Linda York

About Linda York

Linda York is a senior vice president in the Syndicated division where she leads the Wealth Management Syndicated Research & Consulting practice. She has over 20 years of experience in financial services spanning responsibilities in finance, marketing and business strategy. Before joining Market Strategies, Linda was the practice director of Syndicated Research at Cogent Research, where she managed the product development and execution process for syndicated research projects and consulted with dozens of clients in the retail and institutional wealth management space. She earned an MBA in marketing from the University of Connecticut and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Mount Holyoke College. Linda is an avid equestrian and a two-time finisher of the Boston Marathon.

Plan Sponsors Look to Make Shifts in Investment Lineups

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Plan sponsors’ desire to reduce plan costs is substantially impacting their approach to investment menu design and their relationships with DC investment managers. But the impact of the resulting activity varies by plan as well as by asset manager. Overall, 7% of plan sponsors intend to add at least one manager to their investment lineup in the next year. At the same time, 2% plan to drop a manager and 16% intend to do a combination of adding and dropping managers, suggesting that the future is not necessarily secure for all firms.

Plan Sponsors Adding and Dropping Investment Managers

When asked specifically about the managers they will continue to use, 29% of plan sponsors intend to award new business to existing firms while only 15% plan to pull business away—evidence that plan sponsors are concentrating their assets with the smaller number of managers they know. Continue reading

Institutions Sticking With an Active Approach

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Throughout 2016 and into 2017, there has been no shortage of news coverage on the shift of assets from actively managed to passively managed investments in the wealth management industry. With the heightened focus on investment-related fees and increased skepticism over active portfolio managers’ ability to outperform the market index over the long term, many industry pundits are projecting a massive consolidation of active asset managers in the future, with only the strong and the few able to survive.

Yet at least one segment of the market continues to offer opportunity for active managers: the institutional market.

In fact, our research conducted in Q4 2016 found that institutional investors were reaffirming their commitment to actively managed strategies a maintaining or even increasing their active asset allocation levels despite the uncertain political climate during the latter half of 2016. Continue reading

Institutions’ Growing Appetite for Risk

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The search for higher returns is the leading driver for asset allocation shifts

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The 2016 US presidential election sparked waves of populism and uncertainty. For the financial markets, the possibility of a Trump presidency seemed to cause a risk-on mentality, as his tweets were met with positive market reactions. And even before the Dow Jones Industrial Average surpassed 20,000, institutional investors signaled they were also adding risk. The survey fielding of our US Institutional Investor Brandscape report, fielded from mid-October 2016 to early January 2017, gives us a unique snapshot of the reactions of institutional investors in a distinct period for all of us.

Both pensions and non-profits de-emphasized de-risking as a driver of asset allocation changes this year. While de-risking is less of an issue for non-profits compared with pensions, this finding corresponds to the risk-on market mentality. Importantly, de-risking was the leading driver of asset allocation shifts among pensions in previous years and $1 billion-plus pensions continue to focus on risk. At the same time, corporate defined benefit plans place greater emphasis on the search for higher yield at the expense of de-risking. Continue reading

Is Financial Wellness the New “Thing” in DC Plans?

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As competition in the DC market intensifies and thoughts of the DOL fiduciary ruling’s impact shatter historical practices that used to make servicing DC plans profitable, plan providers and DC advisors are searching for new ways to add value and continue to grow. Financial wellness programs just may be the new big thing. In fact, industry experts are projecting that tomorrow’s retirement plan advisors will need to build wellness programs into their business model to create a more holistic offering for their DC clients and expand their services in order to stay relevant.

According to a recent Cogent Report from Market Strategies, just three in ten (29%) DC advisors offer a financial wellness program as part of their retirement plan advisor practice. Here, we’re referring specifically to a program designed to educate employees about personal financial risks, which may include loss of income due to premature death or illness or unexpected medical expenses, and provide the tools to manage those risks. Advisors who do offer such programs rely equally on the plan provider or their own firm’s proprietary offering. Continue reading

Asset Manager Alert: How NOT to Get Dropped by Your Institutional Clients

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The reasons for dropping a manager vary substantially among institutional investors in the US versus those in other countries, according to our new International Institutional Investor Brandscape study. In the UK and elsewhere in Europe, concerns over liquidity far outweigh all other aspects that institutional investors identify when dropping a manager from their lineups. According to the Financial Times*, liquidity issues are of particular concern in fixed income markets, and as a consequence, many asset managers are beefing up the skills and resources on their trading desks to more effectively identify suitable buyers or sellers on the opposite sides of complex fixed income trades.

Second to liquidity issues, European pensions cite lack of communication or responsiveness as a top reason for dropping a manager, signaling the importance of regular outreach and effective service teams in cementing client relationships. Planned shifts in asset allocation, investment team turnover and the desire to reduce fees and expenses round out the top five reasons for cutting a manager in the international institutional market. Continue reading

European Pensions Open to Adding New Managers to Their Lineups

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European Pensions Adding Managers to Their Lineups

This year, there is an increased opportunity for new manager additions among international institutional investors. Significantly fewer institutions are likely to add zero new managers to their lineups in the next 12 months when compared with two years ago. Organizations in the UK, Switzerland and France are most likely to anticipate additions to their lineup, expecting to add a mean of 0.8, 0.6 and 0.6 managers, respectively. How can firms seize this opportunity and increase their share of the market?

Number of New Managers Likely to Add in Next 12 Months

The criteria institutions use to evaluate asset managers before adding, or conversely removing, them from their lineups differ by country. To capitalize on the opportunities and maximize their consideration potential, asset management firms must ensure that they are meeting these criteria. Continue reading

The Future of Financial Planning and Advice

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Many forces are converging that could dramatically impact market expectations for financial planning and advice. Advances in technology, tightening fiduciary regulations and new expectations from the Millennial and Baby Boomer generations are raising the standard of investment advice and causing financial advisors, advice providers and product manufacturers to significantly adapt their strategies.

Advances in Technology

Both advisors and investors have an increasing number of sophisticated technology-based tools at their disposal to aid in making investment decisions. In fact, 33% of advisors currently offer digital investment advice to their clients through their firm’s proprietary platform and 30% of affluent investors are currently using robo-advisors.

Tightening Regulations

The DOL fiduciary rule is imposing fiduciary status on all registered representatives when providing investment recommendations and enforcing new regulations on investment advice in retirement accounts. While some are fighting these rules, others are already adapting, and distributors and providers would be wise to be proactive in adjusting their business models appropriately. Continue reading

Not All Institutional Investors Are Alike

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Uncertainty in China. Falling oil prices. Volatility in US equity markets. The Federal Reserve raising interest rates for the first time since 2008. All of these factors converge to create an unsettling environment for institutional investors. As a result, these investors are re-examining their portfolios and reassessing their use of different asset classes, investment products and asset managers. But the needs, perceptions and behaviors of institutional investors vary dramatically by asset size and category, proving the adage that not all investors are alike.

For asset managers serving the institutional market, the need for focus has never been greater. Determining the right business strategy, product offering and competitive positioning is to a great extent dictated by the segment of the market being targeted. Firms can choose to develop a scalable approach for the smaller institutions or pursue the polar opposite with customized solutions for the largest institutional clients. In either case, understanding the forces driving market needs and the factors impacting the competitive environment is critical. Continue reading

Warning: Institutional Investors Express Discontent

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In the institutional market, industry average satisfaction scores are trending downward on many measures this year, which should warn asset managers serving this space.

Investment performance remains a key driver of satisfaction across all segments of the market, particularly the larger non-profits managing $250M+ in assets. Yet additional opportunities avail themselves to asset managers seeking to deepen client relationships beyond the investment performance metrics. A distinctive investment philosophy, strong investment team and attentive service approach can all serve to boost satisfaction levels among current clients. Particular areas of weakness for many firms this year include meeting client expectations with the aspects of investment performance, service and support, product innovation, alignment, and social responsibility. Continue reading

Larger Institutions Drawn to Smart Beta ETFs

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Larger Institutions Drawn to Smart Beta ETFs

Despite the vast array of product offerings and investment solutions available in the institutional market, institutional investors managing less than $1 billion in assets continue to favor two product categories—individual securities and open-end mutual funds—while organizations managing at least $1 billion in assets report higher allocations to separate accounts, commingled funds and limited/private partnerships, evidence of the wider variety of investment strategies these institutions employ. However, one category that has enjoyed substantial growth of late is that of ETFs. In fact, 37% of institutions now use ETFs, up from just 26% two years ago. Continue reading