CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Business

January 12, 2013

10 Trends to Watch in Finance

(Continued)

The revenge of John Bogle continues apace. As investors figure out that they are not good at stock-picking or managing trades, they have also learned that most professionals are not much better. Paying high mutual fund expenses to a manager who underperforms a benchmark makes little sense. This realization has led to the rise of inexpensive exchange-traded funds and indices.

This "ETFication" has obvious advantages: low costs, transparency, one-click decision-making. ETFs are accessible through the stock market for easier execution, with no minimum investment required. Even bond giant Pimco recognized this trend and created an ETF version of Bill Gross's flagship vehicle, the Total Return Fund. Pimco actually charged more for the ETF than its mutual fund to prevent an exodus of investors from the world's largest bond fund. This will eventually shift.

Note that Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance and Morningstar all have robust ETF sites that are free (Morningstar charges for some data).

2. The financial sector continues to shrink; advisers continue to leave large firms for independents.

Since the financial crisis, Wall Street has shrunk considerably. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 7.76 million people employed in finance and insurance as of November. That's down almost 10 percent from the pre-crisis 2007 peak of about 8.4 million workers.

Its more than the crisis: Technology and productivity gains make it easier to operate with fewer workers. My office is a perfect example: Twenty years ago, it would have taken a huge staff to manage the assets we run, handle all the administrative functions, take care of the monthly reporting and manage compliance. What would have taken two dozen people in the 1980s is easily managed by five people today. Oh, and everyone in the office is required to do research or publish commentary. That would have been impossible 30 years ago.

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