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Monday, November 24, 2014

Five Issues Fundsters and Fund Boards Will Worry About In 2015

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

Looking ahead to 2015, Susan Wyderko sees five big mutual fund board issues that fundsters and their funds' boards should be ready for.

Wyderko, president and CEO of the Mutual Fund Directors Forum, recently offered MFWire a glimpse inside her crystal ball.

The first big issue for 2015, Wyderko says, is cybersecurity.

"Throwing money at the issue does not equal solving the issue," Wyderko says, adding, "The interests of the board and the advisor [i.e. fund firm] here are completely, 100-percent aligned."

The second issue in Wyderko's eyes will be the continued rise of alternative investments. Alts are "not just a flavor of the month," and board oversight of such products is "not an easy task."

"There is a huge demand for them," Wyderko says. "You really have to beef up your compliance oversight."

The third big issue Wyderko foresees involves the fixed income market. Thanks to the Volcker rule, Wyderko says, the banks are "largely pulling out of the role of holding lots of fixed income inventory on their books." That translates into significantly lower fixed income liquidity, in a market where many fixed income securities are already very thinly traded.

"How do you value this stuff? What's it worth? If you have to sell it in a hurry, who's going to buy it?" Wyderko asks. "If rates turn and you have most of middle America holding fixed income and they want out, who's going to buy it?"

That ties in with Wyderko's fourth predicted issue for fundsters and fund boards next year: valuation, "specifically fair valuation for securities for which there is no observable market price." Valuing liquid alternatives, and thinly traded fixed income securities, could become increasingly important next year.

Wyderko's fifth predicted issue for next year involves market structure. Wyderko points to the high frequency trading concerns raised by Michael Lewis (in his Flash Boys book) and others, who claim that "mutual funds are being taken to the cleaners by the flash traders." 

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