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SEI Poll: Investment Managers Optimistic But Remain Focused on Increasing Efficiency

Despite ongoing regulatory challenges and political uncertainty, investment managers are optimistic about their business outlooks. They plan to continue to invest to increase efficiency, reduce risk, and enhance the client experience, according to a poll released today by SEI. The poll, conducted at a recent event for the company’s investment manager clients, shows that nearly all participants (88 percent) are optimistic about their firms’ business prospects over the next three years. There are a number of reasons behind the optimism, but positive market expectations (29 percent) and firm-specific strengths, such as superior performance (22 percent) and well-respected brands (19 percent), were cited most frequently. For the minority of managers (12 percent) expressing concern about their prospects, weak distribution strategies and insufficient distribution resources were the biggest concerns.

The poll revealed that while many managers are optimistic, they are not complacent, with many firms making investments in the areas of operations, marketing and distribution, and client service. In fact, the vast majority of managers polled have already taken steps, or have plans to take steps, to improve their growth potential, with 84 percent making material personnel or technology investments to enhance client service. The top areas for investment in 2011 cited in the poll include: hiring of additional marketing and distribution personnel (34 percent), back office operations and technology (28 percent), and compliance and regulatory functions (17 percent).

“It’s refreshing to hear that optimism is the prevailing sentiment among managers, but it’s even better to know that firms continue to invest to position themselves for the future,” said Phil Masterson.

The poll also revealed that meeting new regulatory requirements remains the top challenge among managers, with one in three respondents (33 percent) identifying this as the most significant challenge to the industry over the next 12-18 months. Participants were split on the effect of new financial regulation, however; half of those polled believe new regulations will have a significant effect on the profitability of their firms while 41 percent of participants expect insignificant impact.

Managers were not split, however, on the top channels for growth for the next 12-18 months, as nearly half of respondents (46 percent) ranked the institutional channel as the greatest opportunity for asset growth among client segments and distribution channels. Other respondents named RIAs/IFAs (20 percent), retirement plans (18 percent), and sovereign wealth funds (11 percent) as top growth opportunities.

The poll was completed by C-level and senior executives across management operations, distribution, and investment professions.

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