Unlocking the Power of Institutional Consultants and Peers

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Contrary to popular belief, most institutional investors are not bombarded with a large volume of marketing collateral, so getting their attention should be easier than getting financial advisors’ attention in theory. However, in practice, it’s even more challenging for asset managers to reach this coveted audience.

The most immediate hurdle: institutional investors admit that materials from unfamiliar providers are easily and often discarded. Yet all is not lost for aspiring asset managers. Unsolicited content has a higher chance of being reviewed if the topic speaks to a current business need or if it’s introduced from a trusted source. Even during the RFP process—in which the sole focus is to consider a range of managers for a specific mandate—institutions are not conducting their own research. Instead, they are relying on consultant recommendations. That said, this decision point represents a rare time when institutions are willing to learn about a new manager and develop initial brand favorability for the future. 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

Stalwart Leadership in a Conflicted World

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The “new normal” catch phrase emerged after the Great Recession, marking a new era in investment management. Predictions of high correlations, muted returns, increased volatility and sustained low interest rates were true for a period. But fast-forward to 2017, and this period seems to have come to an end. Correlations have declined, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 20,000, the VIX stabilized and the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates in a show of confidence in the strength of the US economy. One could use the term “utopian,” perhaps, for characterization of recent market events.

At the same time, US politics has deeply divided the country across economic, gender, racial, religious and philosophical lines. Trust in political leadership is at an all-time low, and book sales of George Orwell’s 1984 are near all-time highs. Many view the current landscape as a “political dystopia.” Continue reading

Finding Ways to Maximize Engagement for Institutional Investment Products

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Getting through to an intended audience is the constant goal of marketers. There is little value in carefully curating messages and developing a plan for execution and release of those messages if they never capture the attention of a firm’s targets. The most return from marketing activities is created when the right message meets the right person at the right time. This is true across all industries, including the institutional space.

As a follow-on to our successful 2013 and 2016 advisor marketing collateral studies, Cutting Through the Institutional Marketing Clutter™ will expand insights regarding best-in-class approaches for maximizing the reach and impact of institutional investor-oriented marketing efforts. In a series of focus groups and in-depth one-on-one interviews with institutional investors and consultants, we will examine the full spectrum of marketing material, from email and white papers to provider websites and webinars.

What Will We Ask?

To better understand the marketing that is most effective with institutional investors and consultants, we need to understand the type and frequency of messages they are receiving, the aspects of the messages that are capturing their attention and the firms that are producing best-in-class communication. The report will provide insights into the marketing consumption habits of institutional investors and investment consultants, including their communication preferences, perceptions of content and digital marketing experiences. 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

ETF Growth Encompasses Multiple Markets

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It’s no secret that ETF use is up. In fact, a multitude of industry forces are fueling the growth in the ETF category, and the momentum is only poised to continue. Not only in one market, either. ETF use is reaching new levels among advisors, affluent investors, DC plan sponsors and both US and international institutional investors. While this is great news for top ETF providers, many smaller providers are nipping at their heels. The influx of growth will bring in new players and new challenges that providers will need to be aware of in order to survive and prosper.

In nearly all of our Cogent Wealth studies, we ask respondents about ETFs, which gives us a unique perspective on the category. We have gathered ETF-related findings from five of our most popular reports to provide a broader understanding as to why this category is experiencing such steady, and at times, extraordinary growth.

The following are the most important factors in what industry leaders will need to consider to continue to stay informed and be able to pivot when needed.

Focus on Fees

Across all sectors of the financial services industry, there is clear evidence of increasing pressure on product providers to reduce the fees associated with their investment offerings. In addition, the recent Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary ruling is pressuring product providers and advisory firms to defend their fee structures and offer lower-cost options to clients whenever possible. Upon examining our data, it’s clear that this heightened focus on costs and fee transparency is strengthening the appeal of ETF products across all markets. 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

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

Inside the Minds of Institutional Investors

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Inside the Minds Of Institutional Investors

Many asset managers targeting the institutional market often joke about their desire for a crystal ball that would provide foresight into the investment strategies that will be attracting the most assets in the next couple years. Armed with this knowledge, firms could then focus their efforts on developing and promoting their capabilities in the areas poised for the greatest growth. While not a crystal ball, our US Institutional Investor Brandscape® report provides a view into the key asset classes and investment solutions that are of most interest as well as the context that explains the factors driving demand for future mandates.

The allocation of institutional assets across asset classes has remained fairly stable over the past year, with smaller institutions concentrating their assets in US equities and US fixed income and larger organizations employing a more diversified approach. Yet we are seeing increased interest in investing in asset classes that offer higher potential return, such as private equity, real estate and alternatives. Continue reading