Traditional Asset Managers May Hold the Keys to Helping Investors Access Alternative Exposures

September 23, 2021 — Boston

Firms that can offer attractively priced exposures and support to advisors and end-investors are best positioned to bring private capital exposures to retail investors

Traditional asset managers may have a home-field advantage in distributing alternative allocations to advisors and retail investors given their knowledge of this client base and their requirements. As these firms obtain alternative investment capabilities, they will introduce price competition and provide clients access to a wider variety of needed exposures and liquidity, according to new Cerulli research, U.S. Alternative Investments 2021: Advisor Uptake of Alternative Investments.

Traditional asset managers have well-established distribution functions that can resonate with advisors and end-investors and are also able to offer extensive product support—possibly to the degree that some alternative investment firms neither can nor want to. Additionally, they are familiar with economies of scale and fee compression—having proven willing to offer better pricing to capture greater flows and grow assets. “In the not-yet-fee-compressed private capital space, this is a tremendous advantage,” says Daniil Shapiro, associate director.

A critical decision traditional asset management firms will face when considering the addition of alternative allocations to their offerings is whether they should rely on internal capabilities, partner, or acquire capabilities. According to the research, 69% of responding asset managers report they plan to increase reliance on the acquisition of alternative investment firms, 64% plan to increase reliance on strategic partners or joint ventures, and 60% expect to hire or lift out professional teams.

Another key decision is that of the structure, especially concerning illiquid allocations. Where illiquid allocations are concerned, investors will need to identify the structure that best supports the product. Cerulli’s research finds that advisors’ most significant challenges in allocating to the products include a lack of liquidity being unsuitable to the client (54% rate this as a challenge), as well as the products being too expensive (39%) and overly complex (37%). Remediations may be a new wave of enhanced liquidity offerings, including non-traded real estate investment trusts and interval funds.

As the private capital industry matures to become a larger ecosystem, which is more important to retail investors, traditional managers will find an industry that allows them to play to their strengths in delivering alternative capabilities. “Traditional asset managers can become formidable industry competitors versus existing incumbents, bringing welcome price competition and allowing their clients to more easily access a wider variety of needed exposures—a strong case for the expansion,” concludes Shapiro.

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