Despite considerable volatility in 2023, fixed income inflows have been quite robust. According to an annual ETF investor study by Schwab Asset Management, adoption among Millennials is one factor.
According to Schwab, younger investors have a larger portion of their portfolios in fixed income relative to older generations. This is quite contrary to expectations as younger investors typically tend to favor riskier investments. Even Millennials with no fixed income investments, indicated an interest in learning more about the asset class.
According to David Botset, the head of equity product management and innovation at Schwab Asset Management, “Millennials actually indicated that they have a larger percentage of their portfolio in fixed income than older generations, which was quite surprising and not what you would expect.”
The survey was conducted across 2,200 individual investors between the ages of 25 and 75 with a minimum of $25,000 of investable assets. The differences in fixed income allocations between the generations is notable. Millennials had about 45% of their portfolio in fixed income, while baby boomers had 31%, and GEneration X had 37%.
While about 45% of Gen X investors and 40% of baby boomers plan to invest in a fixed income ETF in 2024, 51% of millennials plan to do so. It’s a validation that the surge of inflows into fixed income ETFs and boom in new issues will only continue.
Finsum: Charles Schwab conducted a survey of individual investors. One of the most notable findings was that fixed income ETFs are more popular among younger investors than older ones.
The combination of high rates and an uncertain economic outlook have resulted in record sales for annuities. In the first three quarters of the year, total annuity sales were up 21% compared to last year for a total of $270.6 billion according to LIMRA’s US Individual Annuity Sales Survey. To compare, there was a total of $255 billion in sales in 2021 which was the last year of the ZIRP era.
In Q3, sales were up 11%, reaching $89.4 billion. LIMRA is forecasting another record year of sales for 2023, exceeding 2022’s record sales of $313 billion. Within the category, fixed indexed annuities continue to dominate, accounting for $23.3 billion in sales in Q3, a 9% gain from last year. YTD, these annuity products have accounted for 26.5% of total annuity sales.
Single premium immediate annuities and deferred income annuity sales saw the biggest increases at 20% and 88% compared to last year’s Q3, respectively. LIMRA is bullish on income annuities which tend to rise with interest rates. According to the group, “Income annuities will hit record levels in 2023, with sales in this category expected to exceed $16 billion for the year.”
Finsum: Annuity sales are hitting new records. Most of this can be attributed to the rising rate environment and risk-aversion among many investors.
Plan advisors and DC recordkeepers are keenly aware of the opportunity presented by the massive movement of dollars from 401(k) plans into rollover accounts. Research firm Cerulli estimates that over $400 billion were rolled into IRAs (from 401(k) plans) with the assistance of advisors in 2021 alone.
This flow of funds is expected to continue, and advisors see it as a way to grow their wealth management businesses. While the opportunity is enormous, a key data point offers a clue to capitalizing on the trend. Cerulli’s report revealed that “of advisor-intermediated rollover assets, 86% take place through an existing advisor.”
Associate Director, Shawn O’Brien emphasized the importance of relationship-building efforts. “For wealth managers looking to capture rollovers from DC plans, this data underscores the importance of establishing and nurturing relationships with participants earlier in their careers, years before potential rollover events.”
While the implication of this research is clear, not all advisors are set up to engage with every participant. More frequently, advisors are seeking “coopetition” with recordkeepers whereby participants needing rollover assistance are segmented; plan advisors helping a select group of participants – often those with larger account balances – and the recordkeepers serving the remaining participants.
This collaborative approach ensures that each participant receives the optimal solution, transforming the dynamic between advisor and recordkeeper from competitors to partners.
Finsum: Partnering with 401(k) recordkeepers to capture rollovers helps plan advisors capitalize on this huge wealth management opportunity.
In a recent J.D. Power study on financial advisor satisfaction, findings reveal advisors are facing challenges in effectively managing their practice tasks. The study highlights that "nearly one-third (28%) of financial advisors say they do not have enough time to spend with clients."
Further, the report states that "Advisors falling into this category spend an average of 41% more time each month than their peers on non-value-added tasks, such as compliance and administrative duties."
Broker-dealers and custodians are constantly exploring ways to reduce these administrative burdens in hopes of retaining existing advisors and recruiting new ones. However, the study underscores another essential factor driving advisor satisfaction: culture.
One significant takeaway from the report is the motivation behind advisors' loyalty to their firms. Among employee advisors, the predominant reasons they gave for their long-term commitment are "a strong culture and company leadership."
Culture can mean different things to different people, but most agree it's about purpose, values, how we communicate, and our work environment. Given how these factors play a significant role in our daily happiness, it's no wonder why advisors regarded culture so highly in the report.
Finsum: A study from J.D. Power highlights challenges faced by financial advisors, emphasizing the importance of culture in advisor retention and satisfaction.
Following the recent selloff in the bond market which has pushed yields on the 10-year Treasury above 5%, Michael Contopolous of Bernstein Advisors compiled some of the best opportunities that he’s noticing in fixed income.
The first is Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) which are offering a real yield of 2.5%. This is the highest level since 2007 and in the 25th percentile of real yields since TIPS were introduced in 1997. In contrast to most fixed income securities, TIPS would see an increase in returns if inflation expectations were to rise.
Currently, the spread between the 10Y and 2Y Treasuries is inverted. If the economy experiences an acceleration or a sharp turn lower, it’s likely that the curve will steepen. Thus, fixed income investors can consider a steeper curve. It can have a bullish or bearish tilt depending on an investors’ economic outlook.
Another area of opportunity is preferred securities which are priced much lower than corporate bonds following the regional bank crisis earlier this year. There's a particular opportunity in the preferred share of banks which could rally if the yield curve steepens, or earnings start to grow again.
Finsum: Fixed income is seeing renewed interest following the recent selloff. Here are 3 opportunities to consider.
According to Travis Spence, the head of ETF distribution at JPMorgan Asset Management, future growth in the ETF industry will be driven by active strategies that will be the main source of innovation in the space.
Currently, active funds only account for 5% of the total market but account for 25% of inflows. Some of the reasons that investors are favoring active ETFs is greater transparency, liquidity, and pricing. Thus, he believes that more active strategies will be accessible through ETFs in the coming years. And he sees growth in the US and internationally, although adoption has been slower in the latter.
In fixed income, he believes that active managers have some advantages due to greater inefficiencies in the market and increased difficulty and constraints of tracking a fixed income benchmark. Additionally, many market cap-based indices are overrepresented with indebted companies.
He added that, “It is easy to see why an active approach to fixed income makes sense. Even passive ETFs are arguably active due to the availability of bonds. Having an active approach in fixed income, where you do not automatically hold the most indebted issuers, fully integrate ESG and actively manage turnover and transaction costs, can offer an attractive solution for investors.”
Finsum: JPMorgan’s head of ETF distribution, Travis Spence, shares why he’s optimistic about active fixed income, and the trends driving its growth.