InvestmentNews on the strong growth of separately managed accounts:
A class of products that have been around for a long time are undergoing a rebirth: separately managed accounts, or SMAs.
The recent sales figures have been impressive. SMA market assets have bounced back to levels last seen before the financial crisis — more than $762 billion at year-end 2013, according to Cerulli Associates Inc., with one-year growth of 23.1%. Cerulli Associates projects growth rates in separate accounts of 11.3% to 12.2% in each of the next four years.
The success of SMAs lies in their advantages: customization, transparency, tax efficiency and professional management. They can also offer flexibility in fees and a high value perception for clients attracted by the cachet of owning a professionally managed strategy in a more exclusive wrapper.
The concept is easy to explain, one reason that SMAs are gaining traction with clients. They fill the needs of retail investors wealthy enough to invest $100,000, and in some cases as little as $50,000, who want to move beyond pooled vehicles like mutual funds into portfolios with individual security ownership that are actively managed by professional asset managers.
Customization is a key differentiator in the marketplace. SMAs can help financial advisers demonstrate they are listening to the individual needs of their clients. Each SMA can be tailored to meet specific needs and goals. When investing in SMAs, advisers and clients can express preferences or restrictions concerning strategies or individual stocks, which can give them a greater sense of control.
For this reason, they are particularly attractive to clients with specific investment guidelines, and those who require additional hand-holding from their adviser. Increased demand for environmental, social and governance portfolios is fueling momentum in SMA strategies that apply sustainability-focused ESG integration. A shift away from traditional style box investing to outcome-oriented solutions is also fueling the movement to SMAs, as investors express greater desire for products addressing income, longevity and volatility risk.
In the wake of the financial crisis, transparency has become even more important to clients. With SMAs, advisers and clients see their actual holdings. They also receive full details on fees. This level of transparency lets high-quality asset managers prove their worth.
SMAs also provide excellent vehicles to assess and balance tax liabilities. The run-up of the equity markets has created considerable tax implications for many investors. The fiscal condition of public budgets indicates that taxes are likely to increase, not decrease, and many investors are seeking tax advantages mutual funds do not offer. Within an SMA there are no unearned gains and often trades can be balanced to address tax loss and gain harvesting. That can be highly attractive to investors who have large taxable assets and want access to particular portfolio managers or investment strategies. SMAs can also help those who want to create benefits for charitable giving.
All of the points that are made in this article ring true to my experience as well. Click here to see where our SMAs are currently available.