Asset managers and other financial services executives believe maintaining client relationships and sales are their 2 biggest challenges for 2009, according to Cerulli Associates Inc., Boston.

Among executives participating in a recent Cerulli survey, 41% think maintaining relationships is a top priority, while 34% cited increasing product sales as a top concern.

Difficult market conditions and the high costs of maintaining a retail salesforce are causing asset managers and others to question whether their salesforces are being used as well as possible, Cerulli says.

Participants in the survey plan to spend 2009 focused on investors pursuing wealth accumulation (40% of respondents) and those with retirement income needs (25%).

To accomplish this, many will turn to target-date funds. These products continue to capture assets, even in poor market conditions, and asset managers expect to build more and improved models for this purpose, Cerulli says.