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Q: What technologies are having the greatest impact on sales and distribution?
A: Given the magnitude that technology continues to play within the financial services industry, FUSE fielded a survey earlier this year to specifically determine the technological impact on the sales process of investment products. Survey respondents rated how certain technologies will impact sales and distribution over the next three years. On average, survey respondents stated that tablets would have the most impact on sales over the next few years. In fact, nearly 30% said they will change the face of sales forever. More than half (57%) of survey respondents provide tablets to sales/distribution personnel. Also, larger firms have adopted the use of tablets at a faster pace than smaller firms, in addition to firms with a retail focus compared to firms with an institutional focus. Cloud computing was ranked second for having the greatest impact on sales and distribution over the next three years. Cloud computing has become an emerging theme that is gaining investor attention. Forrester Research projected total public cloud revenues to rise 27% annually to nearly $160 billion in 2020, up from $15 billion in 2010. IDC also predicted that while global IT spending increased by 6% in 2011, spending on public cloud computing services will grow five times faster.
Q: Will the ETF industry maintain its momentum moving forward?
A: We do see ample opportunities for the industry to expand; however, the pace at which ETFs are bringing in new assets is no longer growing at the clip that we’ve seen in past years. In fact, AllianceBernstein recently forecasted that the $1.1 trillion U.S. ETF market will grow by a compounded annual rate of 13%, hitting $6 trillion by 2025, far below expectations of a $10 trillion industry by 2025. In terms of actively managed ETFs, the industry hit a recent roadblock with the SEC’s rejection of Huntington’s request to convert an open-end fund to an ETF. Had Huntington received the green light, we expected other firms to follow its lead. As noted in Barron’s, Citigroup reported that it is getting more difficult for new fund companies to stand out. The ETF industry remains highly concentrated—the top 10 ETF providers account for 95% of AUM. Also, the article highlights that new products account for 2% of industry ETF growth so far this year, down from 6.4% last year.
1) U.S. Investors Opt for Human Over Online Financial Advice
Gallup | 8/15/2014
Because… The Gallup study discovered that only 20% of survey participants use an online financial planning or investing website, compared with 44% using a dedicated personal financial advisor and 35% using a financial advisory firm. The delivery of online advice can help individual investors become more financially sophisticated and more capable of taking control of their own finances. While they have a positive impact on the way investors organize their financial life, they are yet to pose a serious threat to the financial advisor community.
2) iShares to Liquidate 14 ETFs
SEC Filings | 8/18/2014
Because… The closure by the largest ETF manager includes 10 target date funds (TDFs), which suggests the difficulty of ETFs to gain traction in the TDF space. Deutsche will become the only ETF TDF provider after the liquidation of iShares funds. But with a higher expense ratio, a lower level of brand recognition, and lower average trading volumes, it will still be hard for Deutsche offerings to capitalize on the iShares’ absence in the near future.
3) Looking Beyond Past Performance in Manager Selection
Plansponsor | 8/25/2014
Because… Despite the warning that past performance does not guarantee future results, investors still pay much attention to historical returns when making investment decisions. Like studies published before, Segal Rogerscasey once again found evidence of long-term performance inconsistence within nearly all investment classes, which leads to the conclusion that even five-year performance can be a poor indicator of future success. Asset managers should place more emphasis on investment philosophy, process, strategies, risk management infrastructure, and principles of corporate governance to better assist investors with decision-making.
Total estimated outflows from long-term mutual funds were $9.41 billion for the week ending Wednesday, August 6, according to the Investment Company Institute (ICI). Bond funds suffered its first withdrawals since early February with nearly $8.2 billion in net outflows, marking the largest redemptions from bond funds in nearly a year. Investors pulled $8.6 billion from Taxable Bond while adding $454 million into Municipal Bond. Equity funds also fell into the red with $422 million in net outflows. The $3.1 billion in redemptions from Domestic Equity could not offset the $2.6 billion investors poured into World Equity. Hybrid funds experienced its first outflows since early May with $799 million, its largest redemptions since December 2013.
Source: Investment Company Institute
1) Large Plans Bested Small Ones in Q2
Plansponsor | 8/11/2014
Because… Large plans typically have lower expense ratios, which can lead to higher returns. Also, large plans tend to have a more diversified investment menu, including a larger allocation to alternative investments, which can result in better portfolio diversification. The underperformance of smaller plans indicates these plans may need more help with fee evaluation, selection of investment options, and simplification of operational procedures.
2) BlackRock Launches Multi-Manager Alternative Strategies Fund
BlackRock | 8/12/2014
Because… According to FUSE’s estimate, multi-strategy alternative mutual funds had assets of $33 billion, up 41% from their 2013 assets of $23.5 billion. While we expect more fund firms to offer alternative strategy funds in a multi-manager structure, we believe the selection of sub-advisors and investor education are critical to a fund’s success. Fund firms need to share why they choose certain sub-advisors, what their investment processes are, what advantages they have over their peers, and how they minimize risks associated with their respective strategies.
3) TIAA-CREF Survey Finds One-Third of Americans Have Never Increased Their Retirement Plan Contribution Rate
TIAA-CREF | 8/12/2014
Because… The finding that many Americans have not increased their contribution to retirement plans is not unexpected. The need to pay other expenses, the inertia often associated with retirement savings, and the indifference to the power of compounding can be factors that prevent investors from adding to their savings accounts. Financial firms need to illustrate the benefits of maximizing contributions, the difference a small increase can make in the long term, and help plan sponsors modify the auto-escalation feature to encourage more participants to boost their contributions.
Total estimated inflows to long-term mutual funds were $1.33 billion for the week ending Wednesday, July 23, according to the Investment Company Institute (ICI). This cumulative intake represents a 16.4% increase from the prior week and is a significant turnabout from the $4.2 billion in net outflows during the beginning of the month. Domestic Equity remained in negative territory with approximately $3.4 billion in redemptions while all other broad assets classes experienced inflows. World Equity drove sales with $2.1 billion in net inflows during the week. This was followed by the $1.1 billion in net inflows collected by Hybrid funds. Municipal Bond funds garnered $884 million, surpassing Taxable Bond’s $577 million intake.
Source: Investment Company Institute
1) The Largest Leakage Culprit: Job Change Cashouts
EBRI | 7/17/2014
Because… EBRI estimated that the effect from 401(k) cashouts at job change turns out to be approximately two-thirds of the total leakage impact. Financial firms should first help employers motivate their workers to save for the long term. Service providers should also simplify the rollover process for job changers by using web-based rather than paper forms. A more convenient and easy-to-follow electronic process could curb the urge to take money out, especially for younger employees who are more likely to take advantage of the latest technology.
2) DC Plan Sponsors Called On to Offer In-Plan Annuities
Plansponsor | 7/17/2014
Because… Higher costs, product complexity, unscrupulous sales tactics, and suitability lawsuits that often accompany annuities have scared away many DC plan sponsors. In addition, plan sponsors and participants may lack confidence in insurers whose financial strength and ability to meet ongoing obligations to policyholders determine payments of guaranteed benefits. So the call for in-plan annuities may meet with objection despite the good intention of offering lifetime income solutions to hedge against longevity risk.
3) Natixis Global Asset Management Funds $1 Million Investor Behavior Project at MIT
Business Wire | 7/21/2014
Because… Experts in the behavior finance field have published a lot of studies that attempt to reveal the influence of human emotions and cognitive errors on investor decision-making. A small number of asset managers, such as LSV Asset Management, Dreman Value, and Fuller & Thaler, have embedded behavioral finance into their investment strategies. But the fund industry, for the most part, has not paid sufficient attention to tenets of behavioral finance. The efforts, such as the collaboration between Natixis and MIT, are likely to elevate awareness of the importance of behavioral finance.
1) Annual Survey Finds Continued Rise of Mutual Funds as Vehicle of Choice for Alternative Strategies; Long-Short Equity Garners Most Investor Interest for Fourth Year in a Row
Morningstar | 7/7/2014
Because… The record-high asset flows into alternative funds and the largest number of fund launches in 2013 are a clear indication that liquid alternative mutual funds are becoming a viable option for investors who are turning to alternative investments for diversification and risk management. We believe investors will continue to take advantage of the availability of alternative mutual funds because they are SEC-registered, provide liquidity and transparency, and charge lower fees than comparable hedge funds.
2) Utility & REIT Funds Come Roaring Back
ETF.com | 7/11/2014
Because… Utilities became the second best-selling category among all ETFs in June, according to Morningstar. Utilities ETFs pulled in $2.4 billion in the month and $3.3 billion in the first half of the year, compared with net redemptions of $1.5 billion in 2013. SSgA’s Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF alone raised $1.4 billion in June and $1.9 billion this year through June, accounting for 58% of the category flows for both time periods. The fund’s YTD return of 18.5%, more than doubling the 7% return from the S&P 500, could be a factor appealing to performance-chasing investors.
3) Industry Responses Vary on TDF Disclosure Proposals
Plansponsor | 7/11/2014
Because… We think enhanced disclosures are necessary and helpful to improve investor understanding of target-date funds (TDFs), but challenges still exist beyond including more information in marketing materials. TDF providers need first to engage participants as many individuals do not pay sufficient attention to required disclosures at all. Since a lot of investors lack the knowledge to get a handle on such concepts as “glide path” and “risk profile,” TDF managers should also consider whether average investors can fully digest the information provided to them and how to improve their ability to make sound decisions based on fund profiles and their risk tolerance.
1) Perceived Expense Stops Many from Seeking Advice
Plansponsor | 7/2/2014
Because… The survey pointed out 23% of respondents feel financial professionals are too expensive to hire. To dispel investor misconceptions, plan sponsors should let their employees know the actual cost of advice, benefits of obtaining professional guidance, and their due diligence process to identify affordable advice providers. While easy accessibility and proliferation of online information may impel some investors to take advantage of “free” advice, they have not realized that only advice that is tailored to individual needs can help optimize their investment outcomes.
2) IndexIQ Files for IQ Private Equity Tracker ETF
SEC Filings | 7/3/2014
Because… Although asset managers are increasingly rolling out alternative investment products, funds with a private equity focus are still very rare in the marketplace. The new IndexIQ offering, which is not a fund of private equity funds, seeks to “track the returns of private equity fund managers” and “replicate the beta return characteristics of private equity funds”. Pension plans, charities, foundations, and endowments have already been investing in private equities with success. We expect more investment firms to explore opportunities in this trillion dollar industry.
3) Myron Scholes and Ashwin Alankar Join Janus Capital
Janus | 7/8/2014
Because… The hiring of Myron Scholes as Chief Investment Strategist and Ashwin Alankar as the head of Asset Allocation and Risk Management suggests Janus is placing an emphasis on asset allocation solutions. Bringing a Nobel Laureate on board could help Janus draw more investor attention, produce insightful thought leadership content, and enhance brand equity. Leveraging their expertise will likely boost investor confidence on the firm’s new customized products.
1) SEI White Paper: Advisors Must View Succession Planning As Growth Strategy, Not Just Retirement Strategy
SEI | 6/24/2014
Because… Despite the aging of the advisor community, many advisors have not taken the time to think about succession planning. They may be reluctant to address the issue due to emotional attachment to their business, but the presence of a succession plan can give clients a sense of stability and help retain clients. Financial firms can work with advisors to develop a well-crafted succession plan by stressing the importance of creating a succession plan, presenting succession planning options, helping advisors conduct a comprehensive business assessment and identify the succession model that best protects the advisor interests, and providing referral services.
2) BlackRock Adjusts Target-Date Fund
Financial Advisor | 6/25/2014
Because… BlackRock has followed Fidelity and Russell to adjust the asset allocation for its target date funds (TDFs). Increasing exposure to equities has appeared to be a common theme for the reallocation. TDFs with aggressive glide paths performed well in 2013. TDF managers that have remained conservative and kept bond exposure at a relatively high level will have a hard time to help investors attain their retirement goals because of the lagging fund performance. On the other hand, plan sponsors expect TDF managers to refine portfolio construction to respond to the changing market environment. If TDF provider lacks the capability to adapt to the evolving markets, plan sponsors have the flexibility to switch to another that can better prepare for interest rates’ eventual hikes.
3) Alger Announces Opening of London Office and Hiring of Head of International Sales
PR Newswire | 6/26/2014
Because… Just as Alger opened its London office, the London-based Henderson announced its acquisition of Geneva Capital Management, a U.S.-based mid- and small-cap growth equity specialist. Reaching across the pond has become a strategic priority for asset managers to accelerate their business growth. However, geographic expansion, which often comes with both rewards and risks, requires long-term commitment and patience, as brand recognition, local investor demand, regulatory hurdles, and different distribution models can pose serious challenges for firms expanding overseas.
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