Are Asset Managers No Longer the Poor Relations?
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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Are Asset Managers No Longer the Poor Relations?

Even as fundsters and other asset management executives are fretting over flows woes and the continued march of passive investing, the broader financial services world seems to have a different take on the asset management industry.

The Financial Times highlights the recent rise of some asset management executives to the top of broader multinationals. The way the FT sees it, insurers and other firms are recognizing the profitability and growth of asset management and reacting accordingly.

The article profiles several leaders along these lines, including: Martin Gilbert and Keith Skeoch, co-CEOs of Standard Life Aberdeen; Ron O'Hanley, the next CEO of State Street; Henrik du Toit, the next co-CEO of Investec; and Shemara Wikramanayake, the next CEO of Macquarie. Another longer tenured example (unmentioned in the article) is Bob Reynolds, who has led Putnam Investments for the past decade and now also leads its parent, Great-West Lifeco U.S.

"When we both started in asset management it's hard to believe what a cottage industry it was," Gilbert says of his and Skeoch's early days. "Asset managers were the poor relations. Now it's a huge worldwide business."

Fundsters see their woes first hand, worrying about continued growth at the passive giants and about rough flows (especially in stock funds). Yet it's easy to forget that, compared to many businesses, asset managers enjoy excellent margins, and that the industry has grown dramatically over the last three decades.

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