Advisor | Gennaio 2024 

In 2004, the assets of the Italian asset management industry were 955 billion euros, twenty years later they grew by two and a half times, reaching over 2,300 billion euros.

For many, the year that has just ended was the worst ever with negative net collections of over 40 billion (-1.7% on AUM), nothing compared to 2008: collections were negative for over 200 billion (- 24% on AUM of 840).

Financial advisors have played a fundamental role in this resilient growth: in 1994 the networks introduced a wide selection of third-party products which guaranteed an open architecture offer for the first time in Italy.

From that moment on, nothing was the same as before: the enormous amount of savings of Italians attracted dozens of international asset management companies to our country. It didn’t seem true to the CF that they had such a broad and diversified offer, compared to the bankers who only offered “house” products and the bank’s structured bonds.

Then, as happens when you become passionate about something, we went from enthusiasm to euphoria: 3 SGRs on average in the portfolio in 2004, over 20 in 2023.

Considering that each asset management company offers on average 25 funds, each CF should know at least 500 products, be able to differentiate them and adapt them to the time horizon and risk profile of their customers.

After the season of open architecture, the season of guided architecture has arrived, both because the complexity of the market required it and to allow the TCs to focus on the relationship with the customer.

From this moment on, the weight of “gate keepers” or fund selectors within distribution increases and will increasingly have a decisive role in the selection and choice of asset management companies to work with.

The arrival of MIFID 2, the contraction of margins and attention to costs have revived the age-old dilemma: “make or buy?”.

Some of the most important distributors have focused more than in the past on “make”, which translated means greater weight given to in-house asset management companies and management delegated to third-party asset management companies.

The model that has held up over the last twenty years based on the direct placement of products is giving way to two alternative models.

The first is the model based on containers, “wrappers” composed of asset management and unit links, combining portfolio management, protection and tax optimization.

The second is that of fixed-fee “advisory” consultancy with multiple ingredients, active funds, ETFs, individual securities, investments in private markets and even government bonds.

The fundamental difference in both cases is the transition from product to portfolio consultancy, avoiding the risk of concentrations in specific asset classes, in some sectors and in a few investment themes.

The mantra of diversification guides the ongoing change and follows more or less slavishly what is happening in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The model based on product consultancy currently accounts for 70% and the one based on portfolio consultancy for the remaining 30%: but within a few years the ratios will reverse.

Evidence that the path is traced and that unless there are any upheavals we are moving in the direction of a “fee-based” model is the satisfaction of all stakeholders: final investors, consultants, bankers, banks, principals and asset management companies.

Analysing the satisfaction of the usual financial and private bankers, it emerges that on the front of advanced consultancy and savings management solutions, the networks most strongly unbalanced on the “wrapper” and “advisory” models excel over those mainly oriented towards the placement of products with retrocession .

Nicola Ronchetti