"What's most important to our clients right now? Our views; they want our opinion."
| Cathy Saunders
Head of the Registered Investment Advisory Business
, head of the RIA business at Putnam
], talked with MFWire
at the recent Schwab IMPACT
RIA conference in the fund firm's hometown of Boston. She says that RIAs and platforms are hungry for perspective on interest rates, volatility, differentiated equity, and more.
"Demand for our research, from the platforms, is higher than it's ever been," Saunders tells MFWire
. "They want access to acumen, direct access to acumen."
For example, in May Putnam held an RIA executive forum. They had their highest attendance ever at such a forum, Saunders says, and ended up having to close it off to more attendees.
Saunders ranks getting Putnam's opinions out there as one of her two biggest priorities. The other, she says, is a focus on "strategy in the volatility management space, especially absolute return," a subject on which Putnam just concluded a "very successful road show."
Putnam has historically been big in the traditional wirehouse advisor channel, and Saunders herself is a former wholesaler who once ran West Coast retail for Putnam. Yet since Bob Reynolds
took over seven years ago and committed to both the 401(k) and RIA businesses, RIAs have become increasingly important to the mutual fund shop.
"We've grown our team every year since we've started this endeavor and will continue to do so," Saunders says. "We evolved the business model."
"These advisors are more open to new products than I think any other channel that I've worked in ... They won't block out a strategy just because it doesn't have a three-year track record," Saunders adds. "Each firm is going to screen in their own way ... It's people, it's process, and it's performance."
Someone on Saunders' team, which is based outside Boston in Andover, Massachusetts, once told her: "RIAs are like snowflakes. If you've met one RIA, guess what? You've met one RIA."
To that end, Saunders and her team have segmented the RIA business. 85 percent of the assets are controlled by just 15 percent of the RIAs, Saunders says, but what about the other 85 percent of the RIAs?
"We put two of our regional investment consultants on the project of partnering with some of the fast-growing advisory firms that are out there," Saunders says.
And Saunders expects to keep on expanding.
"We're looking to acquire great talent, inside and outside the firm," Saunders says, adding that Putnam's training program is "the best on Wall Street."
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