Stocks to Watch in Asset Management

By Jordan

If investing your own capital is a great way to get rich, investing other people's money is even better. The asset management industry has been one of the best performers for its investors, as its earnings are leveraged to the long-run performance of the financial markets, which have only gone up over time.

Here are two asset managers that I believe investors should keep on their watch lists.

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1. Franklin Resources No, it's not an oil company. Franklin Resources is one of the largest asset managers in the world, managing $880 billion of investor wealth. You've probably encountered many of its funds in your retirement plan, or in advertisements in the media. Franklin Resources operates under the names Franklin, Templeton, and Mutual Shares.

The fund company manages assets globally. More than half of its assets under management are invested in global securities, and as much as a third of its client assets come from overseas. Generally, these are seen as investment strategies where an active manager is key, given the complexity of foreign markets.

Underlying its attractiveness is a fast-growing pile of cash. The company had more than $8 billion in cash as of its latest quarterly report, or roughly one-fourth of its current stock market value. Despite this cash hoard, Franklin Resources shares trade cheaply, at 13 times 2014 earnings. The company is even cheaper when you back out its cash -- shares trade for roughly 10 times earnings less its cash pile.

The founding family controls more than a third of its outstanding shares, which should encourage the firm to operate with the long haul in mind. At 10 times earnings less cash, and with a highly invested family at the top, I think it's a compelling opportunity to buy into a top-flight manager at a multiple well below the stock market average.

2. T. Rowe Price It isn't necessarily cheap, but T. Rowe Price offers organic growth in an industry that has primarily grown through rising stock and bond prices. The company was one of the first to market with so-called target retirement products, mutual funds which automatically rebalance based on an investor's ideal retirement date.

These funds are particularly lucrative, as they are held mostly in 401(K) plans, where customers make routine deposits and very few active buying or selling decisions. As a result, its target-date products have accumulated $134.2 billion in assets as of its most recent filings, or roughly 17% of its $772 billion in assets under management. In all, approximately 66% of its assets under management come from retirement and variable annuity products, which offer a steady stream of inflows over time.

The market hasn't let its growth go unnoticed. T. Rowe Price currently trades at about 18 times 2014 earnings, a slight discount to the market's average multiple of 21 times earnings. But the higher price relative to other asset managers is offset by its above-average growth opportunities.

Its focus on managing retirement and annuity balances, and its funds' impressive records -- nearly 80% of its funds beat their benchmarks over the last 5 years -- should reward the company with a growing cache of fee-earning assets for years to come, driving profits higher.

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