The investment advisor world can be divided into many subsets. There are wealth managers and investment advisors; big firms and smaller firms; older firms and newer firms; sole practitioners and multi-principal shops. But one of the biggest differentiators is in the area of investment management: specifically, active (or tactical) vs. strategic firms.
In recent years, more and more advisors are becoming tactical in order to find opportunity and hedge risk in an increasingly challenging market. In fact, the percentage of advisors who employ tactical investment techniques doubled in the two-year period from 2003 to 2005, jumping from 17% to 38% of the total advisor population, according to our research. This increase suggests that advisors are taking a more proactive approach to managing portfolios. Currently, the investment landscape is pretty evenly split–about 45% of advisors declare themselves “strategic,” while nearly 40% of advisors say that they are “tactical asset allocators.” (The remaining 15% of the population is composed of those labeling themselves as “market timers,” “core and satellite investors,” or “other.”) It’s important to note that most “tactical” advisors still create long-term strategic asset allocation targets for clients’ portfolios, but they also make periodic adjustments for the asset mix based on short-term market adjustments.
Drilling deeper, we discovered that advisors with different investment styles build their businesses differently as well, and their divergent business models can result in some distinct differences in many other areas of their practices.
Time Well Spent
Active and strategic advisors spend their time very differently. Tactical advisors spend the majority of their time on portfolio management (35% vs. 20%) while more strategic advisors spend more time on marketing (15%) and business administration (20%) than their counterparts. This distinction is not surprising given that a more active investment style requires more attention to investments and their day to day movements.
Money Well Spent
Tactical advisors tend to pay themselves first. In fact, their biggest expense, by far, is their own compensation (40% of expenses vs. 20% for strategic advisors). Tactical advisors, not surprisingly given their active investment style, also spend more on research than strategic advisors. Both compensate staff equally–20% of their expenses goes to their staff. On the contrary, strategic advisors spend much more than their tactical counterparts on rent, office expenses, travel, and marketing/advertising.