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Despite new challenges in the financial services landscape, changing market dynamics offer new opportunities for those willing to adapt.
The economy is strong, with record low unemployment and robust market performance. Furthermore, the Dow topped 26,000 for the first time in January. However, rising trade tensions, divisiveness and political uncertainty are causing many investors to question when the bottom will fall out. For active managers, many of which lost share to index funds during this period of stability, the question arises, could there be a silver lining?
At first glance, the competitive environment appears inhospitable to firms lacking the scale to compete on price. Vanguard and iShares have amassed record inflows over the past year, pressuring competitors to lower their expense ratios. We’ve also seen increased M&A activity among mid-sized managers seeking global scale and broader distribution for their products as broker-dealers constrict the number of managers on their platforms.
Despite these challenges, changing market dynamics offer new opportunities for those willing to adapt. As the saying goes, if opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. For active managers, the time is ripe to promote the value of their investment philosophies to either take advantage of or defend against rapidly shifting markets through sharing relevant thought leadership related to areas of expertise. In particular, advisors express an interest in increasing their allocations to international markets, active fixed income, and smart beta ETFs. Firms must also adapt to changing distribution models that include serving advisors directly and, increasingly, through model portfolios provided by the home office or third-party providers. In turn, the role of the wholesaler is evolving as more firms adopt hybrid distribution models and enhance their digital communication.
Amid so much change, it’s important to keep in mind what’s most important to advisors. Building trust remains critical and underscores the need to continually engage with advisors through a combination of both marketing and sales activities. In order to optimize finite resources and target the right advisors with the right content and delivery method, firms must work to enhance their advisor segmentation capabilities. The companies that stand to gain the most are those that can understand the diverse needs of the advisor population and then leverage that understanding to better serve individual advisors.
Advisor Brandscape®, the industry’s most trusted resource for advisor intelligence, was published last month and provides a holistic view of the advisor landscape including practice models, product usage, brand perceptions and user experience. For more on Advisor Brandscape, review an overview.