up of funds and separately-managed accounts as well as institutional accounts.

Most recently co-head of municipal bonds at Goldman Sachs, Barber originally began his investment career at Franklin in 1991 and left the firm in 1999 to join the Wall Street firm.

Meanwhile, Amoroso, who joined the firm in 1986 after college, is departing Franklin after 34 years, mostly recently at the helm as director of municipal bonds.

Barber and Amoroso, who both previously worked together during his first stint at the asset manager, will again work together during a short transition phase before Amoroso’s official planned July 1 retirement, the spokesperson said.

Under her leadership, Ms. Amoroso has helped strengthen Franklin’s foothold as a municipal bond manager, with a stable and experienced team of long-tenured investment professionals that have maintained a consistent approach and philosophy for managing municipal bond portfolios, according to the release.

Amoroso came to the firm a few years after graduation while she decided on graduate school and joined the management trainee program where she was recruited to the municipal bond department as her first and only stop.

“I started out as a trading assistant and graduated to trading bonds,” she said in a blog post on the firm’s website. “Our assets under management were growing rapidly at the time, so we were hiring heavily out of the management trainee program and also another program we have at the company for new graduates.”

She remained in the municipal department for her entire career.

“I found my passion in the municipal bond market, which has been a very rewarding and challenging career,” she said, adding that she found helping people prepare for retirement and achieve their financial goals the most rewarding part of her long career.

Amoroso holds a bachelor of science degree from San Francisco State University and an M.B.A. from Notre Dame de Namur University. She is a member of the California Society of Municipal Analysts and the National Federation of Municipal Analysts.

Barber, meanwhile, is eager to return to where he first began.

“Our industry continues to evolve right before us,” he said in the release. “I can see the commitment and enthusiasm that is core to Franklin Templeton’s culture, and I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead,” Barber said.

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