The number of financial products - including managed accounts, traditional managed funds and superannuation funds - is resilient regardless of market cycles; in fact, for many fund managers, major market upheaval can be an opportunity to launch investments in new financial instruments or to access new investment opportunities.
Despite frequent conjecture of fund consolidation, which has gained momentum recently with ongoing market turmoil here and abroad, APIR product registrations continue to grow. Given that the APIR code is the market accepted identifier, these registration levels are a good barometer of industry sentiment, indicating that perhaps the outlook isn't quite so grim.
For the past 10 to 15 years, the number of active funds in the market have been relatively static. While there are a few hundred new registrations each year, roughly the same number close for a largely zero net effect.
The GFC is a prime example of fund registrations numbers not being negatively impacted by major market disruption. Product numbers for unlisted financial products were static throughout 2008/09, with no significant declines recorded. While funds under management certainly reduced in some cases, it wasn't to the extent that products needing to close en masse. As an investment product registration code issuer, the APIR business outlook didn't reflect the degree of volatility in the broader market, reflecting that fund closures weren't widespread during that time.
There were a lot of investment products in the market which were effectively quarantined, but there was also the opportunity to launch new products into the market, and there were some organisations especially keen to launch new products at the time.
In fact, for some of our clients, particularly larger fund managers or superannuation funds that experience significant falls in funds under management, it may actually result in a rethink of the product on offer and the development of different investment products, to meet investor demand in the new environment.
There were 35 new participants last year (an increase of 10 per cent), so it's pleasing to see there are new market entrants, which is further evidence that sentiment remains fairly strong.
The type of product being manufactured will be dependent on the nature of the market at any one time. Corporate activity, such as mergers and acquisitions, has more of an impact on fund registrations (and closures) than broader economic factors. Industry regulation can also have an impact on fund numbers.
Looking ahead, we expect to see continued growth in the managed accounts area of the business. It remains a small part of the collective investment scheme landscape, but the growth rate is relatively strong.
So, while it may seem counter-intuitive against the current market backdrop, the trend is towards continued growth in the number of investment products across the industry, with the main ones still being unlisted unit trusts. Corporate activity and further regulatory measures are far more likely to impact on the number of new and closed products available than market volatility.