Fundamental Media Insights


Research insights

US financial advisors almost exclusively prefer US asset managers

Research by Fundamental Media finds that asset managers who are seen as tried-and-tested and careful-thinkers are preferred

Key points:

  • US advisors prefer asset managers that they perceive as tried and tested and careful thinkers as opposed to managers perceived as curious and energetic
  • American asset managers were always exclusively recalled for most asset classes and management styles, including for those asset classes that advisors expect to increase their exposure to
  • US financial advisors have a distinct view of most asset managers, seeing most companies as corporate, a supplier, careful thinker, tried and tested, and analytical

US advisors prefer asset managers that they perceive as tried and tested and careful thinker as opposed to managers perceived as curious and energetic, research by Fundamental Media has found.

For the Global Brand Survey, Fundamental Media surveyed 554 financial advisors in the United States during October and November 2021. To understand their perception of asset managers’ brands, we apply our ‘brand equity index’ which was developed in 2016 using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods along five pillars: brand recall, familiarity, perceived quality, propensity to buy and distinctiveness.

The ‘propensity to buy’ score assesses the likelihood to increase the use of funds provided by that particular asset manager. When correlating this score with those from the other four brand factors, we see that US advisors’ view on a manager’s ability to generate returns is the main consideration when buying a fund, as ‘perceived quality’ has the strongest correlation to ‘propensity to buy’. This is in line with the findings in European markets surveyed. The ‘perceived quality’ is the views of respondents regarding the ability of an asset manager to generate above-average returns. This can be influenced by coordinated sales, marketing and branding activity.

Perceived quality vs propensity to buy US_original

Investment professionals were asked to mention which asset management companies they associate with fourteen different asset classes and management styles. Among a total of 7362 mentions, American asset managers were always exclusively recalled for most asset classes and management styles, including for those asset classes that advisors expect to increase their exposure to (global and US equities, active management and ETFs). Companies often mentioned in the recall for those asset classes and management styles, including leading ETF providers, showed a higher propensity to buy, confirming the importance of relevance and expertise in the US market. Some asset managers left little competition as the most recalled in specific asset classes and management styles. Clearly the US is a very competitive market with a strong local bias. None of the foreign asset managers made it to the top ten in recall in any asset class, not even in European equities.

An analysis of both prompted and unprompted brand values highlights financial advisors in the US have a distinct view of most asset managers, seeing most companies as corporate, a supplier, careful thinker, tried and tested, and analytical.

However, when it comes to preferences and the correlation between perceived values and propensity to buy, companies seen as more tried and tested, careful thinking, broad and as a partner are the favourites. This suggests that investors are trusting large and well-established companies to help them through the current challenging environment.

Brand values US_original

Respondents were asked to place asset management brands across seven opposing values, which were asked in pairs and as opposites (e.g. broad vs targeted; qualitative vs quantitative). A positive correlation with one value is therefore automatically a negative correlation with the opposite value.

Qualitative comments showed that US advisors appreciate reputable companies with a strong performance and product expertise. Reliability, a long-standing history and broad product offering were also widely mentioned. When it comes to communication, regular updates, proactive contact and support from salespeople were the most appreciated. On the other hand, high fees and underperforming products were mentioned as the main downsides of some companies.

The analysis of ETF providers shows that the use of ETFs in the USA is considerably higher compared to the European markets surveyed and is likely to increase over the year for most respondents. While all the ETF providers attracted cost-related comments, like most asset managers, the range of products, specialism and communication were among the main attributes differentiating the brands.

Insights Research insights US financial advisors almost exclusively prefer US asset managers