Investment banks charge asset managers $75,000 a year on average for complete access to their analyst research, according to new data that have shed light on the cost of external research for fund houses.
Integrity Research, the US-based consultancy that compiled the figures, polled 161 research providers around the world, including 64 investment banks, on how much their asset management clients paid for research.
Some investment banks said they charged fund managers up to $1.5m for an annual subscription to their services, while other research providers charged as little as $1,500.
The consultancy also found that asset managers spend far less — $40,000 annually on average — to access research from independent providers than they do for the same service from investment banks.
The big differences in how much asset managers are being charged are likely to fuel the debate between banks and asset managers about the true value of analyst research.
Under European rules due to come into force in 2018, asset managers will have to explain to their investors how much they are paying for research and end the controversial practice of receiving analyst reports for free in return for placing trades with banks or brokers.
Although some fund companies have already established clear budgets for external research, and have therefore monitored the cost of this service, many others have been entirely reliant on analyst notes that they previously received for free.
Asset managers have been alarmed by the initial prices put forward by sellside analysts, with some investors being asked to spend $10,000 for a single phone call with an analyst.
A boutique fund manager, who requested anonymity, said: “The first brokers we spoke to gave us a number two or three times [bigger than] we have been paying.”
Sanford Bragg, principal at Integrity Research, added: “There has been an ongoing negotiation because the asset managers have a succession of brokers coming in through their doors saying they are not [being paid enough]. Eventually the asset managers are going to shrug their shoulders.”
Under the current system, the cost of analyst research is often included in the fees banks charge asset managers for placing trades, making it difficult to assess what the research is actually worth. These costs are ultimately passed on to asset managers’ clients, such as pension funds.
A few high-profile fund managers, including Neil Woodford, the British investor, have already promised to cover the cost of external research rather than passing that expense on to clients. Others face the prospect of difficult conversations with their clients about the amount they plan to spend on research.
Jonathon Read, head of policy at the New City Initiative, an organisation that lobbies on behalf of boutique asset managers, said the new rules could put European asset managers at a competitive disadvantage to their US rivals, who can continue to receive research for free.
He said: “This introduces inconsistencies and hampers UK [companies’] ability to compete internationally. The current US administration may deregulate heavily, and any uncompetitive footing between the US and UK fund management sectors would be a huge body blow to the industry.”
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