Money Management Institute Report Finds Asset Management Firms Suffering from Perception Gap: New study on lifecycle of asset managers underscores disconnect between perception and reality, leading to stagnation and lost growth opportunities

Thursday, October 19, 2017

NEW YORK, NY, October 19, 2017 – A new study by the Money Management Institute (MMI) concludes that asset management firms suffer from a significant gap between their own perceptions of where they are in their life stages and market realities – a gap that could be leading to lost growth opportunities. The study, unveiled at MMI’s Annual Conference in early October and conducted in partnership with rpmAUM, a strategic asset management consulting firm, provides insights into how domestic asset management firms are managing challenges and opportunities throughout the four stages of their business lifecycle: development, introduction, growth, and maturity.

“One of the key findings of the study is that asset management firms suffer from what behavioral scientists would call ‘poor self-actualization’,” said Craig Pfeiffer, MMI’s President and CEO. “For example, based on their years in existence and assets under management, some firms tend to enter into an extended stagnation phase between introduction and growth, where they are treading water. This has a number of negative consequences, including an inability to make strategic and tactical changes, a tendency to get sidetracked, and a failure to develop new products and services.”

“Although half the firms we surveyed suffer from this gap in actualization, others serve as great role models,” observed Russell Parker and Andrea Trachtenberg, rpmAUM principals. “Leading firms adopt a more constructive, positive approach to assessing their core capabilities, resulting in product line extensions that better reflect the needs of the market. They also tend to better understand when the time is right to either merge with another firm, acquire other firms with complementary competencies, or hire more professional management to provide leadership and strategic direction. Finally, they are more willing to reinvent themselves and take risks.”

Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • Survivors vs. Thrivers – Investment firms, as reflected by their key traits and business approach, are increasingly polarized into two camps. Forty percent are “survivors” – firms that have narrowly made it through tough times and are less proactive – while the other 60% are “thrivers,” focused on proactively and aggressively moving their business forward.
  • Big Opportunity for Small Firms – Increased commoditization has created new opportunities for niche players with specialized offerings. Size is no longer the ultimate arbiter in the asset management business, and scrutiny of performance has broadened to include new measures not strictly based on “tonnage.” The moniker of “boutique” is no longer pejorative, which is positive news for emerging and niche managers.
  • Emerging Mandate: Technology – Asset managers are under increasing pressure to replace aging legacy technology and invest in replacement solutions, often looking externally for help. Investment process and performance are still among the top prerequisites for clients, but firms also need to be ready to answer questions regarding financial accountability, trading accuracy, cyber security, and reporting confidentiality, which are all impacted by technology. Many smaller, more aggressive firms credit their technological advances for asset expansion and increased market share.
  • Marketing Renaissance – For emerging asset managers and boutique firms, marketing and branding tend to play a minimal role, and many do not have formalized marketing budgets or robust marketing functions. But without formalized marketing plans and budgets, firms may find it challenging to grow and differentiate themselves, without being drowned out by larger asset management firms. Smaller, growing firms need to differentiate themselves through smart target marketing and messaging that clearly and consistently states their value proposition.

Mr. Pfeiffer added, “This study is part of our strategic commitment to help emerging asset managers address their most pressing needs. It is an integral part of a multi-pronged initiative we have undertaken that includes a comprehensive schedule of Emerging Asset Manager Forums, events, and webinars, and related research and publications.”

The survey of asset managers included a quantitative online survey, as well as in-depth, qualitative follow-up interviews. 

For more information about the survey or to obtain an executive summary of the report, please visit

About the Money Management Institute (MMI): Since 1997 MMI has been the leading voice for the global financial services organizations that provide financial advice and professionally-managed investment advisory solutions to individual and institutional investors. Through industry advocacy, educational initiatives, regulatory affairs, data reporting, and professional networking, MMI supports and advances the growth of a diverse spectrum of investment advisory solutions that serve an evolving worldwide financial landscape. MMI member organizations are committed to the highest standards of fiduciary responsibility and ethical conduct and to creating the most successful outcomes for investors at every level of assets. For more information, visit

About rpmAUM: rpmAUM was built to deliver an informed opinion on best practices for product, brand, distribution, and strategic partnerships to better retain and grow assets under management. rpmAUM provides consultation and tools necessary for speed and accuracy to improve business, with measurable progress, regardless of short-term challenges. For more information, visit

​Joan Lensing, Money Management Institute,, (646) 868-8518
Matthew Conroy, Peppercomm,, (212) 931-6133