UK – Merrill Lynch Investment Managers has lost three of its UK equity specialist team including UK equity manager, Steve Thompson.

MLIM issued a statement confirming the departure and two other members of the specialist team. Along with Thompson, who had been with the company for more than 15 years, Richard Milliken and Mark Wharrier have also left the firm.

A spokesman for the firm said that the three were now on gardening leave but there were no ideas as to what their plans would be.

Said MLIM: “We are obviously sorry to see them go. We have reallocated their responsibilities to other experienced fund managers including Luke Chappell who will lead the team and has over five years experience with the UK equity specialist team.” There are plans to return the team to its full size of eight.

The departures serve a blow to MLIM which, this year, has been rebuilding its reputation among institutional investors, tainted by settlements with three UK pension schemes over disputes relating to Mercury Asset Management, the fund management firm it bought in 1997.

Last year MLIM lost a series of UK pension fund mandates, but the company seemed to have made a turnaround this year, announcing in May to have won around half of the 55 pitches for mandates that it made. The UK equity specialist team itself won a 70 million pound (99 million euro) mandate from mobile communications provider mmO2.

Merrill Lynch Investment Managers manages around 1.1 trillion dollars (960 billion euros) worldwide.