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Asset managers look to boost headcounts despite weighing competition

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Almost two-thirds of asset management chief executives are expecting to increase headcount within firms despite weighing concerns over competition and regulation, research shows.

Over 150 asset management chief executives responded to PwC’s annual survey of global CEOs, which showed a significant majority expecting growth in revenues over the next year.

Additionally, 28% of respondents said they would be leading their firms into new industries, away from pure asset management, and 18% considering such an expansion in order to protect revenue growth.

New tactics saw managers entering markets vacated by banks, providing real estate loans and corporate lending.

One-fifth plan to grow business through cross-border mergers, with a further 29% opting for domestic tie-ups, PwC said, a higher proportion than other financial services.

Despite short and long-term optimism about business growth, chief executives said fees had come under pressure from cheaper alternatives such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Almost half aimed to cut costs this year and 28% plan to outsource segments of their business in order to reduce the cost base.

“Anxiety about competition disrupting their business models isn’t surprising at a time when active managers are losing market share,” the report added.

Although looking to increase headcount, PwC reported 68% of asset management heads were ‘extremely’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about the availability of key skills with over three-quarters planning to expand headcount in technology and risk management.

“[Chief executives] are adapting to a changing world,” the report said.

“They’re optimistic about growth in assets and revenues. Yet with competition mounting and regulatory disruption set to intensify, they’re looking to redefine their businesses, moving into new growth areas and leveraging digital technology.”

Mark Pugh, UK asset management leader at PwC, said the market would be volatile over the next three years.

“Future success in this sector will depend on attracting not only the most skilled investment professionals, but also talented people,” he added.

“Compared with three years ago, asset management chief executives see both greater opportunities (65%) and greater threats (56%).”

Optimism about revenue growth could stem from previous PwC research that showed global assets under management to exceed $100trn (€88trn) by 2020.

The research said market share between institutional investors, retail and high-net worth individuals would not change dramatically, but growth from emerging and frontier economies would add to assets.

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