More Advisors Using Third-Party Asset Managers, Survey Says

Advisors are finding success by increasing their use of external asset managers, according to a new survey.

The survey by FlexShares, the ETF unit of Northern Trust Asset Management, found that despite the increased interest in third-party managers, “many respondents are hesitant to use external investment managers because investment research remains a core part of their firm’s value proposition,” FlexShares said in a press release.

These were among the online survey’s findings:

• Advisors are increasing the level of assets under management devoted to external investment managers, from an average of 53 percent in 2016 to 57 percent in 2018.

• Satisfaction rates among advisors with external managers have steadily increased, up from 92 percent in 2010 to 97 percent today. Sixty-two percent of advisors have grown their client base as a result of external management, and 30 percent have increased revenue.

• Advisors particularly sought out external help for more niche strategies, including alternative investments (65 percent), emerging/frontier markets (43 percent), ESG (17 percent) and factor-based or “smart beta” investments (14 percent).

• Many advisors are hesitant to use external investment managers because investment research remains a core part of their firms’ value proposition. However, the data shows that this attitude may be changing as the percentage of advisors that cite this reason has declined over time—to 32 percent in 2018, down from 45 percent in 2016 and 56 percent in 2014.

“As advisors adapt to a growing demand for financial planning services and rising pressures on their bottom line, they are increasingly looking to employ external investment management services and to focus on activities through which they can add the greatest value,” said Laura Gregg, director of client development at FlexShares. “As they dedicate more client assets to outsourcing, advisors are able to benefit by spending more focused time with clients as well as concentrating on business development activities.”

The online survey was based on responses received from 600 advisors in February and March.