After 88 years, a $250 billion+ Philly original switches names (Updates)

(Adds comments from CEO starting in 5th paragraph) Philadelphia-based Delaware Investments, one of the few U.S. mutual fund brands to survive the Great Depression and Wall Street cycles of booms, busts and marketing fads, is adopting the name of  the fund group's Australian owner for most of its business.

Owner Macquarie Group Ltd. is renaming the company as Macquarie Investment Management. Its mutual funds and separately-managed accounts will still be called Delaware, "given the firm's strong name recognition among retail investors in the U.S.," the company says.

Macquarie Investment Management, formerly Delaware Investments, had $257 billion in assets at Dec. 31, including $45 billion in the Delaware-branded funds. The company employs around 500 in Philadelphia and other U.S. cities. It is the largest business within the parent firm's Macquarie Asset Management group, whose assets total $362 billion.  

The group has more than doubled its assets since Macquarie bought it in the last recession. Macquarie Group purchased Delaware from Lincoln National Corp. of Radnor in 2010, for $428 million. At the time assets totalled $125 billion.  

"A portion of that has been market appreciation. It is also because of good organic growth" with U.S. and foreign clients, said Shawn Lytle, President since 2015 of Delaware funds and head of Macquarie Investment Americas.  Acqusitions in New York and California account for less than $2 billion of the total.

Macquarie isn't pushing into indexed funds, which now own close to one-third of U.S. equity markets. It remains a center for stock- and bond-pickers: "We are firmly committed to active management. We want very active strategies that are distinct from benchmarks," Lytle told me.

"We are a complement to ETFs  (exchange-traded funds), not acting against them," he added. "Clients need both if they are to achieve over time. That's how we are positioning our firm and our 'multi-boutiques'. "

Lytle expects investors will keep buying more index funds from Vanguard, BlackRock and other multi-trillion-dollar investment houses. "But both institutional and mutul fund clients will need active management over time. On both the equities and fixed income side," he maintains.

The Macquarie brand helps Lytle's group sell to large and institutional clients in partnership with its private-investments affiliate Macquarie Infrastructure.

Philadelphia is a good place to base an investment business, Lytle added, citing recruits his group has hired from firms in New York, Chicago, Boston and Baltimore.: "Philadelphia is a great place to live and work, where we can find talent and where we can attract talent. And we're the biggest (investment company) show downtown. We see this as a major competitive advantage for us."

Founded and run until 1988 by the late Admiral W. Linton Nelson, Delaware's best-known investors earned reputations as classic Philadelphia "value investors" more concerned about long-term returns and high dividends than trendy sector plays. Nelson endowed the Grace and W. Linton Nelson Foundation of Wayne, which finances scholarships. 

Nelson was also a canny trader who quietly financed profitable, aggressive deals, such as New York investor Saul P. Steinberg's 1969 takeover of Philadelphia's Reliance Insurance Co.

That was a landmark in a long series of acquisitions by out-of-town investors of the billion-dollar financial companies whose interlocking boards long dominated Philadelphia banking, insurance, railroads, industry and universities.

Delaware missed out on much of the mutual fund boom of the late 1980s and 1990s — the boom that made Malvern-based Vanguard Group a household name. While other brands marketed agressively in the bull market, Nelson's successors were weighed down by the debt they ran up from the leveraged buyout that gave them control of Delaware. 

Its next owner, Lincoln, the life insurance and annuity company, sold Delaware while it was raising capital and planning to repay federal TARP funds that helped Lincoln weather the last recession.