Money Managers’ Future May Depend on Machines as Growth Stalls

  • Boston Consulting Group report highlights advanced data tools
  • Hedge funds have hired top technology names to boost results

Money managers, faced with stagnating assets and pressure from index funds, will increasingly need to embrace computer-driven strategies to stay competitive, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Technologies that were traditionally the realm of a small group of niche managers -- including machine learning, artificial intelligence, natural-language processing and predictive reasoning -- are on the verge of becoming mainstream, the company said in a report Monday. Without such tools, firms risk becoming irrelevant and trailing others in their ability to produce excess returns, according to the report.

“The lack of market growth in 2015 reinforced the urgency faced by managers to pursue a step change in capabilities,” Gary Shub, a partner at the consulting firm, said in a statement accompanying the report. “Deep expertise, grounded in advanced data and analytics, will define competitive advantage and enable some managers to prevail.”

Traditional money managers as well as hedge funds are pushing to expand their technological expertise, poaching top executives from tech giants to manage their transformation into computer-driven firms. Citadel, the investment firm run by Chicago billionaire Kenneth Griffin, last week hired Kevin Turner, the chief operating officer at Microsoft Corp., to run its securities business. Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates in March hired Jon Rubinstein, a longtime deputy of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, as co-CEO.

The Boston Consulting Group report, titled Global Asset Management 2016: Doubling Down on Data, said 2015 was a difficult year, marked by limited asset growth, volatile markets and pressure on fees. Assets under management in the industry grew just 1 percent last year and inflows of new money slowed, according to the report.

Vanguard Group and BlackRock Inc., both known for strategies that mimic indexes, had the largest flows into U.S. mutual funds, the report noted, highlighting the continued shift of money from active to passive vehicles.

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