State of the industry – 2023

Cost emerges as the most improved aspect in global investment industry

Cost is most improved part of investment industry experience over eight years:

  • Cost leads as the most-improved factor between 2015 and 2023, among a global survey of investment professionals
  • The latest TAI survey of the investment industry highlights improved perception of both aggregate costs alongside cost structures and transparency
  • Yet sustainability is now the major challenge for the future, being the lowest-scored factor

In the ever-evolving landscape of the investment industry, a Thinking Ahead Institute (TAI) survey reveals a noteworthy improvement over the past eight years. Among the key factors, cost has emerged as the most improved aspect, suggesting a significant shift in the perceptions of industry participants from 2015 to 2023. This article delves into the findings of the TAI survey, shedding light on the industry’s progress and the challenges that lie ahead.

Costs improve:

According to the survey, investment professionals now view investment costs as ‘moderate,’ scoring 4.4 on a scale of 0-10 in 2023. This marks a substantial improvement from the 2015 study when perceptions of cost were deemed ‘poor,’ with a score of 2.9. The research indicates that the industry has made significant strides in addressing concerns related to the fairness and transparency of investment costs.

Understanding the shift:

The survey questioned both the level of aggregate investment costs and the structure and transparency of costs. The score for aggregate costs improved significantly, rising from a poor score of 2.8 in 2015 to a moderate 4.3 in 2023. Cost structure and transparency improved from 3.0 to 4.4. Discussion of these results with industry professionals suggested agreement that a large proportion of an asset owner’s portfolio would have seen declining fee levels (index-tracking, factor investing, mainstream active management). However, the improvement of fees within alternative assets may have stalled.

Other factors show improvement:

The survey also highlights a degree of positive change within the alignment category. This category includes factors such as trust, transparency, ethics and culture, all of which scored somewhat higher in 2023 and are considered moderate. The weakest area in this category is the society factor, where the industry’s alignment with society is still felt to be poor. The efficiency category, which includes factors that relate to transforming costs into portfolio outcomes, is largely unchanged over the survey period (4.3 in 2015, 4.6 in 2018, 4.5 in 2023).

What these shifting areas of satisfaction also demonstrate is a growing appetite for the previously-considered intangible benefits of investing for a wider purpose. 

The coming years may see as much constructive debate about the ways to measure sustainability in investing as we previously have seen around the measurement of costs.

Marisa Hall, Head of the Thinking Ahead Institute

Challenges on the horizon:

Despite the overall positive trends, the survey reveals a number of challenges for the future. In particular, we highlight that progress is required on sustainability and on meeting the needs of / aligning with society.

There needs to be an ongoing conversation about cost structures and the growing appetite for considering intangible benefits in investing. While we are delighted to celebrate movement in the right direction, we note in closing that none of the 13 factors surveyed are yet rated as ‘good’ by industry professionals. We must continue the good work.

The ‘Investment Industry Scorecard’ has been produced by the TAI as a way to track how the investment industry, comprising asset managers, owners and other players create, transform and delivers its value proposition in response to evolving client needs. This latest 2023 iteration of the survey aims to update this understanding across varying time horizons. The results of our 2015 and 2018 surveys can be found in the Thinking Ahead Institute paper Connecting the dots: understanding purpose in the investment industry.

Cost is a major consideration for any contract or mandate – it is natural that this has now been challenged. This conversation is certainly not over, and while satisfaction with the structure of costs has also improved, we continue to see a growing conversation between managers and owners about the right way to charge for the service of delivering for end investors.

Marisa Hall, Head of the Thinking Ahead Institute

Related pages

Global industry study: The Asset Owner 100 – 2023
Press release: Asset owner 100 2023
Explore more Institute surveys

Research paper: Connecting the dots: understanding purpose in the investment industry