New York (HedgeCo.Net) – Median pre-tax operating margins rose to 32%, the highest since 2007, new research shows. The new high in profit margin was driven by market appreciation, which also lifted 2012 revenue in the global asset management industry past the previous 2007 peak.
However, net inflows of 1.2% last year – compared with 3.7% in 2007 – increasing fee pressure, and a widening economic divergence among firms post-financial crisis point to growing industry challenges, according to Performance Intelligence: 2013 Survey Results.
The global survey participants largely came from the U.S. Institute and European Institute, members-only forums established by Institutional Investor’s conference division for CEOs of leading investment management firms. Casey, Quirk & Associates, a leading management consultant to investment management firms worldwide, has conducted the survey (its tenth annual) in partnership with McLagan, the investment management industry’s leading provider of compensation consulting services and pay and performance data. They surveyed privately held, publicly traded and wholly or partly owned firms with assets under management ranging from below $50 billion to over $1 trillion in assets.
“With annual net flows of under 1% anticipated through 2017 these findings, based on one of the largest industry surveys of asset management economics, indicate managers must adapt and innovate to keep up let alone to continue thriving,’’ said Kevin Quirk, partner at Casey Quirk.
Traditional investment offerings will continue to be challenged, while outcome-oriented and higher alpha strategies will enjoy the highest net flows, according to the benchmarking analysis. These include: hedge funds; balanced strategies; global tactical asset allocation and multi-asset class solutions; emerging markets debt; and global equities.
“In a slow growth environment, asset retention is crucial, and winning firms stand out with more robust staffing in sales and client service and operationally by aligning their economics for superior attraction and retention of talent,’’ said Adam Barnett, head of the asset management practice at McLagan.
Privately held and publicly listed asset managers enjoyed the strongest revenue growth in the 2007-2012 period, expanding at average annual rates of 8.4% and 7.0%, respectively, according to the benchmarking analysis. Firms owned by larger financial institutions had average annual growth rates of 4.3% over the same period, while revenue at affiliates of asset management holding companies declined on average 4.6%.
Of the firms surveyed, those in the middle, with managed assets between $50 billion and $200 billion, enjoyed the strongest rebound in operating margins, to 32% in 2012 from a low of 15% in 2009, and were most consistent in attracting net flows over the period 2007 to 2012.
“It’s abundantly clear firms must retool to take advantage of market segment opportunities and changing investor demands, or risk losing talent and market share to more adaptable competitors,’’ said Fred Bleakley, director of the U.S. and European Institutes.
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