Asset Management

Asset Managers Must Customize Distribution More Sharply - Study

Tom Burroughes Group Editor June 23, 2020

Asset Managers Must Customize Distribution More Sharply - Study

A US study points to trends in how wealth management is provided in the US and how asset managers pitching their funds to the market must adjust as a result.

Registered investment advisors’ assets have risen by almost 12 per cent over the last 10 years, faster than any other channel, such as broker-dealers. Changes highlight how asset managers must customize their approaches to win new business, a report said.

Changes in how people obtain wealth management advice and services also forces asset managers to think through their distribution strategy, because it is tough for firms to reach advisors in a scalable way because the market is so fragmented, Cerulli Associates said in a report. 

“While the share of managed account assets held at wirehouses has steadily declined during the past decade, fresh growth prospects are apparent in other channels - notably, banks and registered investment advisors,” the report said. 

The study comes at a time when the wealth management industry is preparing for the start of new compliance rules, Regulation Best Interest, at the end of June. In past regulatory cycles, higher regulatory requirements have driven industry consolidation in order to win economies of scale. At present, the US wealth management sector remains fragmented – creating a challenge for asset managers distributing their wares

One trend that might eventually help asset managers develop scalable distribution to RIAs is by merging to achieve efficiencies and market power, as shown by data from investment bank and corporate advisory group ECHELON Partners.

The rise of fiduciary asset management has blurred the lines in retail wealth management, making it harder to tell different business models apart, the report continued. 

“A sophisticated national/regional broker/dealer practice resembles, and offers the same services as, the largest wirehouse or independent RIA team,” Matt Belnap, senior analyst at Cerulli Associates, said.

The report said that the bank and independent RIA channels both represent “strong opportunities for asset managers to expand the distribution of their managed account offerings to fresh advisor markets”.

The bank channel has the smallest managed account assets under management (AuM) of any sponsor channel but its assets have grown nearly six-fold during the past decade, the report said.

“Bank home offices are also aggressively encouraging (and in some cases incentivizing) advisors to move client accounts, especially those high net worth accounts with more than $2 million, to their managed account platforms,” it said.

The new Regulation BI rule - as referred to above - has ruffled feathers: senior wealth management figures criticized the SEC rule as diverging form the existing fiduciary standard required of registered investment advisors.

The new regulatory regime deals with two phases in an investment story: First, before an advisor makes a recommendation to a client, and secondly, when the idea is executed. Regulation BI also imposes a duty on how people go about the transaction processes involved. The long-term payoff of this new regime is hopefully to improve the quality of the client/advisor relationship, advocates say.

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