Investment Advice

SIC 6282

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments that participate in the investment advisement industry and are predominantly engaged in furnishing information and advice to companies and individuals concerning securities and commodities. These firms serve their clients on a contract or fee basis. Establishments that provide advice but also act as brokers or dealers are excluded from this category.

Industry Snapshot

A broad spectrum of advisory firms makes up the industry and is responsible for managing billions of dollars of U.S. and foreign assets every year. Assets in the U.S. mutual fund market alone, of which investment counselors in the industry manage a significant portion, totaled $10.4 trillion in 2006. Mutual funds controlled more U.S. money than banking institutions. In the mid-2000s, about 20 percent all household assets were invested in mutual funds, up from 7 percent in 1990, and roughly 50 percent of all U.S. households owned mutual funds.

The business of providing investment advice was deeply shaken in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. After net new cash flow to all mutual funds set a record at $504 billion in 2001, the net new cash flow dropped to $74 billion in 2002, then 2003 saw a loss of existing funds. The total got back to the positive side of the ledger in 2004 with $53 billion in net new cash flow before the economy strengthened and the total rose to $255 billion in 2005 and $474 billion in 2006.

As demand for mutual funds picked up, 80 percent of those investors who held funds (excluding work retirement plans) did so through a professional financial adviser, including full-service brokers, bank representatives, accountants, insurance agents, and independent financial planners. As the market recovered, the investment advice industry once again became a highly competitive, vibrant market.

In the late 2000s, the industry experienced one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history, which led to financial reform of money market funds in 2010. Still, U.S. investment companies managed more than $10 trillion in assets for 93 million clients in 2008. Mutual funds fell from 12,000 in 2007 to 9,601 in 2008. By 2009, assets under management grew to more than $12 billion for 90 million clients, as did mutual funds to 11,121. The total number or 21 percent of households that invested in mutual funds remained relatively steady.

Organization and Structure

Futures and investment advisory firms, investment counseling services, research organizations, and mutual fund managers compose the investment advice industry. Several companies offer a multitude of services for all segments of the market, serving as "one-stop shops" for their clients' every need. Other organizations provide expertise in just one area, such as real estate investment research, indexing, or international hedging. Many of these firms form alliances with other specialty companies to deliver a package of client services. Although many firms exist solely to meet the market demand for these services, numerous industry participants offer advisory services only as a sideline. For instance, much of the advice and management of funds in the United States and abroad is provided by insurance companies and banks that are engaged primarily in other industries.

Futures and investment advisory firms typically provide advice and manage pools of funds for institutional clients. On a fee or contract basis, these firms seek to minimize their clients' exposure to risk in relation to the level of return that a client is seeking. Advisory firms that manage large pools of funds often seek the services of specialty firms that can provide expertise in a single area, such as real estate. In addition, many of these firms are often employed by larger players in the industry, such as mutual fund managers.

Investment counseling services may also assist institutions and provide services to larger firms. These firms, however, may also offer portfolio management services to individuals. Counselors will develop and manage an investment strategy that is specifically tailored to one individual's financial goals. Counselors consider the client's tax status, retirement plans, and other factors in an effort to protect and increase the client's resources. Though many firms require a minimum account size of at least seven figures, customers benefit from the individual attention. Money managers often charge between 1.5 and 3 percent of the account per year for their services.

Mutual Fund Managers.
The largest single segment of the investment advice industry belongs to mutual fund managers. In 2006, there were 10,414 mutual funds. A mutual fund is effectively an investment company that pools the money of many individual investors. Investors buy shares in the fund and the company invests the shareholders' cash for them. The company hires an adviser, or management company, to develop an investment strategy and to manage the fund.

Mutual fund investors do not benefit from individualized service as they might from a personal counselor. Mutual funds, however, allow small investors access to professional investment advisers who would otherwise be inaccessible--and at a relatively low cost. Furthermore, a wide variety of funds exist that are tailored to the needs of specific types of investors, allowing people with smaller accounts to place their money in funds that match their financial needs.

Most fund advisers receive a fee for stock selection and portfolio management activities based on the average value of the assets under management. Depending on the type of services provided and the category of fund managed, fees typically range from 0.20 percent (for index funds) to more than 1 percent of average annual fund assets. The management fee is usually set on a declining scale relative to fund size. The management company may administer and pay for some or all of the following: office space and personnel; portfolio managers and traders; regulatory compliance activities; preparation and distribution of prospectuses, advertising, and shareholder documents and reports; bookkeeping, accounting, and tax services; and bonding and insurance.

Prior to the 1980s, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations provided that fund investors could only compensate financial advisers with a one-time flat fee for both current and future services. However, in 1980, the SEC enacted Rule 12b-1 under the Investment Company Act of 1940, which gave the industry a broader range of compensation options. In 1990, fees collected by funds totaled $1.1 billion; by 2004, 12b-1 funds totaled $10.5 billion, just off the record high of $11 billion set in 2000.

As of 2006, the five largest investment managers by total assets directed 38 percent of the $10.4 trillion in assets, approximately the same percentage as in 1985. Moreover, the twenty-five largest investment managers directed 71 percent in 2006, whereas the top twenty-five directed 78 percent in 1985. Many firms enter and exit the fund industry. Of the largest twenty-five fund complexes in 1985, 14 remained in the top group in 2006. Banks and insurance companies are common among the top five. The typical U.S. pension plan had about 39 percent of its assets in U.S. stocks, 20 percent in bonds, 14 percent in the company's own stock, 10 percent in international stocks, and 7 percent in guaranteed investment contracts.

Background and Development

Individual segments of the investment advisory industry have varied histories. Most advisory services and financial markets in the United States were originally derived from European markets--particularly those in the United Kingdom. After their inception, however, U.S. financial markets were more heavily influenced by domestic market conditions and regulatory developments.

The roots of U.S. futures trading, for example, date back about 200 years, when supply and demand imbalances in regional cash markets and agricultural commodities arose. Following the creation of organized futures exchanges between 1850 and 1900, hedging with futures eventually became an integral component of portfolio management theory. Investment advisers and fund managers found that they could use futures, as well as other instruments such as options, as tools to reduce risk and increase overall portfolio returns for their clients.

Opportunities for firms that offered futures advisement services proliferated in the 1980s and early 1990s, as growing numbers of individual speculators began putting trading decisions in the hands of professional money managers who specialized in futures. Between 1980 and 1992, the number of commodity futures pool operators registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission grew 28 percent, to 1,350. The amount of money under management by these pools increased during the same period from $675 million to about $20 billion.

Growth in Mutual Fund Management.
In contrast to futures, the first American mutual fund was not organized until 1924, when Massachusetts Investors Trust was started. The stock market crash of 1929 and World War II both served to hamper development of this industry through the late 1940s, when fewer than 100 funds representing only about $2 million existed. Opportunities for investment advisers who managed mutual funds remained relatively meager throughout the 1970s, although several new types of funds were developed during the mid-1900s.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the demand for mutual fund advisers, as well as for investment consultants who served these managers, began to escalate. A combination of economic and regulatory factors made mutual funds more appealing to both individuals and some institutional investors. Furthermore, the increase in the number of no-load funds, which did not charge an entrance fee, made mutual funds more attractive until the mid-1980s. As assets in the mutual fund industry soared during the 1980s for a variety of reasons, the demand for fund advisers swelled. Mutual fund assets under management skyrocketed between 1986 and 1996 from about $700 billion to about $3.5 trillion dollars by 1996 and to $6 trillion in 1999. Growth in individual retirement accounts helped swell mutual fund assets. By 1999, retirement accounts held one-third of mutual fund assets.

Increasing Fees.
The fees that advisers were charging to investment companies also escalated in the 1980s. Contracts that had traditionally been set at a fee of about 0.5 percent of managed assets jumped to an average of between 0.75 percent and 1 percent for funds organized during the late 1970s and 1980s. Another implication of growth in the 1980s that managers of some of the more popular funds realized was a loss of investment flexibility. As managers of these funds saw their fees jump as assets inflated into the billions of dollars, they found that they could not achieve investment returns similar to what they had generated prior to the rapid growth of assets. As a result, some larger funds struggled to keep market share from smaller competitors.

Pressures to hold down investment management fees were growing and alternative pricing arrangements were gaining favor. Managers handling international equity assets were reaping higher fees for their work than their colleagues managing domestic assets. Also, the fees on domestic equity categories easily outdistanced the charges on domestic fixed-income securities.

Competition Increases.
Despite the growth in the amount of assets under management by firms primarily engaged in the investment advisement industry, the share of the total money management market served by these companies fell in the early 1990s. Banks and insurance companies increased their advisory services in an effort to offset losses in their core businesses. In addition, large publicly traded brokerage firms, such as Salomon Brothers Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co., and Prudential Securities Inc., moved into money management as they diversified from transaction-based businesses into fee-based ones. Furthermore, regulatory developments supported this trend by reducing the traditional distinctions between financial institutions. The result was more homogenous, though increasingly competitive, financial markets.

Despite the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s, futures and investment advisers, investment counselors, and mutual fund managers all enjoyed steady growth rates. Firms that managed mutual funds or provided expertise used by mutual fund managers realized the greatest gains. Aside from strong securities markets, fund advisers benefited from an infusion of capital into long-term funds, as money continued to flow out of banks and long-term insurance instruments into more flexible mutual funds that provided higher returns. The growth in defined contribution pension plans, such as the 401(k), imbued large amounts of cash into the funds. Particularly benefiting from growth in mutual fund assets were money management firms that capitalized on expertise in a specific asset class, such as mortgage-backed securities.

Another trend continuing into the twenty-first century was industry consolidation. To achieve greater economies of scale and to offer one-stop-shop services to larger institutional clients, investment management firms began acquiring or merging with their competitors in the late 1980s. The consolidation trend accelerated in the mid-1990s. In 1994, Mellon Bank paid the equivalent of $1.8 billion to the stockholders of mutual fund manager Dreyfus. Also, Swiss Bank announced the purchase of institutional asset manager Brinson Partners, whose principals would receive $750 million for payment in an 11-year earn-out. In 1995, the acquisition of Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisors by Barclays PLC created one of the largest institutional money managers in the world, with $205 billion in assets. By 1999, former giants Scudder, Dreyfus, Founders, Stein Roe, Invesco, and Mutual Series had all merged with banks and other financial institutions.

Another notable trend was the rise of passive investing. During 1995 and 1996, the majority of active money managers failed to match the returns of the S&P 500 index. Accordingly, there was dramatic growth in the value of funds devoted to indexing, a strategy that sought only to match the market's returns (after fees) rather than outperform the averages. Index funds thwarted the existing fee structure because they charged less than half the fees of active managers.

In 1999, the index fund rose to prominence. This fund intended to match a market index such as the S&P 500. Competitive on price, index funds caused lower returns for their managers. At the end of 1999, Vanguard Group, Inc., led this sector, with sales double those of FMR Corp., known commonly as Fidelity Investments.

In the long term, the investment advisory industry was expected to realize slower growth than it enjoyed in the 1980s and early 1990s. Although aging baby boomers would be investing larger amounts of money in preparation for their retirement years, banks and insurers would continue to accrue greater shares of the money management market. Furthermore, costs associated with managing mutual funds were expected to increase at a faster rate than advisory fees, placing downward pressure on company profit margins. Unfavorable economic developments could also deliver an unforeseen blow to the industry.

After the initial shock of September 11, 2001, began to wear off, money managers waited for the investment environment to stabilize and customers to return. However, after a number of false hopes of recovery during 2002, investment firms continued to look for the inevitable upswing in the economy. Discussing the uncertain times, Joe Rob noted in USA Today Magazine in January 2003: "Never before in my nearly 40-year career as a financial professional have I seen so many people so confused about so much. None of the old adages seems to apply anymore. Sacred truths have become suspect or simply irrelevant. No one feels this more keenly than those wondering how best to protect the assets they have managed to accrue, and how best to invest them for what seems an uncertain future." According to Rob, several time-worn investment assumptions have simply been tossed out the window, including a belief that blue chip stocks will dependably provide a 10- to 12-percent per year return over any given time frame and that the S&P will regularly bring 15 percent returns on average.

Despite growing misgivings concerning the existence of anything like a "sure thing," the economic instability, along with the political uncertainty of the twenty-first century that included war with Iraq in 2003, caused many Americans to rethink their economic future. According to a study commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Association, 92 percent of those surveyed considered financial planning important, and 53 percent reported that they had become more interested in financial planning since September 11, 2001.

The shift in the market led to several changes in how investment firms conduct business. Although financial planners were looking for new customers, they were no longer courting small investors, as was popular during the previous 20 years. During the two-decade-long span of the bull market, public participation in investing broadened greatly, spurred in part by the ill-advised lure of frequent online trading. To garner more of the market, mutual fund advisers began offering products with no-load options, namely, no up-front fees. Individual investors responded by opening millions of accounts with very small initial sums. In 1980, less than 6 percent of Americans had money in mutual funds; by 2001, more than 70 percent of Americans had invested in mutual funds.

The investment firms soon discovered that many of these tiny accounts sat idle and were too small to cover the cost of simply maintaining them. On average, an account must have $3,000 to $4,000 to provide sufficient return to pay for the basic expenses of administering the account (i.e., basic accounting, statements, etc.). As a result, firms began significantly increasing the initial investment required to purchase their products. For example, Vanguard, known for its low-investment funds, scrapped its across-the-board $500 minimum investment. Now, some of its most popular funds require a $25,000 investment, with special discounted fees for $250,000 investments. Other investment firms announced that they would discontinue selling funds to the public altogether. As a result, funds must be purchased through a broker, who usually charges a 5 percent fee, and thus targets more-moneyed clientele.

Another trend in the financial advice industry is for more businesses to vie for a share of the investment advice market. For example, State Farm, traditionally an insurance company, recently changed its motto to "We do more than just insurance," highlighting the company's move into the financial services field. At the same time, banks are also trying to become a one-stop shopping center for all their customers' financial needs, including investment advice.

According to the Investment Company Institute, during 2006, U.S. investment companies managed a record $11.2 trillion, up $1.7 trillion from the previous year. Of these, mutual funds accounted for $10.4 trillion, or 93 percent of all assets. Closed-end fund assets accounted for $298 billion, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) $423 billion, and unit investment trusts (UITs) $50 billion.

Dividends paid out in 2006 jumped to $241 billion from $161 billion in 2005. Of the 2006 total, $108 billion (45 percent) was placed in tax-exempt or tax-deferred household accounts, and another $97 billion (40 percent) was placed in taxable household accounts. The remaining $36 billion (15 percent) was paid into taxable nonhousehold accounts.

Of concern to the major mutual fund companies such as Fidelity Investments in the mid-2000s was the increasing number of baby boomers who were reaching retirement age and subsequently withdrawing retirement funds from their 401(k) accounts. U.S. retirement assets topped $16 trillion in 2006, an increase of 12 percent from 2005 and 40 percent from 2000. Mutual fund companies administer more than half of the nation's 401(k) assets, but as individuals retire, they commonly rollover their 401(k) funds into something more easily accessible with more options for withdrawal, such as an individual retirement account. An estimated 16.3 million Americans were to reach the age of 60 between 2005 and 2010. While the significant drain of funds is bad news for the big mutual fund companies who manage these assets, the majority of individuals who withdraw or rollover 401(k) assets seek out the services of a financial adviser, who may, in turn, reinvest at least part of the assets back into mutual funds.

In 2005 dozens of mutual fund companies lowered fees to find and keep more customers. Fidelity Investments lowered expenses by 0.45 percent on the heels of similar fee cuts announced by Vanguard Group and American Funds. Other companies were offering funds with no transaction or load fees, and collecting 12b-1 maintenance fees of about 0.25 percent instead. In its own effort to entice investors, e-Trade began offering to refund half of the 12b-1 fees.

Investor demand for hybrid funds that invest in a combination of stocks and bonds waned in 2006. Investors added $7 billion in new cash to these funds, in contrast to a combined $100 billion in net new cash from 2003 to 2005.

Current Conditions

According to the Investment Company Institute, during 2008, U.S. investment companies managed $10.3 trillion, a $2.6 trillion decline from $12.9 trillion reported in 2007. Global mutual fund assets fell by $7.2 trillion to $19.0 trillion. Closed-end fund assets accounted for $188 billion, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) $531 billion, and unit investment trusts (UITs) $29 billion. During 2009 U.S. investment companies managed $12.2 trillion, a $1.8 trillion increase compared to 2008. Money market fund assets reached a record $3.92 trillion in 2009.

According to a TD Ameritrade survey conducted by Harris Interactive found 62 percent of investors have altered the way in which they invest following the economic turmoil in both 2008 and 2009. Additionally, 22 percent admitted they sought guidance from professional investment advisors. Also, 25 percent of males and 18 percent of females indicated they were much more apt to utilize professional investment advisors for their investing needs.

The most significant investment advisory industry development occurred with the the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in July 2010. Prior to the new reform, investment advisers with assets under $25 million were monitored by the state; however, the latest reform under the Advisors Act raises the cutoff to $100 million so the SEC can focus on the larger investment advisors. Additionally, for private funds of $150 or more will be required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). To sum up, investment advisors with assets under management of $100 million or more will not be affected by the new reform, but those investment advisors with assets under management of $100 million or less would need to register with the state prior to July 21, 2011.

According to the SEC, 11,643 investment advisers were operating in the U.S. in April of 2010 servicing an estimated 30 million investors. Of the 11,643 advisers, 82.8 percent managed less than $1 billion in assets with 90.8 percent of the firms employing 50 or less employees. Additionally, 508 firms or 4.4 percent of the 11,643 investment advisers managed more than $10 billion in assets that comprised the "lion's share" of assets responsible for 83.3 percent, or $32.1 trillion of total assets. There were also 64 investment advisory so-called "mega-firms" with more than $100 billion in assets accounted for $18.7 trillion in assets.

Industry Leaders

In 2006, the top five investment firms controlled 38 percent of mutual fund assets; the top ten controlled 49 percent; and the top twenty-five controlled 71 percent.

FMR LLC of Boston, Massachusetts, better known as the Fidelity Investments, is one of the world's leading mutual fund companies, serving approximately 23 million individual and institutional clients. Fidelity manages more than 300 funds and has more than $1.5 trillion in assets under management. In 2006, the company reported revenues of $12.9 billion. As of 2009, Fidelity manages nearly 500 funds and about $1.5 trillion in assets under management. The company had sales totaling $11.4 billion in 2009 with 37,00 employees. The Vanguard Group, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, also has more than $1 trillion in assets under management and 180 stock, bond, and fund offerings. The Vanguard Group reported $1.4 trillion in assets under management and 200 stock, bond, and fund offerings in 2009. With 12,500 employees, the company reported revenues of $16.0 billion in 2009.

Merrill Lynch is the longtime king of the retail/wholesale financial management sector. The company reported revenues of $62.7 billion in 2007. Goldman Sachs, another giant in the industry, posted a net income of $11.6 billion on revenues of $88 billion in 2007. Morgan Stanley posted a net income of $3.2 billion on revenues of $85.3 billion. Charles Schwab, the world's largest discount broker with 8 million clients and more than 300 branch offices across the United States, reported a net income of $1.2 billion on $5 billion in revenues in 2006. Charles Schwab, which manages approximately $1.3 trillion in assets, sold U.S. Trust to Bank of America for some $3.3 billion in 2007.

Merrill Lynch with about $2.2 trillion in consumer assets reported revenues of $54.0 billion in 2009 with 9,700 employees. Morgan Stanley, with more than $280 billion in assets reported revenues totaling $38.0 billion in 2009 with 61,388 employees. Charles Schwab's assets under management grew to $1.4 trillion with nearly 10 million clients in 2009. The company reported revenues totaling $4.4 billion in 2009 with a net income of $787 million with 12,400 employees.


About 500 companies were competing for mutual fund investment advice and management services in 2006. Of these, independent financial advisors accounted for nearly 60 percent of the industry. Banks and thrift, insurance companies, brokerage firm "wirehouses," and non-U.S. advisers are other major fund and trust sponsors.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2005 County Business Patterns, there were almost 108,000 people employed in investment advice and more than 175,000 employed in portfolio management.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 County Business Patterns, the total number of people working in the portfolio management category increased to 243,564 people. However, the total number of people working in the investment advice category fell to 90,837 people in 2008.

America and the World

In 2006, the United States accounted for 48 percent of all global mutual fund assets, which totaled $21.8 trillion. Europe held 36 percent of mutual funds assets, Africa and Asia combined for 12 percent, and Central and South America totaled 5 percent.

As fund managers continue to increase foreign investment to achieve greater returns and to reduce risk, the demand for international investment expertise should accelerate in the twenty-first century. The demand for services by foreign investors will also likely increase as other countries increase investment abroad and seek respected U.S. financial expertise.

Although sales of U.S. fund shares was negligible prior to 1993, interest by foreign investors in U.S. funds was growing as financial markets became more globalized. In fact, in 1993, the SEC was actively working to liberalize international fund sales and to create uniform global investment regulations that would eventually result in nearly seamless world financial markets. Although these events increased competition from foreign firms, U.S. advisement firms expected to benefit from integrated markets. The market in the mid-2000s was clearly global in nature, and the U.S. investment industry would continue to face both opportunities and challenges from the emerging worldwide market arena. One of the most promising international markets was China, which was beginning to open up its economy in the mid-2000s and was poised to eventually provide a significant influx of capital into the industry.

Research and Technology

Technological innovation affected the investment advice industry in two notable ways in the mid-1990s. First, smaller firms formed alliances that allowed them to compete with larger one-stop shops. Second, global and domestic markets became more integrated and efficient.

Driving both industry developments were advanced information systems that allowed people to access and exchange information almost instantaneously. For instance, small specialty firms found that they could forge partnerships with other firms using information systems. While each member of the alliance retained their expertise, the groups were often able to deliver a comprehensive service package for a lower fee than that charged by many institutional advisers.

As information systems permeated every corner of the global marketplace, investment advisers benefited from instant access to global financial markets. Electronic trading and satellite information networks provided the information that was necessary for the industry to take advantage of global investment opportunities. Furthermore, new reporting and service delivery systems allowed advisement and management firms to reduce labor costs and errors and to maintain profit margins in the face of increased competition.

Competition was continued into the year 2000 from the wave of online investing. Unhappy with the industry's small growth, more people were beginning to manage their own money. However, the market decline of the early 2000s scared many investors back to professional financial advisers, as most investors were dealing with retirement funds they couldn't afford to lose.

One of the biggest changes in the twenty-first century was, however, a vast increase in the amount of information available to investors via the Internet. Investment advisers were dealing, in many cases, with a much more educated clientele than in previous years. The access to information also spurred hard-fought competition for customers as individuals could do extensive "shopping" for investment services.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

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