August 23, 2010

Cerulli's Opportunity Index Compares Managed Account Sponsors

Sponsor rating tool is intended to facilitate asset managers' distribution efforts

An "opportunity index" to help asset managers focus their distribution efforts is part of Cerulli Associates' new study, "Managed Accounts: Asset Manager Distribution Roadmap," the firm announced on Friday, August 13.

The rating tool evaluates specific sponsors according to characteristics that make them more or less attractive to managers looking for access or wanting to grow assets on their platforms. These characteristics include momentum, total asset growth and size, and growth of the advisor force.

"For the first time, asset managers are able to compare managed account sponsors for both advisor-directed and sponsor-discretionary assets," Jeff Strange, head of Cerulli's managed accounts practice, said in the statement.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney scored highest among sponsors across each best practices category, Cerulli said. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo Advisors, UBS and RBC Wealth Management followed. Strange said it was not surprising that the four wirehouses had the highest scores, given that "these firms have the most managed account assets, most rep-driven assets and the most accessible advisors."

Strange said RBC had the fifth highest score, thanks largely to its success in recruiting wirehouse advisors and giving them managed account programs similar to the ones they had at the firms they left. "RBC Wealth Management has the added platform reach of distributing through its RBC Advisor Services unit, which provides managed account solutions for independent RIAs," he said.

LPL Financial, Raymond James, Ameriprise Financial, Charles Schwab, and Commonwealth Financial Network rounded out the top 10 sponsors on the index. Strange pointed out that other regional firms had opportunity ratings that appeared relatively more attractive than their current base of managed account assets would suggest. Among these are DB Alex Brown, Janney Montgomery Scott, Hilliard Lyons and JPMorgan Securities.

"As these firms turn more attention to fee-based platforms, there will be more opportunity for asset managers in the future," he said.

Michael S. Fischer (msf7@columbia.edu) is a New York-based financial writer and editor and a frequent contributor to WealthManagerWeb.com.

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