Morgan Stanley’s Profit Goal for Wealth Management Division
For banks, the last couple of years have brought significant challenges due to higher rates. For Main Street banks, they are forced to pay higher rates on deposits, while they have made loans at much lower rates. Wall Street banks are facing an environment where IPOs, M&A activity, and corporate issues are at low levels, in part due to the Fed’s hawkish stance according to a Bloomberg article by Sridhar Natarajan.
However, one area of growth for Wall Street-centric banks has been in wealth management. For Morgan Stanley, its wealth management division produced $6.6 billion in pretax profits in 2022. However, it recently set a goal of $12 billion in pretax profits for its wealth management division in the coming years.
It sees growth in the division coming from more assets, an increase in lending, and markets growing in size. It also is targeting $1 trillion in net new assets over the next 3 years.
For the full year, it’s expected to earn $10.8 billion in net income which is a drop from $11.4 billion last year. Most of the decline is due to investment banking fees which are projected to be about 40% of their 2021 levels.
Finsum: Morgan Stanley is projecting that its wealth management’s pretax profits will nearly double over the coming years with asset growth a key driver.
How Direct Indexing Can Lead to Greater Customization of Portfolios
In an article for ETFTrends, James Comois discusses how direct indexing can lead to increased customization of portfolios which isn’t possible to the same extent as with ETFs and mutual funds. However, it’s important to note that the primary benefits of index investing are retained with direct indexing as it comes with lower costs and diversification.
The major differentiation is that investors own the actual components of the index in their portfolio in order to replicate its performance. At one time this would be too unwieldy for the vast majority of investors, however direct indexing is increasingly available to all investors due to technology which makes its implementation and management simple for any advisor.
In addition to tax benefits, another major positive is that it can result in increased customization of portfolios. For instance, an investor can track the S&P 500 but negate stocks or sectors that they would like to avoid. Many investors are not comfortable holding stocks that are related to gambling or tobacco, while others are unwilling to invest in fossil fuel companies. However, the index can still be tracked as these stocks are replaced with other stocks that have similar factor scores.
Finsum: Direct indexing is growing in popularity due to the increased flexibility and customization it allows for investors while retaining the benefits of index investing..
Quant Funds Could Be Responsible for Dampening Volatility
One of the most puzzling aspects of markets in 2023 for investors has been the relative weakness in volatility. This is despite a plethora of risks for the economy and markets including rising recession risk, elevated levels of inflation, a hawkish Fed, deep stresses in the banking system, and a looming debt ceiling standoff that seems certain to go till the deadline.
Yet, stocks are at their highest levels in more than a year, while volatility is at its lowest level in a couple of years. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Caitlin McCabe discusses the potential impact of quant funds on volatility, and why it could potentially account for the discrepancy.
Basically, quant funds have been piling into stocks even though most investors remain on the sidelines. Currently, these funds have a net exposure level to stocks that is the highest since December 2021, before the bear market started. In contrast, investors have a relatively low allocation to stocks and have reduced it this year.
Some see risks in the concentrated positions of these quant funds which increase the odds of a market dislocation in the event of bad or unexpected news. Another factor in reduced volatility has been steady inflows from corporate buybacks. Overall, it’s been an exceptionally calm stretch with less than a 1% move for the S&P 500 in 36 out of the last 46 sessions.
Finsum: One mystery for markets in 2023 has been the steady drop in volatility despite growing risks. One potential reason may be quant funds which are aggressive buyers of stocks.
How Financial Advisors Can Find Prospects
A robust pipeline of prospects is essential for the long-term growth of a successful financial advisor practice, however the major challenge is that it takes consistent investment of time and energy that won’t yield immediate results. In an article for SmartAsset, Rebecca Lake CEFP laid out some tips on building a strong pipeline.
The first step is to understand that there are multiple paths to successful prospecting. So when coming up with a strategy, figure out the one that best aligns with your inclination and personality. For instance, a digital savvy advisor may elect to invest their efforts into creating an online presence. Someone with a background or interest in athletics may look to sponsor and/or get involved with local sports leagues.
Related to this, your prospecting strategy must create visibility and interactions with your target demographic. This means defining your ideal client in terms of income, wealth, age, occupation, etc.
Finally, you can look at your network and existing clients for referrals for prospects who may be receptive to your message or services. Often, these have the highest conversion rate but are only earned through years of building trust.
Finsum: Having a strong pipeline of prospects is necessary for an advisors’ success. Here are some tips on formulating an effective strategy.
Insurers Bet Big on Fixed Income ETFs
In an article for ETFTrends, Todd Rosenbluth discussed how US insurance companies are aggressively investing in fixed income ETFs. Last year, the industry invested a total of $37 billion in ETFs. This is a small portion of the overall ETF market and the $7.9 trillion that is cumulatively managed by US insurance companies.
However, insurance companies are some of the largest holders of fixed income ETFs especially for corporate bonds according to a report from S&P Dow Jones Indices. S&P Dow Jones believes that insurers are gravitating to these products because of increased liquidity and higher yields. Additionally, these ETFs functioned well over the last couple of years despite periods of considerable market stress.
In terms of ownership, insurance companies own 14% of the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF at year-end 2022. The average duration is 8 years with a split of A- and BBB-rated bonds.
2 more popular bond ETFs are the iShares 1-5 Year Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF andthe iShares 10+ Year Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (IGLB). Both invest in similar products but with different durations. Each has 11% and 7% ownership by the insurance industry, respectively.
Finsum: Fixed income ETFs are becoming increasingly accepted by institutional investors. Research from S&P dow Jones shows that insurance companies are some of the largest holders.