Global institutional investors say bureaucracy and a risk-averse approach is impeding the ability of larger managers to generate higher returns
(London, August 2019) Institutional investors think larger asset managers are less able than smaller, boutique firms to deliver alpha, new research shows.
A CoreData Research global study of institutional investors found an overwhelming majority (90%) think larger firms are at a disadvantage when it comes to delivering higher returns.
Bureaucracy (65%) is considered the prime factor impeding the ability of bigger managers to generate alpha. This is followed by a belief that larger investment houses employ a more risk-averse stock selection process (42%) and are hampered by centralized power structures resulting in time inefficiencies (39%). One quarter (24%) say less innovative solutions inhibit the ability of bigger houses to generate higher returns.
The study, which included several in-depth interviews with investment professionals, also found 80% of respondents are either indifferent to size or would choose a smaller, boutique manager over a larger corporate house when searching for an active manager to partner with. Furthermore, 90% of investors who say delivering higher alpha is a key driver in manager selection prefer working with smaller firms.
“We spoke to a range of investors as part of this study and many feel that when an asset manager gets too big there is a very real risk of it losing focus on the pursuit of pure alpha and instead becoming an asset gatherer,” said Craig Phillips, head of International, CoreData Research. “But these findings do not signal the death knell for larger investment houses. While smaller managers are more likely to be specialists in particular markets, larger firms can leverage their resources to adopt a multi-boutique structure that takes this more specialist, niche approach to a wider investor audience.”
Institutional investors say specialization or a niche approach (53%) is the second most important driver in their search for an active manager after reputation and fiduciary management (60%). Investors who value a manager’s long-term focus on alpha generation consider specialization the principal driver.
Another key finding to emerge from the study is the relative unimportance of brand. Only one quarter (27%) of investors consider brand recognition a core driver when selecting active managers.
Elsewhere, six in 10 institutional investors (61%) think a future recession represents a threat rather than opportunity for active managers. Passive investments (46%) and regulatory change (44%) are seen as further challenges. The main opportunities for asset managers, according to investors taking part in the study, come from technological and digital disruption (52%) and M&A activity (46%).
Which of the following factors, if any, impede the ability of larger firms to generate higher returns?
Bureaucracy (coordination problems, too many stakeholders, office politics, etc.): 65%
More risk-averse investment selection: 42%
Centralized power structure causing time inefficiencies: 39%
Less innovative solutions: 24%
More stringent regulation requirements: 23%
Limited in fund selection by client profile: 9%
When searching for an active manager to partner with, would you look at more well-established firms or small boutiques?
Size does not matter: 62%
Larger firms (corporation): 20%
Smaller firms (boutiques): 18%
What are the main drivers of your choice of active manager to partner with?
Reputation and fiduciary record: 60%
Specialization/niche approach: 53%
Access to different asset classes, markets, strategies etc.: 50%
Management fee structure: 33%
Deliver higher alpha: 33%
Brand recognition: 27%
Notes to Editors
- CoreData Research gathered views on active investing and alpha generation from 100 professional investors in key investment markets around the world (USA, UK, Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia including Australia) during July 2019.
- The professional investors included CIOs, investment managers and investment officers, fund selectors, data analysts and consultants from multi-managers, pension funds, private banks, insurance companies, endowments and foundations and sovereign wealth funds. Collectively, these investors manage an estimated $5.9 trillion in assets.
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