J.P. Morgan’s Kenneth Worthington retains the top spot he captured last year, impressing at least one portfolio manager as “the best pure researcher in the space, providing very detailed and differentiated analyses to support his views.” Traditional asset managers are continuing to contend with competition from passive investing and exchange-traded funds, Worthington reports. “While active performance is much better in 2015 — with active managers outperforming benchmarks through June 30 — sales continue to disproportionally go to passive products,” he notes. Traditional managers that are embracing this competition win the analyst’s favor. For example, Atlanta-based Invesco is “driving better-than-peer growth from a successful ETF offering and rapid growth in the continental European market,” he reports. He also likes Denver’s Janus Capital Group because the firm’s fundamentals are “inflecting to the positive based on better performance and a positive sales outlook in its core equity franchise.” Moreover, he sees upside from Janus’s hiring of Pacific Investment Management Co. co-founder and famed bond manager Bill Gross last September, as well as its launch of alternative products that are generating strong returns. On the other hand, Worthington, 43, is advising clients to underweight both T. Rowe Price Group, which is headquartered in Baltimore, and Fairport, New York–based Manning & Napier. The former is “under particular pressure from passive investing and capacity issues in a number of its best-performing products,” he explains; while the latter is “struggling with unusually poor performance” as sizable investments in energy and mining have hurt the one-year, three-year and five-year track records on the majority of its funds.