Market commentators have predicted the growing market for asset lending could ‘explode’ in 2019, as fund managers and banks seek new revenue streams amid rising costs and a global squeeze on profits.

End-of-year reports this month are expected to reveal that asset managers and banks made $10bn through securities lending, the practice of lending out stocks, bonds and ETFs in exchange for lending revenue.

Profit squeeze
As the Eurozone’s Quantitative Easing (QE) programme draws to a close, market volatility becomes the ‘new normal’, aggressive fee bargaining continues and clients continue moving towards passive strategies, investors are now facing another challenge: rising costs.

New McKinsey research found that operational costs for European fund managers had risen 5% year-on-year at the end of 2017—compared with just a 3% increase in assets over the same period. Total costs for asset managers over the past ten years have increased by 60%.

Asset managers, in particular, have been hit by market conditions. Michelle Seitz, chief executive of Russell Investments, recently warned that funds must focus on controlling costs amid “cut throat competition” and “enormous structural changes” for the under-pressure asset management industry.

Record year ahead as market expands
With costs outpacing organic Assets Under Management (AUM) and profits under pressure, investors are turning to alternative strategies in search of alpha and cost-offsetting. In fact, over a third (36%) of investment managers now viewing securities lending as a key strategy for offsetting rising costs.

Blackrock in particular has enjoyed success, with revenues surging to $338mn in the first half of 2018, up 14% on the same period in 2017. But interest in securities lending also appears to be widening beyond the largest fund managers and global banks, catching the attention of smaller and more conservative investment groups. Recent research found that 60% of sovereign wealth funds, for example, are now actively engaged in securities lending or considering it as a strategy.
Boaz Yaari, CEO and founder of Sharegain, sees these as early signs that securities lending could go ‘mainstream’ in financial services: “Change is coming. Market forces are driving demand for securities lending to become a more accessible, transparent, performant market—this is a $2.5tn secret that’s about to be opened up to every investor, from the world’s largest funds through to, eventually, even consumers.”

Financial markets are enduring their worst year in a decade—but it’s not all doom and gloom. Whether you’re a global institution looking for alpha in a low-yield, high-cost environment, or a family office seeking a simple way to improve returns, securities lending is becoming an increasingly attractive option. Revenues have already returned to the highest levels in a decade—and we could see it explode into the mainstream as a go-to tactic among investors next year.”