Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Ranks as Top Fund Distributor to HNWs

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney was the highest-ranked wirehouse among affluent and high-net-worth (HNW) investors, according to Cogent Research’s list of top fund distributors.

Cogent’s 2010 Investor Brandscape report ranked the top five fund distributors as Charles Schwab, Fidelity Investments, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Edward Jones, and Merrill Lynch. UBS came in at number seven.

Fidelity was bumped from its spot as both the top distributor and mutual fund provider. Cogent said Fidelity has been hurt by lower awareness and favorability ratings and a trend of affluent investors putting more assets in IRAs than in employer-sponsored retirement plans (see “Affluent Investors Have More Money in IRAs than Employer Plans“).

The fund provider rankings included Vanguard, Fidelity, American Funds, T. Rowe Price, and TIAA-CREF in the top five.

Cogent said while The Vanguard Group has improved its relationship with investors over the past year as a fund provider, Fidelity has seen a decline in loyalty. Vanguard performed the best among its rivals on drivers of loyalty such as financial stability and range of products, as well as fund performance.

In contrast, Fidelity no longer ranks among the top five mutual fund companies on performance. Ratings for the firm on both mid-term and long-term performance declined considerably over the past year, according to Cogent.

Cogent’s report is based on a survey of 4,000 affluent and high-net-worth investors (having $100,000 or more in investable assets, excluding ESRPs and real estate) in the U.S. The distributor and fund provider rankings are based on Cogent’s proprietary CoRe Score, which combines brand equity, customer loyalty, market penetration, client mix, and share of wallet.

More information about purchasing the report is available at