November 18, 2014

Morningstar: Passive equities continue to flow

The departure of Bill Gross from PIMCO continues to play a role in asset flows for Morningstar’s active taxable-bond category. As a whole, the category lost $23.1 billion in October. Once the PIMCO Total Return fund is extracted from the equation, though, active taxable-bonds gained $9.2 billion last month. Bill Gross’ former fund dragged the entire category down with outflows of $32.3 billion. Overall, bond flows seem to have regained stability following Gross’ exit.

Passive U.S. equity funds maintained their popularity, gaining $28.8 billion in October while actively managed funds saw outflows of $9.4 billion. Meanwhile, international equity funds saw their first month of outflows for 2014.

For the full report and Morningstar’s analysis, please click here.

November 13, 2014

Ultimus: Advisor engagement is key

Some boutique firms are happy managing funds for the sole purpose of serving their existing client base. But others want to grow through third-party platforms, especially if they believe they have a good story to tell.

What should firms do to get started? What can they do to enhance their existing distribution strategy?

Ultimus Fund Solutions client conference recently had a discussion focusing on growth.

Panelists included Meridian IQ's Ryan Katz, consultant Keith Brown, Celera System's Beverly Dube and SunStar's Dan Sondhelm. The session was facilitated by Ultimus' distribution expert Kevin Guerette.

"Building mutual funds can be challenging. That's why we want to help our clients keep up with best practices about growth and distribution," says Guerette.

Brown adds, "Raising assets for any money manager today is as competitive as it has ever been. The firm needs a sound strategy, resources, commitment, plenty of patience and the understanding that they will try things that will not work as hoped. Though it's tough going, smaller or newer firms lacking brand recognition and long-term track records can still break out and find success."

Panelists agree advisor engagement is key. Asset managers need to determine how and through which medium(s) their target advisors want to engage them and uncover the information or solutions they desire. What kind of information does my ideal advisor (client) need to make investment decisions and how do they want to receive and consume it.
"It is impossible to make informed or strategic distribution decisions without having the business intelligence upon which to forge your channel, focus firm, and advisor outreach sales, marketing and communication strategies." says Dube. "Nor is it possible to track or manage wholesaler activities or communications and marketing campaigns effectively without a robust CRM system that offers a robust profile of the advisors you work with and don't yet."

November 11, 2014

MME: BlackRock Fares Well as Pimco Flounders

Chess Pieces 540x360 Chess Pieces"In the wake of Bill Gross's sudden departure from Pimco, fund competitor BlackRock's promotion of its scale, distribution and product performance has helped it capture more business," according to an article by Suleman Din in the new issue of Money Management Executive.
When Gross first made his announcement, industry professionals wondered who would benefit because that money has got to go somewhere. And BlackRock was well positioned.
Money Management ExecutiveObservers say its recent growth is due to "an apparent coordinated effort to capitalize on Pimco’s perceived weakness - canvassing its professional networks of advisors and institutions, combining efforts of wholesalers and national account teams, cutting costs of its fixed income products, timely placement of thought leadership material, and even having BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink publicly speak about fixed income investments and the company's 'team culture.'"
Along with pros from Kasina, Lipper and BrightScope, SunStar's Dan Sondhelm was a source for this story.

November 10, 2014

Former Fed Chairman Bernanke: Timely Communications as his Legacy

Melissa Murphy
The Schwab IMPACT Conference is an annual gathering of advisors, fund companies and the media. This year’s event took place last week in Denver and it was not a disappointment.  In my view, the most compelling presentation came from Dr. Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the Federal Reserve.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of humor and personality put forth by Dr. Bernanke.  The auditorium erupted in laughter at a number of things he said.  Economists are not exactly known to be captivating, but the audience was hanging on every word.
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Ben Bernanke

His leadership during the Great Recession has been well documented but I couldn’t help but appreciate the reminder of the changes he made from a communications and transparency perspective.  As a professional communicator, I advise my clients to consistently and regularly share their messages and perspectives on important financial topics with clients and potential clients. Historically, the Fed was very opaque and that may have served the organization well during placid times but with the rise of the internet and a 24 hour news cycle – with an overlay of a financial crisis – sharing information in a timely manner was important.

When asked about what he views as his enduring legacy, he said that his focus on increasing transparency at the Fed was key. Dr. Bernanke introduced a classic and enduring PR tactic: the press conference.  In addition, he participated in a media interview while acting Fed Chairman. You might also remember the 60 minutes interview.

If the Fed can make timely communications a priority, it seems that other financial services companies can follow suit.

November 4, 2014

SunStar Strategic clients earn coveted STAR Awards by MFEA

The Mutual Fund Education Alliance (MFEA) has announced the winners of the 2014 STAR Awards. The awards were presented recently at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel at the 18th annual STAR Awards celebration. The national STAR Awards competition recognizes excellence in marketing, communications and digital efforts in the fund industry.

Congratulations to our clients including RidgeWorth Funds, 6 awards, including overall advisor communications; Hennessy Funds, 4 awards, including online advisor services; Huntington Funds, 1 award, for mobile app.

This year’s top winners were U.S. Global Advisors who took home two Overall Communications Awards and Aberdeen Asset Management who took home two Overall Digital/Technology Awards.  Other firms receiving Overall Communications awards were Matthews Asia, The Royce Funds, Franklin Templeton Investments, RidgeWorth Investments, Nuveen Investments and John Hancock Investments. The Overall Communications Award recognizes a firm’s all-around, cohesive effort in communicating with a specific audience. Other firms receiving the Overall Digital/Technology Award for outstanding achievement in areas such as Website, Mobile App and Online Innovation were:  OppenheimerFunds, Putnam Investments and Invesco.

Winners were selected from among hundreds of entries judged by an industry panel of mutual fund marketing and communications executives.  Visit to view all STAR Awards winners.