Thursday, 3 April 2014

Asset Management Accounting 101 (A Conceptual Overview)

The single biggest metric to watch for any company in this industry is assets under management (AUM), the sum of all the money that customers have entrusted to the firm.

An asset manager derives its revenue as a percentage of assets under management, AUM is a good indication of how well -or how badly - a firm is doing.

Unlike a bank or insurer, where big losses can cause the firm to become insolvent, big losses in asset management portfolios are borne by customers.

Big losses will affect fee income by reducing AUM, but an asset manager could lose well over half the value of its assets under management and still remain in business.

In a worst-case scenario, customers could withdraw their remaining dollars and the firm could fold if its fee income became inadequate to support its operations.

But because asset management requires almost no capital investment, these companies can pare back to the bone to remain in business.

Additional notes:
Asset management firms run money for their customers and demand a small chunk of the assets as a fee in return.

This is lucrative work and requires very little capital investment.

The real assets of the firm are its investment managers, so typically compensation is the firm's main expense.

Even better, it doesn't take twice as many people to run twice as much money so economies of scale are excellent.

This means that increases in assets under management - and therefore, in advisory fees - will drop almost completely to the bottom line.

All this adds up to stellar operating margins, which are usually in the 30% to 40% range - something you won't see in many industries.

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