Not all asset managers think that the just-enacted restrictions on how money funds can invest go too far. At least one -- Neuberger Berman's Brad Tank -- thinks that regulators could and should push restrictions even more to prevent more problems down the road like those experienced by Reserve in 2008.
"You can raise the expenses of the people in the business (by making them buy insurance), or ratchet down the restrictions of what you can invest in and how long you can invest in it," explained Tank in laying out the possible paths to lower risk in these funds. He prefers the latter approach (which is the one taken so far by the SEC).
Tank has a track record both as a fixed income manager on the short end of the yield curve and as a distribution executive. Before joining Neuberger Berman in 2002 he spent a dozen years at Strong Capital, eventually joining that firm's office of the CEO and heading intermediary and institutional distribution for the firm that is now a part of Wells Fargo. Tank is now Neuberger's chief investment officer for fixed income.
Advisors to money market funds are adding risk to their funds in an attempt to offer virtually unlimited liquidity yet still earn some kind of return, explains Tank. Yet, the funds are being used by investors as a form of electronic checking account in many cases.
"The industry desire to preserve some kind of income in money funds has led to this compromise and it is clearly a compromise," warns Tank before adding that "in my mind we are setting ourselves up for the next round of problems."
His solution would be to "de-risk" the funds by further shortening the maturity of investment they can hold or increasing the quality requirements.
Of course, increased restrictions on money funds can only make short-term bond funds more attractive to mutual fund investors. As more fund firms offer short term products than money fund products and even those offering money funds are pressed to make money, further restrictions may be good for business.
Not to say, though, that Tank believes shareholders should be adding to their bond portfolios. He believes that the bond market is now more at risk than at any time in his career. What does he recommend then? The stocks of companies with strong and growing dividends.
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