From the March 2010 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

March 1, 2010

More Advisors Embrace Alternatives

Advisors are increasingly turning to alternative investments, not as a source of outsized returns, but rather to provide true diversification to clients' portfolios, according to a new Rydex|SGI survey of registered investment advisors, broker/dealer reps, and wirehouse brokers. In fact, 81% of RIAs and 78% of brokers surveyed cite diversification as the main reason for adding alternatives to the investment mix.

Although the majority of RIAs (96%) and brokers (95%) said they already employ alternatives in their client portfolios, the Rydex|SGI study found that alternative investment usage and awareness is in the "adolescent" stage for RIAs versus the "infancy" stage for brokers. Only 8% of RIAs say that they have "little familiarity" with alternatives compared to 16% of brokers. Over all, advisors indicate a significant appetite for additional education regarding alternative investments, with RIAs universally wanting to enhance their knowledge and 86% of brokers saying they would carve out time to learn more about using alternatives.

"This is not a fad," said Richard Goldman, Rydex|SGI's CEO, at a press briefing on the study. "There is a burning need, because of the acceleration in the use of alternatives, for education." Sanjay Yodh, Rydex|SGI's managing director for alternative strategies and the executive spearheading Rydex|SGI's advisor education effort, added that the proper use of alternatives in a portfolio is to provide investments that do not move in lockstep with stocks and bonds. "It's about managing risk," he said.

To meet varying levels of advisor sophistication regarding alternative investments, the firm plans to introduce a four-tiered educational program that addresses a range of issues. The first step provides an introduction to the world of alternatives, while step two deals with crafting a portfolio, followed by a discussion on selecting investment products. The final level deals with advanced topics such as, "How do these strategies really work?" and "What other issues should be considered?"

Rydex|SGI currently conducts ongoing educational roundtables and workshops, and recently introduced www.GetAlts.com, an interactive Web site designed to help investors and advisors better understand alternative investments.

Separately, Rydex Advisor Benchmarking, which conducts ongoing surveys of advisors (the findings of which are reported monthly in Investment Advisor's Practice Edge e-newsletter) released the results of a supplemental survey which found that only a small percentage of advisors are using social networking sites in their practices. The survey found that job satisfaction remained high for RIAs--on a scale of 1 to 5, 84% of advisors surveyed gave top ratings to job satisfaction. But in response to questions suggested by Investment Advisor editors, 60% of responding advisors admitted their quality of life was negatively affected by the markets and economic downturn of 2008-2009. To recharge themselves and provide support to clients as well as leadership to their firms, 54% of advisors reported they spent more time with family and friends, 50% enhanced their exercise routine, 29% changed their eating habits, and 23% have engaged in a personal hobby.

As for their stress levels, respondents reported an average overall level of stress of 5.8 on a scale of one to 10, but a majority said the average time they spent with clients has stayed the same in the last six months.--Robert F. Keane and James J. Green

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