A Cry for Help from Income Investors
March 26, 2013
by Legg Mason Global Income Survey
GLOBAL SUMMARY REPORT
Key themes from the survey
Income is a top priority globally
Investors attach far greater importance to income generating products today than they did five years ago
A gap in expectations
There’s a substantial gap in expectations between what investors want from their income investments and what they actually receive
A hunger for knowledge
Faced with numerous challenges, from their own risk aversion to macro issues like volatility and inflation, investors want to know more about income investing — and to receive more ideas from financial advisors
Moving beyond “home bias”
Investors are growing more open to seeking income opportunities outside their home countries
Awareness of risk
Investors remain concerned about the potential risks, real or otherwise, involved in global strategies
About the survey
In recent years, investors all over the globe have seen long-held assumptions about income investing shattered by a combination of low interest rates, market volatility and declining home values.
In response, many investors are rethinking their approach to income, diversifying across asset classes, sectors and continents. Yet how do they feel about the new realities of income investing?
Recognizing that this is truly a global issue, Legg Mason commissioned a special research study of affluent investors in North America, Europe and Asia to gauge their attitudes concerning income investments. Among the topics explored in the survey:
- Are investors getting the results they expect from their income investments?
- To what degree are they utilizing international strategies in the search for income?
- What risks concern them most?
- How do investors differ from country to country?
This paper provides a global overview of the survey results, with key findings by region and country provided as appendices. Detailed country reports are available separately. For more information, visit Legg Mason’s global thought leadership website at www.lmthoughtleadership.com.
A quantitative online survey methodology was used to conduct this study. A total of 3,028 investors across multiple regions (shown below) completed the survey during the period December 1, 2012 through January 30, 2013.
Respondents had to meet the following screening criteria:
- Sole or joint decision-maker for household investment decisions
- $200,000+ investable assets (includes investment real estate but not primary residence/vacation property)
- Age 40-75
In all markets, interviews were fairly evenly split between investors with $200K-$999K and $1MM+ in household total investable assets. The data was then weighted to be representative of the $200K+ investor marketplace. Median household assets of respondents in our study is $625K†. Statistical testing was conducted at the 95% confidence level.
Legg Mason was not identified as sponsor of the survey to respondents. Respondents were not screened or selected based on usage of Legg Mason products or familiarity with Legg Mason. Respondents received a token payment (less than $10 USD) to incent them to complete the survey.
The research was conducted by Northstar Research Partners, an independent global marketing research firm with offices in New York, Toronto and London. Northstar conducts research across a wide range of industry sectors and is a recognized leader in financial services marketing research. For more information, please visit www.northstarhub.com.
INVESTOR PRIORITIES AND MOTIVATORS
Importance of income investing: already high, and growing across the globe
Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) investors worldwide say that investing in income generating products is an extremely important or important priority. Another 23% say it is at least somewhat important.
- Asian investors are more likely than investors in Europe and North America to say investing in income generating products is extremely important (29% vs. 23% in both Europe and North America).
- In all markets surveyed (except Japan) at least 6 in 10 investors say investing in income generating products is extremely important or important. Indeed, no more than 12% (except Japan at 20%) say investing in income generating products is not important to their investment strategy.
Not only do investors worldwide say that investing for income is important, but 57% indicate that it is of growing importance.
- While more than half of investors globally say investing for income is more important than five years ago, only 48% of investors in Europe feel this way (this is significantly below Asia (60%), Australia (60%) and North America (56%)).
- There are stark differences, however, on this measure within Asia and within Europe.
- Within Asia, 80%+ of investors in Hong Kong, Singapore and China say investing in income generating products is more of a priority than five years ago, whereas only 33% of investors in Japan and 45% of investors in Taiwan feel this way.
- Within Europe, 67% of Italian investors say investing in income generating products is more of a priority, followed by Spain (49%) and the UK (47%). Only 38% of investors in France and Germany, however, say investing for income is more important than five years ago.
Growing and protecting wealth are prime motivators for income investing, although the emphasis on each varies by region
When it comes to investing for income, investors in Asia and Australia are decidedly more focused on growing their wealth than investors in North America and Europe; the latter two regions are comparatively more focused on peace of mind.
All regions think about protecting their wealth when investing for income, but investors in Asia are significantly less motivated by the notion of maintaining their current lifestyle; they are looking to protect and grow their wealth.
- Within Europe, UK and German investors are most likely to cite growing wealth as a motivator when investing for income (62% and 58%, respectively), while France and Italy are least likely (43% and 40%, respectively).
- Income investors in Spain, by a wide margin, are most likely to say that peace of mind is their primary motivator when investing for income (58%).
- Within Asia, Japan varies from the other markets surveyed with only 46% saying growing wealth is a motivator
A “reality gap” between what investors expect and receive from income investments
A common thread throughout countries in North America, Australia, Europe and Asia is that investors are often obtaining returns on their income producing investments that are less than they were seeking.
The largest gaps between desired and actual rates of return are seen in Taiwan (4.0% gap), China (3.4%), Japan (2.9%), Spain (2.9%), Australia (2.7%) and the U.S. (2.6%). The smallest gaps are in Italy (1.3%), Germany (1.5%) and the UK (1.5%).
Given this reality gap, it’s not surprising that investors express anxiety about meeting their income needs
Sizable percentages of investors say they are worried about market volatility, higher taxes, inflation, and the low rate environment, although the specific causes of anxiety vary by country.
- Market volatility: of most concern in the U.S. Canada, Spain, Italy, Australia, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan (50%+ cite as cause of anxiety) and of least concern in Germany (21%) and the UK (36%).
- Higher taxes: of most concern in the U.S., France, Spain and Italy (50%+ cite as cause of anxiety) and of least concern in Hong Kong (23%), Singapore (34%) and Japan (36%).
- Inflation: a widespread concern in many markets, with the highest percentages expressing anxiety about it in China (76%), Taiwan (68%) and Australia (67%) and the lowest percentages in Japan (29%), Italy (45%), France (46%) and Hong Kong (46%).
- Low rate environment: a widespread concern, with the high percentages expressing anxiety about it in the UK
Global trend toward greater investor engagement and focus
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, investors have been forced to confront new realities in the search for income. As a result, they are becoming more engaged in the selection of investment strategies, seeking more knowledge and opportunities.
- Globally, 80% of investors say they would like to become more knowledgeable about investing for income. The only markets where less than 7 in 10 investors express this sentiment are Germany (55%) and Japan (66%); yet even in these countries a majority are looking to learn more.
- Additionally, 75% of investors globally say they are always on the lookout for better income opportunities (Japan is notably lower on this measure at 46%).
The hunger for knowledge presents opportunities for financial advisors
Investors are becoming more engaged and putting greater emphasis on income generation. Yet sizable proportions of these investors do not feel they have a good understanding of the range of income producing products available to them.
Most importantly, investors are crying out for help. Among those using an advisor, solid majorities say they want their advisors to bring them more and/or better opportunities for generating investment income.
Risk tolerance varies considerably by country; China most aggressive by a wide margin
When investing in income generating products, we see a pattern emerging where investors in North America, Europe (with the exception of Italy) and Australia are more conservative in their approach while Asian nations (except Japan) are more adventurous.
- In Asia, 55% describe their risk tolerance when investing in income generating products as “aggressive” (with Chinese investors highest at 71%). By contrast, only a minority of investors in North America (35%), Europe (28%) and Australia (29%) describe their approach as aggressive.
- Within Europe, Italy stands out from all other nations, with 45% describing their risk tolerance when investing for income as aggressive (UK is next highest at 27%).
Fixed income products lead the way for generating income
In all regions, except Australia, we see widespread usage of fixed income products (investment grade bonds, high yield bonds, guaranteed income products) to meet income needs.
- In North America, more than half of investors (53%) generate income from fixed income products; 27% use investment grade bonds and 21% use high yield bonds. Canadian investors, though, are far more likely than Americans to use guaranteed income products (52% vs. 34%).
- In Europe there is fairly broad usage of fixed income (56%), but it varies dramatically by country: Germany (41%), UK (48%), Spain (62%), Italy (80%). We see higher use of guaranteed income products in Spain, France and Italy than in the UK and Germany. Overall, Europeans are slightly more likely to be using investment grade bonds (20%) than high yield bonds (16%).
- There is more widespread usage of fixed income products within Asia (71% currently using). China and Hong Kong are highest, with 87% and 85% of investors, respectively, relying on fixed income products to meet their income needs. Singapore (69%) and Taiwan (63%) are in the next tier, with Japan (52%) lowest of the Asia nations. Asian income investors are as likely to be using high yield bonds as investment grade bonds.
- Australia is lowest of all markets, with just 33% saying they use fixed income products to meet their income needs.
Equity income fund usage higher in North America and Asia than in Europe and Australia
Equity income funds have emerged as a commonly used product to meet income needs and may take on even more prominence; more than half of investors globally (54%) say they are now more inclined to use equities to generate income. In addition, in all regions, those investing for income are more likely to increase than decrease their allocation to equity income funds.
- Within North America, Canadians are most likely to be using equity income funds (52% vs. 40% of U.S. investors)
- Within Europe, equity income fund usage is highest in Italy (49%)
- Within Asia, equity income fund usage is high across the board except for Japan (22%).
North American investors, particularly in the U.S., are least likely to generate investment income through real estate
Only 17% of North American investors use real estate to generate income (16% in U.S. and 24% in Canada) vs. far higher figures across Europe (33%), Asia (28%) and Australia (36%).
- In Singapore, 59% of those using income generating products say they plan to increase their usage of real estate to generate income, by far the highest of all countries surveyed.
Specialized investment vehicles such as MLPs, REITs, infrastructure finance and currency trading are infrequently used to generate income, but comparatively more so in Asia
North America, Europe and particularly Australia see low percentages of investors using specialized investment vehicles (US: 10%, Canada: 13%, UK: 8%, France: 11%, Germany: 8%, Spain 7%, Italy 14%, Australia: 4%). Of these countries, the U.S. has the highest proportion of income investors (23%) planning to increase their allocation to specialized investment vehicles.
Asian markets surveyed are higher, sometimes significantly higher, than Europe, North America and Australia in their usage of specialized investment vehicles (Taiwan: 12%, Japan: 15%, Hong Kong: 22%, Singapore: 31%, China: 34%) as well as their desire to increase allocations to this asset class.
MLPs, or Master Limited Partnerships, are a special type of investment partnership under the U.S. tax code limited to specific industries, including energy development.
REITs, or Real Estate Investment Trusts, invest in real estate or loans backed by real estate, and issue shares in such investments, which may be illiquid.
ATTITUDES TOWARD INTERNATIONAL INVESTING
Investors are increasingly open to international investing, particularly European and Asian investors
In 10 of the 13 countries surveyed, a majority of investors are open to investing internationally for equities and fixed income. The exceptions are France, Australia and Japan.
- Asian investors (particularly China) stand out for their openness to invest internationally for fixed income.
There is a clear trend of investors around the world becoming more open to the notion of going outside their home countries for income opportunities, although the focus on international investing for income varies considerably by region. Asian and European investors show positive momentum toward international investing for income while this is less the case in North America and, in particular, Australia.
- North American and Australian investors (along with French investors) have the lowest percentage of their income producing assets invested internationally.
- A different story emerges in Europe and Asia, where a higher percentage of income producing assets are invested internationally (Spain is highest in Europe).
The main barriers to directing more income assets internationally are global uncertainty and perceptions of risk
In most markets surveyed, global uncertainty is the most often cited major barrier to investing internationally, with 55% of investors globally saying this is a major barrier. Higher risk in general (real or otherwise), lack of transparency and currency risk are also often cited as major barriers to international income investing.
- Concerns about global uncertainty are highest in France (70%), Australia (70%), Taiwan (66%), the U.S. (64%), and Japan (63%).
- French, Australian and Japanese investors raise the most barriers to international investing.
Few in any market, however, cite better income opportunities at home as a barrier to international investing, suggesting that investors recognize there are good opportunities outside their home market but fears of global uncertainty and risk may make them reticent to explore them.
United States remains popular choice for international income investing
In all regions, the U.S. is at or near the top of the list in terms of consideration for international income investing. Interestingly, Japan and China tend to be quite low in terms of preference among investors in other Asian countries.
Russia receives the lowest preference level for international income investing, particularly among U.S., Canadian and Australian investors.
For income opportunities, the United States is far more popular among Chinese investors than China is among American investors. Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) Chinese investors open to international income investing would consider investing in the United States. By contrast, just 55% of Americans would consider investing in China.
Multi-country funds are far more popular than single country funds
In nearly all countries surveyed, the strong preference for international income investing is multi-country over single country. For example, in the U.S. and UK, two-thirds prefer multi-country and just 1 in 10 single country (the remainder have no preference).
INVESTOR SATISFACTION WITH INCOME INVESTMENTS
A majority of investors in all markets are satisfied with their income producing investments, though few are very satisfied
In all countries surveyed, except Japan, at least two-thirds of investors are satisfied with their income producing investments (in Japan, only 55% are satisfied).
Yet, investors clearly expect and hope for more. Globally, only 12% of investors are very satisfied with their income producing investments.
- The percentage of very satisfied is lowest in Taiwan (6%), France (7%), Italy (7%), China (9%) and Japan (9%).
In addition, four in ten (42%) investors worldwide are generating less income than hoped for, nearly twice as many as are generating more income (22%).
Countries where investors are most likely to be generating less income than hoped for are the U.S. (48%), Canada (42%), France (46%), Spain (46%), Australia (45%), Japan (48%) and Taiwan (55%).
Addressing the challenges investors face when investing for income
A trade-off analysis was conducted to force investors to prioritize the challenges they face when investing for income. Four areas emerged as top challenges across the globe:
- Having to take on too much risk to obtain good yields
- Geo-political uncertainty
- Geo-economic uncertainty (all markets except Germany rate this as a top challenge)
- Inflation (of highest concern in the UK and Australia)
Beyond these three areas, the impact of other challenges varies by country:
- Low yield environment: a top challenge in the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, Germany and Singapore but not in other markets surveyed
- Uncertainty over tax law changes: a top challenge in the U.S., France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Taiwan
- Lack of transparency about how income producing mutual funds are invested: France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan
- Potential for bond values to decline if interest rates rise: UK, Germany and Hong Kong
The issue of trust as it relates to income investing is a top challenge in selected European nations, which is perhaps not surprising given the Euro crisis of the past few years:
- Cannot trust government to fulfill debt obligation: Spain, Germany and Italy (also the U.S. and Japan)
- Cannot trust corporations to fulfill debt obligations: Spain, Germany and Italy
- Rating agencies can’t be trusted: Spain and Italy
U.S. and Canadian investors have the highest allocation to equities, but Asian investors are most likely to increase allocation to equities in 2013
U.S. investors have an average of 39% of their portfolio allocated to equities, the highest of all markets surveyed; their neighbor Canada is right behind at 35 percent. In contrast, the average allocation to equities in the five European nations surveyed ranges from 18% (France) to 27% (UK), and in Asia from 23% (China) to 27% (Taiwan). Australia, at 19%, is at the low end for allocation to equities.
- Among those who own equities, product usage varies by market. Whereas in the U.S. and Canada the predominant vehicle used is equity mutual funds (49% and 46%, respectively), individual securities are more widely used in all other markets, particularly Australia (68%), Japan (68%) and Taiwan (63%).
- Again, among those who own equities, several markets also stand out in terms of their usage of ETFs: Spain (22%), China (19%), Japan (21%), and Hong Kong (19%). In the U.S. and Canada, ETF usage is just 8% and 9% of equity owners, respectively.
Looking ahead to 2013, however, we see a different story emerging with the Asian nations and Australia more likely than the U.S., Canada and European nations to increase their allocation to equities. For example, in the U.S., 29% plan to increase their allocation to equities whereas in China this figure is 44%.
Nonetheless, the U.S. and Canada are similar to Asia in believing now is a good time to be investing in equities (about three-quarters of investors in each of these markets feel this way, with the exception of China and Taiwan, 59% and 56%, respectively). European and Australian investors, however, are not as convinced with significantly fewer believing now is an opportune time to invest in equities (49-59% in each market, with the exception of the UK at 65%).
Allocations to fixed income are somewhat more consistent across markets; in all countries, except Italy, allocation to fixed income is less than the allocation to equities
The average allocation to fixed income ranges from lows of 7% in Australia and 8% in Japan to a high of 24% in Italy. U.S. and Canada also have higher than average allocations to fixed income at 19% and 21%, respectively. Other European and Asian markets have allocations in the 10-17% range.
- As with equities, U.S. fixed income investors are most likely to use mutual funds (45%). In all other markets except Italy (33%) and Taiwan (39%), fewer than 3 in 10 fixed income owners use bond mutual funds.
- Guaranteed income products are also widely used for fixed income investing, particularly in Canada (41%), Spain (49%), and Australia (42%).
Among Western nations, Canada and Italy are the most likely to increase their allocation to fixed income in 2013 (34% and 40%, respectively). In Asia, roughly 4 in 10 investors in China, Singapore and Hong Kong plan to increase their allocation to equities in 2013.
There is huge variation in terms of the percentage who believe that now is a good time to invest in fixed income. In the West, the U.S., Canada, Spain and Italy are all fairly bullish on fixed income as are China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan in Asia (in all these markets two-thirds or more think now is a good time to invest in fixed income). Positive outlooks for fixed income are far less common in the UK (47%), Germany (47%), France (56%) and Australia (47%).
Other notable findings related to product usage:
Allocation to investment real estate is far lower in the U.S., Canada and Japan than in other markets surveyed (although Canadian investors are among the most likely to increase their allocation to this asset class in 2013). Regionally, we see Australia with the highest average allocation to investment real estate (27% of portfolio) followed by Europe (21%).
Allocation to alternatives, while still low in all markets, is notably higher in China (7%), Singapore (7%) and Hong Kong (10%). In Europe, Italy has the highest allocation to alternatives (6%). We see, however, a growing appetite for alternatives. At least 13% of investors in all markets plan to increase their allocation to this asset class in 2013. In addition, we see a sizable proportion of investors across the globe saying now is a good time to invest in alternatives; in the West, UK, France and Italy lead the way (4 in 10) and the figures are even higher in China (52%), Singapore (54%) and Hong Kong (60%).
In some markets we see an extraordinarily high allocation to cash: Spain (41% of assets), Japan (51%) and Taiwan (40%). All other markets are in the 25-35% range for cash allocation.
RESULTS BY REGION
RESULTS BY COUNTRY
Small base size (n<50).
Base size too small (n=9)
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* As of January 31, 2013.
† All amounts are in US dollars.
1 Excludes U.S. investors.
2 Excludes UK investors.
3 Excludes Japan investors.
4 Excludes China investors.
5 Non-BRIC Emerging Markets refers to any developing world market other than Brazil, Russia, India and China. Examples include (but are not limited to) Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea.
6 Such as MLPs, REITs, infrastructure finance and currency trading.
7 Represents the net, or unduplicated, total of investors who use/may plan to increase use of any combination of the following:
guaranteed income products, investment grade bonds and high yield bonds.
8 Mean refers to the average of a set of numbers, in this case the average of the rates of return identified by investors surveyed.
9 Figures shown are not percentages, but rather MaxDiff scores based on a series of questions which ask respondents to differentiate between a set of four choices.
^ Small base size (n < 50).
10 Base size too small (n = 9).
11 Such as MLPs, REITs, infrastructure finance and currency trading.
12 Represents the net, or unduplicated, total of investors who use/may plan to increase use of any combination of the following: guaranteed income products, investment grade bonds and high yield bonds.
13 Figures shown are not percentages, but rather MaxDiff scores based on a series of questions which ask respondents to differentiate between a set of two choices.
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