The August issue of our Bond Fund Intelligence newsletter features a profile of Fidelity Investments' Kim Miller, who manages the $4 billion Fidelity Conservative Income Bond Fund. The fund, which launched in 2011, is one of the largest offerings among our Conservative Ultra Short Bond Fund category and was designed to fill the space just outside of money market funds. In the Q&A, which we excerpt below, Miller tells us why he is bullish on ultra-short space. (Note: E-mail us to request a copy of the latest issue of our new Bond Fund Intelligence product and our BFI XLS spreadsheet "complement". As with our MFI, BFI is $500 a year; $1K including the XLS.)
Q: How long have you been managing short-term assets? Miller: I've been at Fidelity for 23 years. I started out as a Municipal Bond analyst then I became a Corporate Bond analyst. Beginning in 2003 I came to the taxable desk and ran both of our institutional money market funds. When I handed those off they had about $140 billion in assets. Then in 2011, I began managing the Conservative Income Bond Fund. Overall, Fidelity has been running short-term bond funds for almost 30 years. Our first short term bond fund was launched in 1986.
Q: Tell us about the launch of Conservative Income Bond Fund. Miller: After December 2008, when the Federal Reserve took interest rates to zero, a lot of Fidelity's institutional shareholders expressed interest in employing different strategies for their short-term investments that didn't need to be immediately available for operating needs. These clients didn't want to earn zero on their entire cash balance, so we started talking about differentiating their short-term investments, sometimes described as the difference between strategic cash and operational cash. By strategic cash, I mean money that they set aside for contingencies or long term capital expenditures. The question was: Is there a product that we can create beyond money markets that will provide a better yield to shareholders without introducing them to undue price volatility? By the end of 2010, we were pretty sure that the opportunity was there, and the fund was launched in in March 2011.
Q: What kind of growth has the fund seen? Miller: Conservative Income has about $4 billion in assets under management. It's been growing steadily, but has leveled off recently. From an institutional perspective, investors wanted to see a 3-year [performance] number, and the fund has been around for 4 years, so we may begin to get some traction from those types of shareholders. But [some of the] money that they would look to redeploy in this fund clearly resides in money market funds, and for the most part I think investors are inclined to wait until reform takes full effect in 2016 before they make any definitive decisions.
Q: What are the investment guidelines for the fund? Miller: The investment objective of the fund is to seek to obtain a high level of current income consistent with the preservation of capital. The fund is designed to complement traditional cash management or liquidity management strategies, not replace them, with less of an emphasis on competing in the Ultra Short category. We talk in 'WAM' terms, not in 'duration' terms, which is more familiar to traditional cash investors.
Normally, the fund maintains a [WAM] of 273 days or less. The fund's lower quality investment grade securities (BBB) exposure is capped at 5%. The fund generally does not purchase any structured product. But most importantly, from the standpoint of NAV stability, the fund normally does not invest in fixed rate securities with a maximum maturity of 2 years or floating rate securities with a maximum maturity of 3 years. That's a real governor when it comes to sourcing supply because it largely precludes the fund from participating in the primary market. So the fund sources most of its supply in the secondary market.
Q: What does the portfolio look like? Miller: It's predominately bonds -- some CDs and CP -- but it's predominantly just short term bonds. The other noteworthy thing is the fund does not buy any subordinated debt. [The fund] doesn't include many Treasury or Government securities, [but] that's more indicative of the interest rate environment.
Q: Who invests in the fund? Miller: There are two classes, and the distinction is between over $1 million and under $1 million. It's about evenly split between the two. The former is built almost entirely on high net worth individuals and the retail class is just retail investors that are looking for the slightly higher yield associated with short-term bond funds. I don't have a lot of strong institutional sponsorship yet, because they are figuring out how they're going to deal with pending changes to Rule 2a-7.
Q: How has the regulatory environment impacted the space? Do you expect to see inflows due to MMF reforms? Miller: There are a couple things going on with the institutional investors that we speak to. First of all, many of them are going to have a lot of difficulty accepting provisions for gates and fees. But I think the bigger challenge is interpreting and understanding the implications of the floating NAV. There are going to be changes in NAV, potentially more frequent than a $10 fund with only two decimals.
Q: What are the risks and rewards of rising interest rates? Miller: We learned a lot in 2004 about how funds behave when the Fed starts raising interest rates. This fund now has close to 65% in floating rate securities indexed to 3-month LIBOR, which I'm hoping starts creeping higher in anticipation of rising rates. With respect to the Fed, I think the threshold for raising rates has never been lower. First of all, FOMC members have indicated a desire to get off zero and labor market conditions certainly allow them to do that. Also, the economy is starting to show some wage inflation. FOMC members have said they only need to be reasonably confident that inflation returns to 2% in a reasonable period. (Note: This interview took place in late July, prior to recent market turmoil.)
How do you interpret what a reasonable period is? The market is thinking a reasonable period is 1 to 2 years, but I think the Fed has a longer term view -- 3 to 5 years. I have every confidence that inflation is going to get to 2% in 3 to 5 years. To me, that gives them the liberty of raising as soon as they want. Frankly, you are going to get a better indication of how the market is going to respond to a rate increase in September than you would in December, so based on the current environment, I fully expect a move in September.
Q: What are the risks to Ultra Shorts? Miller: I think a slower Fed will insulate them a little bit, but the Ultra Short category has a lot of different strategies. The fund has competitors that have up to 20% in high yield, and other competitors buy structured products, some of which are negatively convex and will not do well in a rising interest rate environment. So depending on the strategy, we could see at least for some portion of the asset class, a repeat performance of 2007. But again, I don't think we’re going to have the credit dislocation that we had in 2007.
Q: What do you see for the future of Ultra Shorts? Miller: I'm very bullish on the Ultra Short space. Ultra Shorts serve two purposes: it allows investors that are traditional fixed income investors to shorten up without leaving the asset class entirely. Also, cash right now isn't paying much, so they are not necessarily going to drop all of their fixed income assets into cash. If they are looking to hold on to their investments until other asset classes become more attractive, I think they will look at the conservative end of the Ultra Short category. After the recent changes to 2a-7 become effective, traditional cash investors will probably employ several different strategies. Some of their cash will remain in general purpose money market funds, some will go into government money market funds, and some may be invested directly in treasuries or CDs. Investors with a long time horizon may establish an SMA, but those with shorter scopes will look to conservative Ultra Short bond funds.
We wanted to remind those attending (or considering) our upcoming European Money Fund Symposium in Dublin, Sept. 17-18 to make hotel reservations asap if you haven't yet. Our block of rooms at the Conrad Dublin is almost sold out (and the hotel expects to sell out), and attendees only have a couple more days to get our discounted rate. Visit www.euromfs.com to see more Hotel details, to register or for more information. Crane's European Money Fund Symposium is the largest annual gathering of money fund professionals outside the U.S., and features two days of sessions and discussions on European and global money fund issues. (Note: Mark your calendars too for next year's U.S. Money Fund Symposium, the largest money fund conference in the world, which will take place June 22-24, 2016, in Philadelphia. Our next "basic training" event, Crane's Money Fund University, will take place Jan. 21-22, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Boston, and we're also preparing to launch a new Bond Fund Symposium, though likely not until March 2017.) In other news, the Financial Times wrote late Friday, "Investors Head for Cash and Gold in Volatile Week. The piece says, "Stock market volatility ... drove investors out of equity funds this week and into gold and money market funds. Outflows of $29.5 billion from equity funds ... were the highest on record in nominal terms, according to an analysis of data from EPFR by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Meanwhile, more than $22 billion flowed into money market funds, a cash proxy.... "The Chinese situation has some investors taking stock, and there certainly has been an increase in US money market fund assets," says Dennis Gepp, a managing director who runs the European money market funds for US-based Federated Investors." (Note: Crane Data's Money Fund Intelligence Daily shows money fund assets increasing by just $10.7 billion through Thursday (8/27), hinting that flows subsided late last week. Money fund assets inflows have been strong all summer though, even long before the recent market correction.)
The July issue of Crane Data's Money Fund Intelligence was sent out to subscribers Wednesday morning. The latest edition of our flagship monthly newsletter features the articles: "Vanguard Goes Pure Retail; UBS, SSgA, MS Reveal Plans," which explains what several of the largest managers have said recently on money fund reforms; "Anticipation, Change Focus of 7th Money Fund Symposium," which recaps the highlights of our record breaking conference last month in Minneapolis; and "Responding to MM Reform Questions at Crane MFS," which features commentary from the SEC's Sarah ten Siethoff and other attorneys on reform FAQs. It also discusses recent fund liquidations. We have also updated our Money Fund Wisdom database query system with June 30, 2015, performance statistics, and sent out our MFI XLS spreadsheet earlier this a.m. (MFI, MFI XLS and our Crane Index products are all available to subscribers via our Content center.) Our July Money Fund Portfolio Holdings are scheduled to ship Friday, July 10, and our July Bond Fund Intelligence is scheduled to go out on July 17.
The lead article in MFI says, "In June, a wave of fund companies announced how they plan to adapt to the new money fund rules, including one of the biggest, Vanguard. UBS, SSgA and Morgan Stanley also made MMF announcements. Of note, Vanguard became the first to decline to offer institutional floating rate Prime or municipal money funds, though every other large complex had pledged to offer these to date."
It continues, "A press release entitled, "Vanguard To Designate Prime And Tax-Exempt Money Market Funds For Individuals," explains, "Vanguard plans to designate its $133.4 billion Prime Money Market Fund and its six tax-exempt funds (one national and five state municipal money funds) as "retail funds," meaning that individual investors will continue to have access to these funds at a stable $1 NAV. In addition, Vanguard announced two name changes, effective December 2015: Institutional Shares of Vanguard Prime MMF will be renamed Admiral Shares. Vanguard Admiral Treasury MMF will be renamed Vanguard Treasury Money Market Fund."
In our "profile" this month, we review the highlights of our Money Fund Symposium. It reads, "Crane's 7th Annual Money Fund Symposium, which was held in Minneapolis in late June, is now in the books, and it goes down as our largest conference ever. We had a record number (501) of attendees, and we also had what many have called our best program ever. Thanks to those that participated! Below, we review some of the highlights."
MFI explains, "The conference kicked off with a welcome address and Q&A featuring Karla Rabusch, President of Wells Fargo Advantage Funds. Rabusch said, "We are focused on clients first, that's why we are all here. Sometimes it feels like we're focused on regulators first because we're responding so much to [them]. But we need to make sure that we're fitting our clients' needs into the regulatory framework. There is always going to be a place for money funds. We'll see how they transition -- how much [shifts] to government funds, how much stays in prime, how it all works. There are obviously going to be opportunities, and we're all going to find ways to meet the needs of our clients."
It adds, "Day 1 also featured a session on the "State of the Money Fund Industry" with Crane Data's Peter Crane, Federated Investors' Deborah Cunningham, and JP Morgan Securities' Alex Roever. Crane said, "Money funds still hold $2.6 trillion; it's amazing that the base is still there. So while people predict where the money might flow in 2016, I take the 'under' on this. I think assets will be pretty much where they are today, because they have been flat for the last 4 years. If the money hasn't gone elsewhere by now, what in God's name is it waiting for?" Roever added, "We've got fund sponsors like Federated, Fidelity, Blackrock, etc., who are who are making all sorts of plans about what to do as reform approaches.... The missing piece in all this is the shareholders, and actually that's the most important piece. Where do they move their money and are they going to have the ability to actually move?" Predicting fund flows out of prime or bank deposits and potentially into government funds is "the biggest parlor game.""
The third article says, "One of the featured speakers at Crane's Money Fund Symposium in Minneapolis, June 24-26, was Sarah ten Siethoff, Senior Special Counsel at the Securities & Exchange Commission, who elaborated on some Frequently Asked Questions on money fund reforms. She sat on a panel along with attorneys Stephen Keen of Perkins Coie; and Jack Murphy of Dechert, in a session called "Money Fund Rules: Questions on the Rule." Keen & Murphy provided an overview of reforms, then focused their attention on some of the FAQs that they felt required additional clarification."
The issue also has a brief entitled, "Fund Liquidations Jump in June. It says, "JP Morgan, Fidelity, Federated, Touchstone, and Reich & Tang all liquidated money funds in recent weeks as a result of lineup changes and mergers precipitated by reforms."
Crane Data's July MFI XLS, with June 30, 2015, data shows total assets rising by $15.5 billion in June, after rising $26.8 billion in May. (MMFs assets fell by $156.8 billion total in the first 4 months of 2015.) YTD, MMF assets are down by $114.8 billion, or 4.3% (through 6/30/14). Our broad `Crane Money Fund Average 7-Day Yield and 30-Day Yield remained at 0.02%, while our Crane 100 Money Fund Index (the 100 largest taxable funds) stayed at 0.03% (7-day and 30-day). On a Gross Yield Basis (before expenses were taken out), funds averaged 0.16% (Crane MFA, up 0.01% from last month) and 0.19% (Crane 100, same as last month) on an annualized basis for both the 7-day and 30-day yield averages. Charged Expenses averaged 0.14% and 0.15% (unchanged) for the two main taxable averages. The average WAMs for the Crane MFA and the Crane 100 were 36 and 39 days, respectively, down 2 days and 1 day, respectively, from last month. (See our Crane Index or craneindexes.xlsx history file for more on our averages.)
In other news, the International Monetary Fund released its annual assessment of the US economy, commenting on a number of areas, including money markets. On money market funds it says reforms have helped, but vulnerabilities remain. "Changes to the triparty repo infrastructure (including reengineering of the settlement cycle, improvements in the collateral allocation processes, and limits on intra-day credit) have reduced risks. Despite reforms, vulnerabilities in the triparty repo market remain large (including the reliance on two clearing banks). Potential next steps could include the use of central counterparty clearing houses for repo transactions. This, in turn, would require implementing adequate risk management requirements for central counterparty clearing houses including cyber resilience, standardized stress testing, and recovery and resolution regimes. The requirement that some money market funds move to a floating net asset value by 2016 is a positive step. `However, a significant share of funds will be able to maintain stable net asset values, allowing institutional and retail investors to treat their investment as deposit-like, despite their greater liquidity risks. Shifting all money market funds to floating net asset values should be reconsidered."
Thank you to all who attended and supported Crane's Money Fund Symposium last week in Minneapolis! (We had a record 502 attendees.) The conference binder, recordings and Powerpoints are now available to attendees and to Crane Data Subscribers at the bottom of our "Content" page. Watch for excerpts and coverage of the sessions in coming days on www.cranedata.com and in the July issue of our Money Fund Intelligence newsletter. Our next event is European Money Fund Symposium, Sept 17-18 in Dublin, our next "basic training" Money Fund University is Jan. 19-20 in Boston. Next year's Money Fund Symposium will be in Philadelphia, June 22-24, 2016. Also, in today's "News," we excerpt from our latest Bond Fund Intelligence, Crane Data's new publication focusing on the bond fund and conservative ultra-short bond fund marketplace. (Contact us to see the latest issue and our BFI XLS "complement" or to subscribe. BFI is $500 a year, or $1K including BFI XLS.)
The June issue of our new Bond Fund Intelligence newsletter features a profile of Gregory Nassour, Senior Portfolio Manager at Vanguard Investments. Nassour manages the new Vanguard Ultra Short Term Bond Fund, which launched earlier this year. Nassour tells us about the important gap that this new fund fills in the Vanguard lineup and why the space between money market funds and short term bond funds is so critical for investors in this market. As Nassour says, it's all about giving investors choices. Below, we reprint our latest BFI interview.
BFI: How long have you managed funds? Nassour: I've been with Vanguard since 1992 and I've been within the fixed income group since 1994. I'm principal and senior portfolio manager within the group. I co-head all of our actively managed investment grade corporate bond portfolios. I'm portfolio manager on the Ultra Short Term Bond Fund (along with David Van Ommeren), the Short Term Investment Grade Portfolio, the Intermediate Term Investment Grade Portfolio, and the Long Term Investment Grade Portfolio.
BFI: How have Vanguard's short term products evolved? Nassour: The oldest one we have is our Short Term Tax Exempt Portfolio which started back in 1977. On the taxable side, the Short Term Investment Grade portfolio started in October of 1982. When you look at the whole gamut, Vanguard runs a lot of short term bond portfolios. We have a Short Treasury, a Short TIPs, a Short Term Federal Portfolio, Short Term Investment Grade, a Short Term Government Bond Index Fund, a Short Index Fund, a Short Corporate Index Portfolio, and a Limited Tax Exempt Fund.
BFI: So the new Ultra Short Term Bond Fund fills a gap in the lineup? Nassour: Exactly. We have an equivalent short term tax exempt portfolio, but we did not have one on the taxable side. So this is basically to fill out our fund lineup. Our Short Term Investment Grade portfolio is right around two and a half years duration. If investors wanted to go shorter, they had to go to our money market portfolios, so we wanted to fill that gap. The Ultra Short Term Bond Fund has a one year duration and that's going to be its home. The biggest challenge right now in this space is yield; hopefully this will be short lived. It's important to point out that it's not a money fund. It has a variable rate NAV, so if rates go up, prices will go down on this particular bond fund. We've made it very clear, not only on all of the PR that we did, but to all of our clients who are considering the product that this is an extension of our bond fund lineup.
BFI: How has the fund been received? Nassour: One of the neat things about this portfolio launch has been its consistency. This fund is just under $230 million in assets right now and the cash flow has been very consistent. Overall, Vanguard is great at keeping hot money out of the portfolios. We have policies in place to make sure that doesn't happen so that we can protect the current fund holders. That's a true benefit of the portfolios here; money tends to be sticky. That's great from the shareholder standpoint and it helps us manage the portfolio much better.
BFI: What is the investment strategy? Nassour: About 25% of the portfolio will look similar to the securities we would hold in a money fund. The rest of the portfolio has around 25% in corporate bonds, 25% to 30% in asset backed securities -- mostly high quality AAA auto loans and credit cards. There will be a small amount of CMBS, mostly the triple-A enhanced tranches. So the portfolio is very conservative. It has 10% Agency bullets and about 10% Treasuries. Yes, it has some money market securities in it, but I look at it as more closely related to the Short Term Investment Grade Portfolio -- just a little bit more conservative. We know that investors want a little more yield than money market funds because money market funds are not yielding anything. At the same time they're not in a longer duration portfolio where they're worried about a rate rise.
BFI: Are there concentration limits or diversification requirements? Nassour: We are going to keep this portfolio right around the one year duration. One of the hallmarks of Vanguard is, we give you exactly what the fund says it is going to be. For example, a long term investment grade fund is never going to become an intermediate fund because rates are going to rise, the inter-mediate funds are not going to shorten up to where it becomes a short term fund, and on down the line. This fund is going to be right around one year duration. It will give shareholders some decent current income. Right now the SEC 30-day yield is 65 basis points yield to maturity. The duration is not going to fluctuate too much up or down from that one year.
We offer enough funds that we give the investors the ability to choose what they want. If you want a Treasury fund, we have short, intermediate, and long Treasury funds. If you want an investment grade fund we have short, intermediate, and long investment grade funds. We give investors choices and we stay exactly within what the portfolio says it's going to be. In terms of concentration limits, all of our investment portfolios are highly diversified. If it is a lower quality security like a triple-B, we wouldn't own more than 25 basis points exposure in the portfolio. If it's single-A, we might hold up to 50 basis points in the security, and at AAA obviously we can hold more.
BFI: Can you invest in any junk or any below investment grade? Nassour: All of our investment grade portfolios have the ability to go up to 5% in high yield securities -- this way, in case securities get downgraded by the rating agencies we're not forced sellers and we can sell when the time is right. But we do not plan on investing in the high yield sector as a strategy in [this fund] at this time. Even in our Short Term Investment Grade Portfolio we're only around 1.25% of high yield exposure. But in this fund it is currently zero.
BFI: What types of investors are using it? Nassour: We've been looking at the behavior of our investors, and we have found a lot of investors moved out of money market funds and into this particular fund. I think that's just a yield play. Yields are so low in the money market space that they wanted to get a little bit more out of their money so they moved into this fund. And that's what we thought would happen. Certainly some investors moved down from short term investment grade into this fund just to get a little bit shorter duration in case rate rises. From a shareholder perspective, if they have a long term investment plan and they're dollar cost averaging into the funds, then yes, when interest rates go up, bond fund prices will go down. But as you continue to buy, you'll be buying at yields that will be higher and higher in the portfolio and you'll be buying the fund at a slightly lower price.
BFI: What is your outlook for rates? Nassour: We believe the Fed is going to move, probably in 2015, in a more gradual pace, so we don't think it's going to be a real shock to the portfolio. We don't think it's going to be a straight line -- they'll probably pause along the way to take a look at how the economy is performing. I think this fund will actually fare pretty well in that sort of environment. As rates slowly begin to rise, we'll be able to invest in product that will have a slightly higher yield and because it will be slow, it'll be able to absorb the rate hike. What investors need right now is yield. They're not making anything on money funds, short term yields are still not exceptional, and everyone can do with a little bit more income.
BFI: Are there any lessons to be learned from past rate hike cycles, like 1994? Nassour: I think the Fed learned a lot during that period. If you get behind the curve, then you wind up with a 1994 scenario where you're just jumping too quickly, in fifty basis point increments. They don't want to do that, but they also don't want to go too slow either. We're in an economy now where inflation is not rearing its ugly head. We're not getting macro-economic data that is fantastic; we're just muddling through. The Fed is very aware of that environment, so I do believe they're keeping that front and center in terms of how they're going to proceed with the rate rise. It will be painful on the way up, but when rates normalize, it's definitely a longer term positive for investors. Investors are really feeling the pain of low yields, especially those who are either nearing retirement or in retirement. From that standpoint, a higher rate environment will certainly be better.
BFI: What is the future of ultra short bond funds in general? Nassour: One of the lessons that a lot of investors learned, especially during the crisis, is the importance of having a balanced portfolio -- money funds, bond funds, equities. So bond funds are going to be very important. In terms of the future of ultra short term bond funds, they're going to have a place because investors have different needs for their allocations.
Crane Data released its June Money Fund Portfolio Holdings Wednesday, and our latest collection of taxable money market securities, with data as of May 31, 2015, shows jumps in holdings of Other (Time Deposits), CD, Repo, and CP, and drops in holdings of Treasuries and Agencies. Money market securities held by Taxable U.S. money funds overall (those tracked by Crane Data) increased by $31.6 billion in May to $2.436 trillion, after dropping $49.3 billion in April, $19.2 billion in March, and $52.1 billion in February. Repos remained the largest portfolio segment, just ahead of CDs. Treasuries stayed in third place, followed by Commercial Paper. Agencies were fifth, followed by Other (mainly Time Deposits), then VRDNs. Money funds' European-affiliated securities represented 28.8% of holdings, down from 29.3% the previous month. Below, we review our latest Money Fund Portfolio Holdings statistics.
Among all taxable money funds, Repurchase agreements (repo) increased $10.7 billion (2.1%) to $527.5 billion, or 21.7% of assets, after decreasing $113.6 billion in April and increasing $98.7 billion in March. Certificates of Deposit (CDs) were up $10.8 billion (2.1%) to $524.1 billion, or 21.5% of assets, after rising $1.7 billion in April and dropping $37.4 billion in March. Treasury holdings decreased $4.2 billion (1.0%) to $408.8 billion, or 16.8% of assets, while Commercial Paper (CP) jumped $4.1 billion (1.1%) to $390.3 billion, or 16.0% of assets. Government Agency Debt decreased $3.2 billion (1.0%) to $331.6 billion, or 13.6% of assets. Other holdings, primarily Time Deposits, jumped $13.7 billion to $230.1 billion, or 9.4% of assets. VRDNs held by taxable funds decreased by $100 million to $23.5 billion (1.0% of assets).
Among Prime money funds, CDs still represent over one-third of holdings at 34.5% (up from 34.4% a month ago), followed by Commercial Paper at 25.7%. The CP totals are primarily Financial Company CP (15.1% of total holdings), with Asset-Backed CP making up 5.5% and Other CP (non-financial) making up 5.1%. Prime funds also hold 6.7% in Agencies (up from 6.5%), 4.2% in Treasury Debt (down from 5.0%), 4.7% in Other Instruments, and 5.8% in Other Notes. Prime money fund holdings tracked by Crane Data total $1.520 trillion (up from $1.492 trillion last month), or 62.4% of taxable money fund holdings' total of $2.436 trillion.
Government fund portfolio assets totaled $441 billion in May, the same as April, while Treasury money fund assets totaled $475 billion in May, down from $472 billion at the end of April. Government money fund portfolios were made up of 52.0% Agency Debt, 25.1% Government Agency Repo, 3.9% Treasury debt, and 18.1% in Treasury Repo. Treasury money funds were comprised of 69.1% Treasury debt, 30.1% Treasury Repo, and 0.8% in Government agency, repo and investment company shares. Government and Treasury funds combined total $916 billion, or 37.6% of all taxable money fund assets.
European-affiliated holdings rose $4.5 billion in May to $702.2 billion (among all taxable funds and including repos); their share of holdings fell to 28.8% from 29.0% the previous month. Eurozone-affiliated holdings decreased $400 million to $378.3 billion in May; they now account for 15.5% of overall taxable money fund holdings. Asia & Pacific related holdings increased by $5.3 billion to $291.4 billion (12.0% of the total). Americas related holdings increased $23.0 billion to $1.440 trillion, and now represent 59.1% of holdings.
The overall taxable fund Repo totals were made up of: Treasury Repurchase Agreements (up $20.0 billion to $273.6 billion, or 11.2% of assets), Government Agency Repurchase Agreements (down $9.2 billion to $164.8 billion, or 6.8% of total holdings), and Other Repurchase Agreements ($89.1 billion, or 3.7% of holdings, same as last month). The Commercial Paper totals were comprised of Financial Company Commercial Paper (up $2.8 billion to $228.8 billion, or 9.4% of assets), Asset Backed Commercial Paper (down $800 million to $83.8 billion, or 3.4%), and Other Commercial Paper (up $2.0 billion to $75.7 billion, or 3.2%).
The 20 largest Issuers to taxable money market funds as of May 31, 2015, include: the US Treasury ($408.8 billion, or 18.3%), Federal Home Loan Bank ($208.9B, 9.4%), Federal Reserve Bank of New York ($137.6B, 6.2%), Wells Fargo ($71.8B, 3.2%), Credit Agricole ($70.6B, 3.2%), BNP Paribas ($63.9B, 2.9%), JP Morgan ($60.4B, 2.7%), RBC ($58.8B, 2.6%), Bank of Nova Scotia ($57.4B, 2.6%), Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd ($55.5B, 2.5%), Bank of America ($52.2B, 2.3%), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Co. ($45.1B, 2.0%), Toronto-Dominion Bank ($43.9B, 2.0%), Natixis ($43.2B, 1.9%), Barclays PLC ($42.9B, 1.9%), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Co ($42.3B, 1.9%), Federal Farm Credit Bank ($42.0B, 1.9%), Credit Suisse ($40.1B, 1.8%), Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd. ($37.0B, 1.7%), DnB NOR Bank ASA, ($35.4B, 1.6%), and Bank of Montreal ($35.3B, 1.6%).
In the repo space, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's RPP program issuance (held by MMFs) remained the largest program with $137.6B, or 26.1%, up from $106.2B a month ago. The 10 largest Fed Repo positions among MMFs on 5/31 include: JP Morgan US Govt ($16.1B), State Street Inst Lq Res ($8.5B), Morgan Stanley Inst Lq Govt ($7.7B), BlackRock Lq T-Fund ($6.4B), UBS Select Treas ($6.1B), JP Morgan US Trs Plus ($5.5B), First American Govt Oblg ($5.0B), Wells Fargo Adv Trs Plus ($4.6B), Schwab Govt MMkt ($4.2B), and Fidelity Cash Central Fund ($4.4B). The 10 largest Repo issuers (dealers) (with the amount of repo outstanding and market share among the money funds we track) include: Federal Reserve Bank of New York ($137.6B, 26.1%), Bank of America ($40.8B, 7.7%), BNP Paribas ($38.9B, 7.4%), Wells Fargo ($37.7B, 7.1%), Credit Agricole ($30.7B, 5.8%), JP Morgan ($29.5B, 5.6%), Societe Generale ($24.2B, 4.6%), Barclays PLC ($22.7B, 4.3%), Credit Suisse ($22.1B, 4.2%), and Citi ($21.1B, 4.0%).
The 10 largest issuers of "credit" -- CDs, CP and Other securities (including Time Deposits and Notes) combined -- include: Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd ($48.3B, 4.8%), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Co ($42.3B, 4.2%), RBC ($41.5B, 4.1%), Bank of Nova Scotia ($40.1B, 3.9%), Credit Agricole ($39.9B, 3.9%), Toronto Dominion Bank ($37.2B, 3.7%), DnB NOR Bank ASA ($35.4B, 3.5%), Natixis ($35.3B, 3.5%), Wells Fargo ($34.0B, 3.4%), and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB ($32.5B, 3.2%).
The 10 largest CD issuers include: Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd ($37.6B, 7.2%), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Co ($35.2B, 6.7%), Toronto-Dominion Bank ($33.5B, 6.4%), Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd ($30.6B, 5.9%), Bank of Montreal ($28.8B, 5.5%), Bank of Nova Scotia ($28.3B, 5.4%), Wells Fargo ($25.1B, 4.8%), RBC ($21.5B, 4.1%), Natixis ($19.2B, 3.7%), and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank ($18.5B, 3.5%).
The 10 largest CP issuers (we include affiliated ABCP programs) include: JP Morgan ($22.3B, 6.8%), Commonwealth Bank of Australia ($17.2B, 5.3%), Westpac Banking Co ($17.2B, 5.3%), RBC ($15.7B, 4.8%), National Australia Bank Ltd ($12.0B, 3.7%), Lloyds TSB Bank PLC ($12.0B, 3.7%), BNP Paribas ($11.4B, 3.5%), Bank of Nova Scotia ($10.9B, 3.3%), HSBC ($10.6B, 3.3%), and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd ($9.4B, 2.9%).
The largest increases among Issuers include: Federal Reserve Bank of New York (up $31.5B to $137.6B), Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (up $6.2B to $32.5B), ING Bank (up $4.1B to $27.8B), Swedbank AB (up $3.9B to $22.4B), Federal Home Loan Bank (up $3.7B to $208.9B), DnB NOR Bank ASA (up $3.4B to $35.4B), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (up $3.4B to $20.6B), Goldman Sachs (up $2.8B to $14.0B), Lloyds TSB Bank PLC (up $2.8B to $25.1B), and RBC (up $2.6B to $58.8B). The largest decreases among Issuers of money market securities (including Repo) in May were shown by: Barclays PLC (down $7.6B to $42.9B), Bank of America (down $4.7B to $52.2B), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Co. (down $4.4B to $45.1B), US Treasury (down $4.2B to $408.8B), BNP Paribas (down $3.4B to $63.9B), Standard Chartered Bank (down $2.3B to $14.6B), Federal National Mortgage Association (down $2.0B to $32.2B), Citi (down $1.9B to $29.5B), Credit Mutuel (down $1.3B to $19.0B), and FMS Wertmanagement (down $900M to $8.4B).
The United States remained the largest segment of country-affiliations; it represents 49.1% of holdings, or $1.199 trillion (up $13B). France (9.9%, $240.7B) remained in second, followed by Canada (9.8%, $238.8B), and Japan (7.4%, $181.3B). The U.K. (5.1%, $124.2B) moved up to fifth, while Sweden (4.3%, $104.2B) was sixth. Australia (3.6%, $86.8B), The Netherlands (3.1%, $74.7B), Switzerland (2.5%, $60.1B), and Germany (2.0%, $49.4B) round out the top 10 among country affiliations. (Note: Crane Data attributes Treasury and Government repo to the dealer's parent country of origin, though money funds themselves "look-through" and consider these U.S. government securities. All money market securities must be U.S. dollar-denominated.)
As of May 31, 2015, Taxable money funds held 27.3% of their assets in securities maturing Overnight, and another 13.8% maturing in 2-7 days (41.1% total matures in 1-7 days). Another 22.1% matures in 8-30 days, while 12.2% matures in 31-60 days. Note that three-quarters, or 75.4% of securities, mature in 60 days or less, the dividing line for use of amortized cost accounting under the new pending SEC regulations. The next bucket, 61-90 days, holds 11.5% of taxable securities, while 10.5% matures in 91-180 days and just 2.7% matures beyond 180 days.
Crane Data's Taxable MF Portfolio Holdings (and Money Fund Portfolio Laboratory) were updated yesterday, and our MFI International "offshore" Portfolio Holdings and Tax Exempt MF Holdings will be released late this week. Visit our Content center to download files or visit our Portfolio Laboratory to access our "transparency" module. Contact us if you'd like to see a sample of our latest Portfolio Holdings Reports or our new "Holdings Reports Funds Module." The new file allows user to choose funds (pick a fund then click its ticker) and show Performance alongside Composition, Country breakout, Largest Holdings and Fund Information.
As we make final preparations for our upcoming 7th annual Crane's Money Fund Symposium, which will take place in just over 2 weeks in Minneapolis, June 24-26, we are also prepping for our 3rd Annual European Money Fund Symposium, the largest money market event in Europe. The preliminary agenda is set for this year's show, scheduled for September 17-18 in Dublin, Ireland. Read on for details, but first, if you haven't already registered for Money Fund Symposium, you can still do so via www.moneyfundsymposium.com. (For those attending, safe travels and see you in Minneapolis!)
Looking ahead, the agenda is still being tweaked for Crane's European Money Fund Symposium in Dublin, but registrations are now being accepted. Last year's event in London attracted over 100 attendees, sponsors and speakers, and we expect our return to Dublin to be even bigger and better. "European Money Fund Symposium offers European, Asian and "offshore" money market portfolio managers, investors, issuers, dealers and service providers a concentrated and affordable educational experience, as well as an excellent and informal networking venue," says Peter Crane, President, Crane Data.
"Our mission is to deliver the best possible conference content at an affordable price to money market fund professionals." EMFS will be held at the The Conrad Hilton in Dublin. Book your hotel room before Friday July 17 and receive the discounted room rate of E199 for a single and E209 for a double. Registration for our 2015 Crane's European Money Fund Symposium is $1,000. Visit www.euromfs.com to register or contact us to request the PDF brochure, for Sponsorship pricing and info, and for more details.
The EMFS agenda features sessions led by many of the leading authorities on money funds in Europe and worldwide. The Day One Agenda for Crane's European Money Fund Symposium includes: "Welcome to European Money Fund Symposium" by Peter Crane of Crane Data; a "State of MMFs in Europe & IMMFA Update" with Reyer Kooy and Susan Hindle Barone of IMMFA; "Major Issues in European Money Funds" with Jonathan Curry of HSBC Global AM, Kathleen Hughes of Goldman Sachs , and Marc Pinto of Moody's; "Euro Money Funds and Negative Yields," with David Callahan of Lombard Odier Investment Managers and Jason Granet, of Goldman Sachs; and "Sterling Money Funds & UK Money Market," with Jennifer Gillespie of LGIM and Dennis Gepp of Federated.
Day One also includes: "Senior Portfolio Managers Roundtable" with Joe McConnell of JP Morgan AM, Debbie Cunningham of Federated, and Paul Mueller of Invesco; "Dealer Update & Supply Discussion" with Kieran Davis of Barclays, Jean-Luc Sinniger of Citi Global Markets, and David Hynes of Northcross Capital; "Distribution Panel: New Markets & Concerns" with Jim Fuell, of JP Morgan AM and James Finch of UBS Global AM; and "Regulatory Update: European MMF Reforms" with John Hunt of Nutter McLennen & Fish, Dan Morrissey of William Fry; and Kevin Murphy, of Arthur Cox.
The Day Two Agenda includes: "Money Market Funds in Ireland" with Pat Lardner of Irish Funds Industry Association and Fearghal Woods, of Northern Trust; "French Money Market Funds and VNAV" with Thierry Darmon of Amundi, Charlotte Quiniou of Fitch Ratings, Yann Marhic of CA-CIB and Vanessa Robert of Moody's; "EFAMA MM Working Group on Regulations" with Rudolf Siebel of BVI; and, "Strategist's Update: Rates, Reform, and Supply" with Vikram Rai of Citi.
The afternoon of Day Two features: "Major Issues in US and USD Money Funds" with Charlie Cardona of BNY Mellon CIS, Greg Fayvilevich of Fitch Ratings, and Peter Crane; "Money Market Funds in Asia & Emerging Markets with Andrew Paranthoiene of Standard & Poor's and David Castle of Standard Chartered Bank; "Fund Servicing Issues and Update; and "Monitoring European & Offshore Money Funds" with Peter Rizzo of Standard & Poor's, Alastair Sewell of Fitch Ratings, and Peter Crane.
In other news, Fitch a report on the "China Asset Management Industry." Mutual fund assets have grown sharply in the past year, thanks in large part to the growth in money market funds. It says, "China's asset-management industry is expanding rapidly with the total amount handled, in the form of mutual funds and mandates, having reached CNY6.7trn (USD1.1trn) as of end-2014, 61% higher than a year ago. Fitch Ratings sees growth continuing, given the large amount of domestic savings deposits, rapid accumulation of assets and relatively low asset-management penetration compared with developed markets. Money market funds (MMF) expanded more rapidly than other classes to CNY1.3trn, driven by retail investors buying online; that helped raise China on Investment Company Institute's (ICI) large global fund domicile rankings."
Fitch continues, "Unlike the typical mutual funds' asset mix in other developing countries, equity funds dominated the market until 2012 when strong growth in MMFs changed the mutual fund landscape. MMF assets accounted for roughly 50% of the total mutual funds as of end-March 2015 (CNY2.2trn). MMFs expanded in particular as the CNY1.3trn that flowed into these funds dwarfed the gains of all the other asset classes. The rapid expansion of MMFs had started in 2H13, and has become the largest asset class, mainly driven by retail demand for e-commerce MMFs. MMF AUM increased sixfold within 18 months to CNY2.2trn as of end 2014."
Finally, it adds, "The greatest concentration by asset manager is in QDII (Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor) funds and MMFs, with Yu'E Bao alone accounting for more than 30% of the latter's assets. Yu'e Bao is managed by Tian Hong Asset Management. The top 10 largest MMF asset managers are: Tian Hong Asset Management (CNY580B), ICBC Credit Suisse (CNY184B), China AMC (CNY140B), Bank of China Investment Management (CNY107B), China Southern Fund (CNY106B), E Fund Management Co (CNY102B), Harvest Investment (CNY96B), CGB Principal AM (CNY87B), China Merchants Fund (CNY70B), and China International Fund Management (CNY69B)."
The May issue of our new Bond Fund Intelligence publication features Goldman Sachs Asset Management's John Olivo, head of GSAM's short duration strategies within the firm's Global Liquidity Management group. A GSAM veteran of nearly 20 years, John is responsible for overseeing the management of approximately $45 billion in short duration strategies. Our discussion covers the challenges of a low-yield environment, the opportunities for short duration strategies going forward, product development and more. Below, we rerun the first half of the Q&A that first appeared in the latest BFI.
BFI: How long have you been running short term bond funds? Olivo: It's been almost 25 years since we launched our first short duration mutual fund, the Short Duration Government Fund. Today, we offer a range of innovative strategies and support our clients with deep insight, robust risk management and an extensive liquidity management platform. As one of our flagship products, we believe the Short Duration Government Fund offers a very clear illustration of all these features and of the strength of our platform overall. In addition to our funds, GSAM has been running separately managed accounts (SMAs) in the short duration space for more than two decades.
BFI: Are you looking at launching new products? Olivo: GSAM continually reviews its short duration product suite. Over the years, we have adapted our offerings according to investor demand. We've also sought out product gaps which we think we can fill. In both cases, GSAM's goal has been to provide the right solutions for clients, and to strive to meet investor needs in every type of environment. For example, GSAM recently launched an ultra-short duration mutual fund in preparation for money market fund regulatory reform. That was a case where both investor demand and changes in the marketplace convinced us to act.
We also run short duration strategies which derive their primary sources of alpha in innovative ways -- for instance, from a variety of sectors, specifically corporate or securitized products, and in multiple currencies. That was a case of meeting client needs. Another example is the High Quality Floating Rate Fund. This is one of the few floating rate funds that does not take any credit risk, focusing primarily on floating rate securitized products. GSAM believes this approach will resonate with investors in a rising rate environment.
BFI: Any plans for ETFs? Olivo: ETFs have seen explosive growth, and we think they are one of the more innovative product types to come onto the scene the last couple of years. We are always watching the short duration and money market space across product types. At this point, however, we have yet to launch anything.
BFI: What is the biggest challenge for short duration funds today? Olivo: Achieving yield continues to be the major challenge. As you know, today's low interest rate environment is a persistent, pervasive feature of the market. Short duration mutual funds do offer some flexibility as they can invest in longer dated securities and hedge away the unwanted duration risk, but our strategies are subject to the same interest-rate constraints which face every investor. What's more, the funds invest primarily in high quality, short duration assets, which aren't known for their high yields. As a result, offering an attractive yield has been the biggest issue for the entire short duration universe.
BFI: How do short duration investment strategies differ from money funds? Olivo: Generally, there's enough differentiation between short duration funds and money market funds. The duration on some of the short duration strategies are shorter than a year, but you're buying more traditional fixed income securities. For example, in the High Quality Floating Rate fund, we are purchasing longer duration floating rate products in both the agency mortgage and asset backed securities area. In the Enhanced Income fund, we are purchasing high quality corporates -- with a final maturity no greater than 5 years. That is the primary source of excess return in that strategy. Therefore, there is enough differentiation that you are not crossing over into the 2a-7 world very often. (Watch for the second half of our interview tomorrow, or contact us for the latest issue of our Bond Fund Intelligence.)
Crane Data, publisher of Money Fund Intelligence, celebrates its 9th birthday this month. As we wrote in our most recent issue of MFI, we'd like to take a moment to review our progress and update you on our efforts, which include growing our conference business and extending our coverage beyond money market funds. Crane Data was launched in May 2006 by money fund expert Peter Crane and technology guru Shaun Cutts to bring faster, cheaper and cleaner information to the money fund space. We began with our MFI newsletter and have grown to offer a full range of daily and monthly spreadsheets, news, database query systems and reports on U.S. and "offshore" money funds and other cash investments. (Note: We also wanted to remind you to make hotel reservations -- we expect the hotel to be sold out soon -- and to register for our upcoming Money Fund Symposium, June 24-26 in Minneapolis, and to start making plans for our European Money Fund Symposium, Sept. 17-18 in Dublin.)
As we first mentioned in our May MFI, our big new product addition over the past year is Bond Fund Intelligence, a monthly newsletter that tracks the bond fund universe, with a focus on the ultra-short and short-term bond fund sector. BFI includes news, features, and performance data on over 300 (and growing) of the largest bond funds and ETFs. We also publish a fund "profile" interview each month with a bond fund portfolio manager. As with MFI, Crane Data offers an Excel "complement" with even more performance, data and rankings, Bond Fund Intelligence XLS. BFI includes our new Crane Bond Fund Intelligence Indexes, which now provide benchmarks for various bond market segments, including a new Conservative Ultra-Short BFI Index, a more focused benchmark for the more conservative funds in the space just beyond money market funds.
The BFI newsletter was launched due to the changing nature of the money fund and cash space. With the SEC's money fund reforms making some aspects of the cash marketplace more restrictive, we saw an opportunity to cover the growing space just beyond money funds, the ultra short and short-term bond fund segment. We listened to feedback from clients and money managers who say that area will be more attractive in an era of money fund reforms and rising interest rates. (Watch for our May issue of BFI later this week, and let us know if you'd like to see the latest edition of BFI and BFI XLS.)
Crane Data President & Publisher Peter Crane comments, "While our first love and loyalty is of course to the money fund segment, our clients -- which now include several hundred asset managers, issuers, dealers, servicers, regulators and investors -- wanted to hedge their bets too and to gather more intelligence on this growing market segment. We look forward to working with readers, bond fund providers and others in building out this new product line. We plan to eventually track Bond Fund Portfolio Holdings and launch a Bond Fund Symposium conference in this sector, though these both will take time."
Crane Data has also continued to see great success in the money fund conference business. Our 7th Annual Money Fund Symposium will take place in Minneapolis, June 24-26, and we again expect to host the largest gathering of cash investors in the world. We're also preparing for our 3rd annual European Money Fund Symposium, which be in Dublin Sept. 17-18, 2015 (the preliminary agenda is now available and registrations are now being taken for this event), and our next Money Fund University, which will be Jan. 21-22, 2016, in Boston.
The past 9 years have brought dramatic change to the money fund industry and no doubt more is yet to come. But money funds continue to hold fast, and we think higher rates will soon bring higher assets. In our MFI update, we show the annual asset totals of money funds against our flagship Crane 100 Money Fund Index (the average of the 100 largest taxable funds). During our first two years, we saw assets increase by over $1.5 trillion and yields drop from almost 5% to under 1%. During the next three years, money fund assets declined by over $1.0 trillion, while yields settled just above zero. The past 4+ years, we've seen both assets and yields virtually flat, stuck around $2.6 trillion and 0.03%, respectively.
As for Crane Data, we continue to grow. We now have 14 employees and topped $1.1 million in annual revenue in 2014. We added a new Editor, Dave Kovaleski, who is now writing much of the commentary, and we continue to rely on our core of veteran employees -- Kaio Barbosa, who oversees our Money Fund Portfolio Holdings collection, and Statistics Editors Diana Bucaro, Natalia Mendonca, and Thereza Alves. We hope to continue to deliver good information at reasonable prices, and we thank you for your continued support! Please let us know if you have any feedback or requests. We're always happy to discuss. Sincerely, Pete Crane
The May issue of Crane Data's Money Fund Intelligence was sent out to subscribers Thursday morning. The latest edition of our flagship monthly newsletter features the articles: "Crane Data Celebrates 9 Yrs., Enters Bond Fund Info Market," which marks our 9th anniversary with a look back at the past year, including the launch of our new endeavor, Bond Fund Intelligence; "Schwab & Latest Fund Co. Changes; SEC Answers FAQs," which examines Schwab's recent update on their money market funds, recaps all of the fund company announcements since the beginning of the year, and looks at the SEC's response to reform FAQs; and "ICI Fact Book Shows Flat Is New Up for Money Funds," which reports on the fund flows and other trends from the ICI's 2015 Investment Company Fact Book. We have also updated our Money Fund Wisdom database query system with April 30, 2015, performance statistics, and sent out our MFI XLS spreadsheet earlier this a.m. (MFI, MFI XLS and our Crane Index products are all available to subscribers via our Content center.) Our May Money Fund Portfolio Holdings are scheduled to go out on Monday, May 11, and our May Bond Fund Intelligence is scheduled to ship Thursday, May 14. Also, we mention the news of IMMFA's new Chair below.
The lead article in MFI on Crane Data's 9th anniversary says, "Crane Data, publisher of Money Fund Intelligence, celebrates its 9th birthday this month. As we've done in past May issues, we'd like to take a moment to review our progress and update you on our efforts, which include extending our coverage beyond money market funds. Crane Data was launched in May 2006 by money fund expert Peter Crane and technology guru Shaun Cutts to bring faster, cheaper and cleaner information to the money fund space. We began with our MFI newsletter and have grown to offer a full range of daily and monthly spreadsheets, news, database query systems and reports on U.S. and "offshore" money funds and other cash investments."
It continues, "Our big new addition over the past year is Bond Fund Intelligence, a monthly newsletter that tracks the bond fund universe, with a focus on the ultra-short and short-term bond fund sector. BFI includes news, features, and performance data on over 300 (and growing) of the largest bond funds and ETFs. We also publish a fund "profile" interview each month with a bond fund portfolio manager. As with MFI, Crane Data also offers an Excel complement with even more performance, data and rankings, Bond Fund Intelligence XLS. BFI includes our new Crane Bond Fund Intelligence Indexes, which now provide benchmarks for various bond market segments, including a new Conservative Ultra-Short BFI Index, a more focused benchmark for the more conservative funds in the space just beyond money market funds."
In our middle column, we look at how Schwab and others are adapting to SEC reforms, as well as the SEC's FAQs. It reads, "Charles Schwab Investment Management became the latest money market fund complex to issue an update on how it plans to adapt to the SEC reforms. Since the beginning of the year, 10 of the 20 largest money market fund managers have announced changes or updates to their MMF lineups. In this article, we not only review Schwab's plans, but we also recap the changes that have happened so far in 2015. Also, the SEC came out with answers to Frequently Asked Questions about MF Reforms, though these mainly dealt with very technical and minor issues. We also briefly review these."
It explains, "We have reported on all of the announcements that have come to our attention over the past several months. Of the 20 largest money fund complexes, half have issued updates, including the four largest -- Fidelity, JP Morgan, BlackRock, and Federated. Here is a look at the changes (and dates) announced so far." (We also list the 15 largest managers with their assets by type in the article.)
The third article says, "ICI's new "2015 Investment Company Fact Book" revealed some interesting trend data on money market fund flows in 2014. For instance, despite landmark SEC reforms, money funds saw overall inflows in 2014. What's more, institutional MMFs, which were hit hardest by reforms, saw significant inflows, while retail funds saw outflows. In addition, corporate investment in money fund assets was stable last year."
Crane Data's May MFI XLS, with April 30, 2015, data shows total assets plunging in April, the fourth monthly drop in a row, down $89.3 billion to $2.487 trillion, after falling $20.9 billion in March, $1.6 billion in February, and $44.6 billion in January. Our broad Crane Money Fund Average 7-Day Yield and 30-Day Yield remained at 0.02%, while our Crane 100 Money Fund Index (the 100 largest taxable funds) stayed at 0.03% (7-day and 30-day). On a Gross Yield Basis (before expenses were taken out), funds averaged 0.15% (Crane MFA, up from 0.14 last month) and 0.18% (Crane 100, same as last month) on an annualized basis for both the 7-day and 30-day yield averages. Charged Expenses averaged 0.13% (unchanged) and 0.15% (unchanged) for the two main taxable averages. The average WAMs for the Crane MFA and the Crane 100 were 39 and 41 days, respectively, both down 2 days from last month. (See our Crane Index or craneindexes.xlsx history file for more on our averages.)
In other news, the U.K.-based Institutional Money Market Fund Association confirmed Reyer Kooy as the new Chair of IMMFA. The statement reads, "Reyer is head of Institutional Liquidity Management, EMEA and Asia business, for Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management (DeAWM) and has been with Deutsche for nearly 5 years. Prior to joining DeAWM, Reyer was head of EMEA for a similar business at Credit Suisse, and also worked at JP Morgan for 12 years. Reyer has represented DeAWM on the Board of IMMFA since June of 2012 and also acted as its Treasurer.
Outgoing Chair Jonathan Curry of HSBC Global Asset Management was thanked for his 3 years' service as Chair of IMMFA, which followed an earlier 3 year spell as Chair of IMMFA's Investment Committee. Curry comments, "The past 3 years have been challenging for money market funds. I believe IMMFA has been instrumental in ensuring that the views of the investors and industry have been heard. There is still work to do, but we look forward to continuing the Association's work in this key area, supporting our Members."
Today, we excerpt from the April issue of Crane Data's newest publication, Bond Fund Intelligence, which tracks the bond fund marketplace with a focus on the ultra-short and most conservative segments. The article says: Our April Bond Fund Intelligence "profile" interviews `Putnam Investment's Portfolio Managers Joanne Driscoll and Michael Salm, who is also Co-Head of Fixed Income at the firm. Driscoll and Salm run the $2.2 billion Putnam Short Duration Income Fund, one of the largest funds in our Conservative Ultra Short Bond Fund universe. They talk about the importance of differentiating between various types of Ultra Short Bond Funds and why this niche is poised for growth in an environment of rising rates and more regulations.
BFI: How long have you been involved in this space? Driscoll: I have been at Putnam for almost 20 years and currently oversee the short-term liquid markets team where I'm responsible for all of our front-end strategies. Putnam launched Short Duration Income Fund in October 2011 -- with Mike and I serving as the lead managers. In 2009, we looked at the changing regulatory environment for money funds, driven by the pending amendment to SEC Rule 2a-7. While money funds were forced to shorten their investments, issuers were being told by regulators that they needed to become less reliant on the front end and extend the duration of their debt. So, our goal in launching this fund was to leverage the changes in money funds and the opportunities that were created in the market by this change. We felt this would create a demand for a fund just outside of 2a-7, but something more conservative than a short term bond fund.
Salm: During my 18 years at Putnam, I have focused quite a bit on structured products, mortgages in particular. Over time, I have worked a lot on liquid markets in general, focusing on interest rates and volatility, as well as our views about the Fed. In thinking about this strategy, there was a lot of overlap in using our expertise on the front end of the curve and in using our expertise just beyond the traditional 2a-7 venue. We wanted to leverage this very interesting combination of investment processes that you don't necessarily see blended together in normal fund structures.
BFI: How has the Short Duration Income Fund been received? Driscoll: The fund has grown to about $2.2 billion in assets under management. The objectives of our fund are capital preservation and income maximization. Our process is primarily built around the best ideas of our credit team, which focuses on alpha generation within a host of areas. We believe that prudent short term investing requires relentless focus on credit quality and risk management. Due to the nature of the fund, we focus on credit fundamentals and the risk-return trade off. Something that really differentiates Putnam in this space is the way our fixed income team works: We can leverage the entire research team; our analysts cover the sectors across all asset types -- high yield, high grade, money markets, and munis in some cases. With our broader coverage, we can put an intense focus on credit analysis.
We have found that the fallout from the financial crisis has made the ratings agencies reactionary and that impacts many issuers. While our analysts view some of these companies to be either equal to or stronger than prior to the downgrade, due to the ratings requirements of 2a-7, they cannot be purchased by money funds, even though internally we feel that they would be appropriate. These institutions are attractive purchases for Putnam Short Duration Income Fund and add some good yield to the portfolio.
There's a big difference between our fund and our peer group. Putnam Short Duration Income Fund is generally higher quality than many of its peers. We don't buy below investment grade, so we don't have high yield or floating rate bank loans like you see in some competitors. We limit our investments in the low triple-B category because we're trying to minimize the volatility in this fund as much as possible. The reception to the fund has been very positive. We find a lot of investors are challenged by the low level of interest rates and the new 2a-7 amendments. We see more and more interest in the fund because they are looking for products that can add incremental yield over a money fund with low NAV volatility.
BFI: What are the challenges for this fund? Driscoll: For us, it's making sure that financial advisors understand that this is not a money fund or a cash alternative. Prior to the crisis, many firms sold cash alternatives that behaved and looked more like a short term bond fund, and those outcomes, as we know, weren't always good. We spend a significant amount of time educating our financial advisors on the strategy and the risk-return tradeoff, so there are few, if any, surprises. We've seen a large amount of variability in this peer group, so we want to make sure the advisors understand what this fund is.
Salm: In fact, we're very sensitive about distinguishing ourselves so that people know that this category itself can be very heterogeneous. Don't mistake us in any way, shape, or form as a money market fund. We think there's a really good space between the ultra-short bond fund and money market fund categories, which is where the Short Duration Income Fund resides. The fund has been able to meet its objective in the last three years, delivering a high degree of capital preservation and a consistent return.
Watch for more of our latest BFI profile in coming days, or contact us to see the latest issue of our Bond Fund Intelligence. (BFI is $500 a year, or $1,000 including our BFI XLS spreadsheet.)Archives »