Bear Market Behavior: FAs More Open to Active Investments

For years, advocates of active management have argued that when the bull market bucks, investor interest in such products will pick up.

Now that we’re in growling bear territory, we asked advisors about their stance on active management.

Two thirds, or 66%, of the 125 advisors we surveyed between July 7 and July 15 said they are more inclined to consider an active manager now than before.

Advisors who are newer to the field said they are more likely to consider active managers than more seasoned practitioners.

When it comes to the vehicle of choice, 66% of the advisors we surveyed said they are most likely to consider mutual funds. That’s despite actively managed mutual funds seeing assets shrivel by 21% between the close of 2021 and June 30th, according to Morningstar Direct data.

However, the less tenured advisors we surveyed are most open to considering exchange-traded funds for active access. All of the respondents with less than five years of experience said they would consider actively managed ETFs. On the other hand, only 58% of respondents with more than 20 years of experience said they would likely look at products in that wrapper.

Less than half, or 41%, of the respondents who were open to active managers overall said they are likely to consider separately managed accounts as a means of incorporating active strategies into their portfolios.

Only a fifth of respondents said they are likely to consider third-party models.

Breaking results down by channel shows that insurance channel respondents were particularly enthusiastic about mutual funds. Indeed, 83% of advisors we surveyed in the category who are considering active managers said they are likely to employ mutual funds. That compares with 58% who said they would consider ETFs.

Meanwhile, 72% percent of registered investment advisor respondents said they would consider mutual funds compared with 68% who would turn to ETF options.

Overall, ETFs followed in close second among advisors considering active managers, with 65% of those considering employing them when choosing active strategies.

That comes as managers traditionally focused on active management, such as Capital Group, American Century and others continue to roll out active ETF suites.

Similarly, investors appear to be getting acclimated to tapping ETFs for exposure beyond indexes: 15% of all net new money poured into ETFs during the first five months of 2022 went to active products. Still, at $312 billion they represent only a sliver — 4.7% — of the ETF market.

Of those considering active managers, 44% of the respondents in the RIA channel said they are likely to consider SMAs compared with 43% of the respondents in the national broker-dealer and wirehouse channel and 42% in the insurance channel.

Of all channels surveyed, insurance providers were by far the most likely to consider mutual funds above any other product type.

The bear market hasn’t prompted everyone to consider allocating to active. A third of respondents we surveyed expressed a general lack of confidence in active managers. When asked why, the most commonly cited reason boiled down to autonomy: 47% of active-management skeptics said “I prefer to build and manage portfolios myself.”

Meanwhile, 44% expressed a lack of faith in active managers’ ability to perform. Finally, 28% of advisors eschewing active cited cost as the primary deterrent.

Only 7% of respondents pointed to end investors’ opinions as a reason to steer clear because “clients simply don’t want to hear about them or trust them.”

Alana Pipe is the data visualization technical lead at FA-IQ’s parent company, Money-Media, and a member of the Ignites Research team, which conducts original surveys on various aspects of the asset management industry.

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