Sizable Group of Investment Managers Pledge to Lower Fees

The median investment management fee charged to retirement plans is 38 basis points, according to the Callan Institute.

Twenty-one percent of investment managers plan to lower their fees in 2017, the Callan Institute found in its 2017 Investment Management Fee Survey.

Today, only 69% of assets in retirement plans are in actively managed funds, down significantly from 84% in 1996. The most common objection active investment managers hear from sponsors is whether they are providing the value-added services to justify their fees, cited by 49% of these investment managers.

The median fee that retirement plans pay for investments is 38 basis points (bps). By asset class it is 21 bps for fixed income, 34 bps for U.S. equities, 45 bps for non-U.S./global equities and 90 bps for alternatives. U.S. equities and non-U.S./global equities had the most dramatic movements between 2014 and 2016, with U.S. equity fees dropping 4 bps and non-U.S./global equity fees increasing 5 bps.

Investment managers are allocating a lower percentage of their revenue to bonuses: 18%, down from 24% in 2014. However, the amount of revenue allocated to cover the cost of operations increased from 42% to 60%. This may be why profit margin expressed as a percentage of revenue decreased from 34% in 2014 to 22% in 2016.

The percentage of investment management firms that offered performance-based fees dropped from 75% in 2014 to 64% in 2016. The types of funds that always use performance-based fees are all alternatives: hedge funds (60%), private equity (54%), infrastructure (38%), real estate (29%), hedge funds-of-funds (20%) and high yield fixed income (8%).

It is a common practice for investment managers to negotiate their fees, with 83% undertaking this practice, although this is down from 91% in 2014.

Callan’s report is based on responses from 59 asset managers representing $1.1 trillion in assets. Survey results also incorporated responses from 279 investment management organizations, supplemented by Callan’s Investment Manager Database of more than 1,600 firms. The full report can be downloaded here.