What Is Asset Management, and What Do Asset Managers Do? (2024)

What Is Asset Management?

Asset management is the practice of increasing total wealth over time by acquiring, maintaining, and trading investments that have the potential to grow in value.

Asset management professionals perform this service for others. They may also be called portfolio managers or financial advisors. Many work independently, while others work for an investment bank or other type of financial institution.

Key Takeaways

  • The goal of asset management is to maximize the value of an investment portfolio over time while maintaining an acceptable level of risk.
  • Asset management as a service is generally provided by specialized firms to individuals, government entities, corporations, and institutional investors.
  • Asset managers have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients to act in their best interests. They make decisions on behalf of their clients and are required to do so in good faith.

What Is Asset Management, and What Do Asset Managers Do? (1)

Understanding Asset Management

Asset management has a double-barreled goal: increasing value while mitigating risk. That is, the client's tolerance for risk is the first question to be posed. A retiree living on the income from a portfolio or a pension fund administrator overseeing retirement funds is (or should be) risk-averse. A young person, or any adventurous person, might want to dabble in high-risk investments.

Most people are in between these two extremes, and asset managers try to identify where a client's risk tolerance lies. Thus, an asset manager's role is to determine what investments to make or avoid and to realize the client's financial goals within the client's risk tolerance limits. The investments may include stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, alternative investments, and mutual funds, among the better-known choices.

The asset manager is expected to conduct rigorous research using both macro and microanalytical tools. This includes statistical analysis of prevailing market trends, reviews of corporate financial documents, and anything else that would aid in achieving the stated goal of client asset appreciation.

Types of Asset Managers

There are several different types of asset managers, distinguished by the type of asset and level of service they provide. Each type of asset manager has a different level of responsibility to the client, so it is important to understand a manager's obligations before deciding to invest.

Registered Investment Advisers

A registered investment adviser (RIA) is a firm that advises clients on securities trades or even manages their portfolios. RIAs are closely regulated and are required to register with the SEC if they manage more than $100 million in assets.

Investment Broker

A broker is an individual or firm that acts as an intermediary for their clients, buying stocks and securities and providing custody over customer assets. Brokers generally do not have a fiduciary duty to their clients, so it is always important to thoroughly research them before buying.

Financial Advisor

A financial advisor is a professional who can recommend investments to their clients or buy and sell securities on their behalf. Financial advisors may or may not have a fiduciary duty to their clients, so it is always important to ask first. Many financial advisors specialize in a specific area, such as tax or estate planning.


The most affordable type of investment manager isn't a person at all. A robo-advisor is a computer algorithm that automatically monitors and rebalances an investor's portfolio accordingly, selling and buying investments aligned with programmed goals and risk tolerances. Because there is no person involved, robo-advisors cost much less than a personalized investment service.

How Much Does Asset Management Cost?

Asset managers have a variety of fee structures. The most common model charges a percentage of the assets under management, with the industry average at about 1% for up to $1 million. Larger portfolios are usually charged fewer and lower fees due to their size. Others may charge a fee for each trade they execute. Some may even receive a commission to upsell securities to their clients.

Because these incentives can work against the client's interests, it is important to know if your management firm has a fiduciary duty to serve the client's interests. Otherwise, they may recommend investments or trades that do not serve the client's interests.

How Asset Management Companies Work

Asset management companies compete to serve the investment needs of individuals and institutions. Accounts held by financial institutions often include check-writing privileges, credit cards, debit cards, margin loans, and brokerage services.

When individuals deposit money into their accounts, it is typically placed into a money market fund that offers a greater return than a regular savings account. Account-holders can choose between Federal Deposit Insurance Company-backed (FDIC) and non-FDIC funds.

The added benefit to account holders is the same institution can meet all of their banking and investing needs.

These types of accounts have only been possible since the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999, which replaced the Glass-Steagall Act. The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, passed during the Great Depression, forced a separation between banking and investing services. Now, they have only to maintain a "Chinese wall" between divisions.

Example of an Asset Management Institution

Merrill Lynch offers a Cash Management Account (CMA) to fulfill clients' needs who wish to pursue banking and investment options with one vehicle under one roof.

The account gives investors access to a personal financial advisor. This advisor offers advice and a range of investment options that include initial public offerings(IPO) in which Merrill Lynch may participate, as well as foreign currency transactions.

Interest rates for cash deposits are tiered. Deposit accounts can be linked so that all eligible funds aggregate to receive the appropriate rate. Securities held in the account fall under the protective umbrella of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). SIPC does not shield investor assets from inherent risk but instead protects those assets from the financial failure of the brokerage firm itself.

Along with typical check-writing services, the account offers worldwide access to Bank of America automated teller machines (ATM) without transaction fees. Bill payment services, fund transfers, and wire transfers are available. The MyMerrill app allows users to access the account and perform several basic functions via a mobile device.

Accounts with more than $250,000 in eligible assets sidestep the annual $125 fee and the $25 assessment applied to each sub-account held.

How Does an Asset Management Company Differ From a Brokerage?

Asset management institutions are fiduciary firms, generally used by people with significant assets. They usually have discretionary trading authority over accounts and are legally bound to act in good faith on the client's behalf. Brokers execute and facilitate trades but do not manage clients' portfolios.

What Does an Asset Manager Do?

An asset manager is responsible for creating a client's portfolio, overseeing it from day to day, making changes to it as needed, and communicating regularly with the client about those changes.

What Are the Top Asset Management Institutions?

As of February 2024, the five largest asset management institutions, based on global assets under management (AUM), were BlackRock ($9.46 trillion), Vanguard Group ($7.25 trillion), Fidelity Investments ($3.88 trillion), The Capital Group ($2.5 trillion), and Amundi ($2.10 trillion).

What Is Digital Asset Management?

Digital asset management, or DAM, is a process of storing media assets in a central repository where they can be accessed as necessary by all members of an organization. This is usually used for large audio or video files that need to be worked on by many teams of employees at once.

The Bottom Line

Asset management firms provide the service of buying and selling assets on behalf of their clients. There are many types of asset managers, with some working for family offices and wealthy individuals and others working on behalf of major banks and institutional investors.

What Is Asset Management, and What Do Asset Managers Do? (2024)


What Is Asset Management, and What Do Asset Managers Do? ›

Asset management is the practice of increasing total wealth over time by acquiring, maintaining, and trading investments that have the potential to grow in value. Asset management professionals perform this service for others.

What is asset management and what do asset managers do? ›

Asset management firms manage funds for individuals and companies. They make well-timed investment decisions on behalf of their clients to grow their finances and portfolio. Working with a group of several investors, asset management firms are able to diversify their clients' portfolios.

What are the four major functions of an asset manager? ›

Managing the property cash flow. Coordinating asset maintenance. Negotiating contracts. Communicating with investors and clients.

Why asset management interview answer? ›

In an asset management interview it's always great to say that one of the primary reasons for your interest is being able to leverage being part of the firm and getting to learn from the collective experience and expertise of hundreds or thousands of other employees.

What is an example of asset management? ›

Managing the estate of someone with wealth is an example of asset management. Having a certain number of investments and property is a full-time job to oversee, so an asset manager is hired to do so.

What are the three main asset management types? ›

Historically, the three main asset classes have been equities (stocks), fixed income (bonds), and cash equivalent or money market instruments. Currently, most investment professionals include real estate, commodities, futures, other financial derivatives, and even cryptocurrencies in the asset class mix.

What does it asset management do? ›

IT asset management (also known as ITAM) is the process of ensuring an organization's assets are accounted for, deployed, maintained, upgraded, and disposed of when the time comes. Put simply, it's making sure that the valuable items, tangible and intangible, in your organization are tracked and being used.

What is the primary purpose of asset management? ›

Asset management is the practice of increasing total wealth over time by acquiring, maintaining, and trading investments that have the potential to grow in value. Asset management professionals perform this service for others. They may also be called portfolio managers or financial advisors.

What is asset management for dummies? ›

Asset management planning provides your organization with best practices for the operation and maintenance of your assets so money can be used wisely well into the future.

How do I pass an asset management interview? ›

How to Prepare for an Asset Management Interview?
  1. First and foremost, demonstrating a solid theoretical knowledge is critical. ...
  2. Candidates are also expected to be familiar with the current market climate and have a strong knowledge of the asset class for the role they are applying.
Dec 21, 2023

What does asset management job do? ›

Asset managers manage and monitor a company's assets. This could include property, money, stocks, shares and bonds, commodities, equities and other financial products. As an asset manager, you'd aim to maximise your employer's return on investment.

Why asset management is important? ›

Asset management matters because it enables businesses to optimize the use and performance of their assets, leading to cost savings, improved operational efficiency, and enhanced decision-making.

What are the two types of asset management? ›

Here are some of the most common types of asset management: Enterprise asset management: enterprise asset managers work with organisations to maintain their fixed assets. They often work with maintenance and operations. Public asset management: public asset management involves the maintenance of public institutions.

What is the difference between asset management and investment management? ›

At its core, the difference between investment management vs. asset management is the scope of what is managed. Investment management tends to focus solely on stock and bonds while asset management can encompass a wider range of assets, such as homes and luxury goods.

What is the function of the asset management system? ›

The main purpose of an asset management system is to help organizations improve their visibility of a wide variety of asset data, understand where investment may be need in future capex planning, and automate manual processes to increase staff productivity.

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