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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Manning Advances into Income and Retirement

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

Manning & Napier [profile] has breached the shores of the battlefield for income and retirement clients, aggressively bolstering its sales force. It has also launched products seizing on pent up client demand for funds that adequately handle market risk.

"As a firm, we've got a clear focus on helping participants with diversified investment products including risk-based and target date funds," says Chuck Stamey, Manning's managing director of sales. "For a relatively small firm, we have a variety of risk-based options for defined contribution plans."

Breaching these markets has been a natural step for Manning, which Stamey says has been an investment management firm for over 40 years, starting as a separate account manager. The firm first developed fund capabilities in 1990 and now mutual funds represent about half of its assets.

Manning's focus in the mutual fund world is really two fold, according to Stamey.

The first is "to offer our equity and fixed income strategies to clients," with a big chunk of our assets have been in the highly rated Manning & Napier Fund World Opportunities Series."

"That has been a good engine of growth for us," he says.

Another strategic focus has been in target date and risk-based offerings, according to Stamey. About 45% of Manning's mutual fund offerings are in risk-based or target date funds.

"We really have been investing a lot in developing new products and services for that area," he says. "Ours involves a much more active risk management approach than what most people are offering."

Manning went public last year, and Stamey says "we have used some of the proceeds from that IPO to fund new products and services."

This includes a number of funds launched this year designed "to address the needs of 401(k) plan sponsors and participants, as well as solutions focused on meeting individual and institutional investors’ income needs."

These products include: the Manning & Napier GOAL Collective Investment Trust Funds, launched in June; the Manning & Napier  Fund, Inc. Target Series and Retirement Target CIT 5 Year Increments, with the CITs launched in August and the mutual funds launched in June and the Manning & Napier Fund, Inc. Strategic Income Series (Conservative and Moderate Series) launched in August.

Manning also launched new share classes of the Manning & Napier Fund with the Dividend Focus Series Class S and International Series Class I both launched in March and the High Yield Bond Series Class I and Real Estate Series Class I in August.

Stamey says Manning is "calling directly on the large plan sponsors so they understand our approach."

"One thing that I would say you are starting to see are mutual fund companies moving to open architecture platforms, broadly marketing as many funds as possible," he says.

Stamey says that Manning has a team of wholesalers that have relationships with wirehouses, independent investment advisors and banks, and that the firm partners with distributors to make sure they are broadly available there. Manning also calls "on other fund platforms and make our funds available via Schwab and the clearinghouses and the supermarkets."

Also, he says "We do have a handful of sales reps that are calling directly on pensions."

"A lot of what we offer, especially in the target date arena, is in the 401k market," he says. "We call on directly to 401k sponsors."

Post IPO, Stamey says Manning has hired additional sales reps.

"We have been adding additional wholesalers and sales reps through the year," he says. "We've hired six new sales reps in 2012 and have continued growth plans for 2013. We do expect to continue to grow our sales force, both for institutions, separately managed accounts and mutual fund distribution as well."

Stamey says that "there are two challenges that are really headwinds for us right now." These are, he says, "market volatility and low equity returns. These are driving many investors to the sidelines."

Manning is treating these fears as an opportunity to showcase their devotion to active portfolio management.

"We are a very active manager. We don't look like the benchmark," he says. 

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