Equity market volatility and investors’ subsequent flight to fixed income seems to be spurring product manufacturers to focus more on an area that currently has seen sparse investor interest: International fixed income.
Just 7.7% of all U.S. households report owning any international fixed income holdings at all, compared to 17.3% who say they own U.S. Treasury bonds, according to a Cerulli report. A further 9.5% of U.S. households own municipal bond funds and 7% owns U.S. corporate bonds.
To be fair, household ownership varies dramatically by asset level. At 83.5%, the majority of households with more than $20 million in investable assets own international fixed income. That figure drops exponentially as asset level falls, though, and just 6.5% of households with investable assets of between $100,000 and $500,000—many advisors’ bread and butter—own international bond funds. The same is true to a paltry 0.9% of households with less than $100,000 to invest.
Pamela Carello DeBolt, a senior analyst at Cerulli, says that this may be because there haven’t been very many options available for retail investors in the international fixed income space. However, spurred by investors’ interest in fixed income in general, product manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. The industry introducing 19 new products in the first quarter, and 32% of product manufacturers plan on introducing more in the next 12 months. As of May, there were 150 international/global bond funds, up from 100 in 2005 and representing 3% of all long-term mutual funds.
What this means for advisors is that subsequent advertisements will generate interest among clients. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. “With these products comes a need for more education,” she says. But advisors who are ahead of the curve on what products are available and how they work could see an uptick in sales among clients looking for greater diversification in every asset class.