An unusual meeting in New York had troubled mutual fund managers looking for answers, report says

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Pressure is mounting on money managers as investors pull out their assets — so much so that a group of highly competitive rivals held a conclave in New York last month to talk over the problem.

About 60 mutual fund executives met on Nov. 2 for the "Seismic Shift Senior Leadership Forum" to discuss ways to stop clients from withdrawing their money, The Wall Street Journal said in a report on Tuesday. The newspaper said details of the meeting had not been previously reported.

Mutual funds, which are managed by professionals who collect fees, are having a harder and harder time competing with so-called passive investing strategies, which let people invest less expensively in groups of stocks that can range from cybersecurity companies to the full S&P 500 index. Passive investing is usually carried out through exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, and passively managed mutual funds.

Index funds also have the benefit of always at least matching the market — something actively managed funds obviously can't guarantee.

Estimated 1 year net flows for top 10 US fund families

Source: Morningstar Direct Asset Flows, Oct. 17, 2016 report.

That's in contrast with the generally more expensive, and more traditional, strategy of the actively managed mutual fund that picks stocks and bonds in an attempt to beat stock indexes rather than just following them.

Some forum attendees said that fees have to come down more aggressively in order for active managers to compete, while others called for better public communication about active funds' benefits, the report said.

Trade group Mutual Fund Education Alliance hosted the day-long summit at OppenheimerFunds' New York office building, the Journal said, and attendees included sales and product-development executives from T. Rowe Price, Franklin Resources, Affiliated Managers and Janus Capital.

Equity long-only funds, an investing category that covers mutual funds generally, have seen outflows of $273.22 billion so far this year, a 5.1 percent decline year over year, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report last week that cited data from EPFR Global.

The data showed equity ETFs have seen year-to-date inflows of $164.35 billion, a 7.4 percent increase from the same period last year.

Read the full Journal story here.