This chapter provides a broad overview of U.S.-registered investment companies—mutual funds, closed-end funds, exchange-traded funds, and unit investment trusts—and their sponsors.

The largest segment of the asset management business in the United States is made up of registered investment companies. U.S.-registered investment companies play a major role in the U.S. economy and financial markets, and a growing role in global financial markets. These funds managed $18.1 trillion in assets at year-end 2015, largely on behalf of more than 90 million U.S. retail investors. The industry has experienced strong growth over the past quarter century from asset appreciation and strong demand from households due to rising household wealth, the aging U.S. population, and the evolution of employer-based retirement systems. Funds supplied investment capital in securities markets around the world and were among the largest groups of investors in the U.S. stock, commercial paper, and municipal securities markets.

Investment Company Assets in 2015 

U.S.-registered investment companies* managed $18.1 trillion in assets at year-end 2015 (Figure 1.1), approximately $0.1 trillion less than at year-end 2014. Markets were volatile in 2015, and returns did little to change total net assets in aggregate. International stock markets† posted modest negative returns in dollar terms, for example, contributing to the slight decrease in total net assets of funds invested in equity markets. The poor dollar returns on European stock markets, relative to positive local currency returns, were because of U.S. dollar appreciation against the euro, which lowers the value of equity and bond funds holding unhedged euro-denominated assets.

* The term investment companies or U.S. investment companies will be used at times throughout this book in place of U.S.-registered investment companies. U.S.-registered investment companies are open-end mutual funds, closed-end funds, exchange-traded funds, and unit investment trusts.
† As measured by the MSCI All Country World Daily ex-U.S. Gross Total Return Index.

The U.S. mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) markets—with $17.8 trillion in assets under management at year-end 2015—remained the largest in the world, accounting for 48 percent of the $37.2 trillion in regulated open-end fund assets worldwide (Figure 1.2).

‡ The International Investment Fund Association has expanded its survey of fund assets globally to include some funds not previously captured. Regulated open-end fund assets outside the United States increased by $3.6 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2014 due to the broader survey; see

The majority of U.S. mutual fund and ETF assets at year-end 2015 were in long-term funds, with equity funds comprising 56 percent. Within equity funds, domestic funds (those that invest primarily in shares of U.S. corporations) held 41 percent of total assets and world funds (those that invest significantly in shares of non-U.S. corporations) accounted for 15 percent. Bond funds held 21 percent of U.S. mutual fund and ETF assets. Money market funds, hybrid funds, and other funds—such as those that invest primarily in commodities—held the remainder (23 percent).


Investment Company Total Net Assets by Type

Billions of dollars; year-end, 1998–2015

Year Mutual funds1 Closed-end
ETFs3 UITs Total4
1998 5,525 156 16 94 5,790
1999 6,846 147 34 92 7,119
2000 6,965 143 66 74 7,247
2001 6,975 141 83 49 7,248
2002 6,383 159 102 36 6,680
2003 7,402 214 151 36 7,803
2004 8,096 253 228 37 8,614
2005 8,891 276 301 41 9,509
2006 10,398 297 423 50 11,168
2007 12,000 312 608 53 12,974
2008 9,621 184 531 29 10,365
2009 11,113 223 777 38 12,151
2010 11,833 238 992 51 13,114
2011 11,632 242 1,048 60 12,983
2012 13,057 264 1,337 72 14,729
2013 15,051 279 1,675 87 17,091
2014 15,875 289 1,974 101 18,240
2015 15,652 261 2,100 94 18,107

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1Mutual fund data do not include mutual funds that invest primarily in other mutual funds.
2Closed-end fund data include preferred share classes.
3ETF data prior to 2001 were provided by Strategic Insight Simfund. ETF data include investment companies not registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 and exclude ETFs that primarily invest in other ETFs.
4Total investment company assets include mutual fund holdings of closed-end funds and ETFs.
Note: Data are for investment companies that report statistical information to the Investment Company Institute. Assets of these companies are 98 percent of investor assets. Components may not add to the total because of rounding.
Sources: Investment Company Institute and Strategic Insight Simfund

Mutual funds recorded $102 billion in net outflows in 2015 (Figure 2.3), while other U.S.-registered investment companies posted positive net inflows. On net, investors redeemed $123 billion from long-term mutual funds. Money market funds, by contrast, experienced net inflows of $21 billion. Mutual fund shareholders reinvested $224 billion in income dividends and $364 billion in capital gains distributions that mutual funds paid out during the year. Investor demand for ETFs continued to thrive with net share issuance (including reinvested dividends) totaling $231 billion in 2015 (Figure 3.7). Unit investment trusts (UITs) had new deposits of $66 billion, essentially unchanged from last year, and closed-end funds issued
$2 billion in new shares, on net (Figure 4.3).


The United States Has the World’s Largest Regulated Open-End Fund Market

Percentage of total net assets, year-end 2015

Figure 1.2

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* This category includes ETFs—both registered and not registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940—that invest primarily in commodities, currencies, and futures.
Note: Regulated open-end funds include mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and institutional funds. Components may not add to 100 percent because of rounding.
Sources: Investment Company Institute and International Investment Funds Association

Americans’ Continued Reliance on Investment Companies 

Households make up the largest group of investors in funds, and registered investment companies managed 22 percent of household financial assets at year-end 2015 (Figure 1.3). As households have come to rely more on funds over the past decade, their demand for directly held equities and bonds has generally fallen over time (Figure 1.4). For example, from 2009 to 2014, households sold $781 billion, on net, in bonds that they held directly. In contrast, in 2015, households purchased $308 billion of directly held bonds. Bond funds recorded moderate outflows in 2015, with investors redeeming $25 billion. Overall, households invested an additional $187 billion in long-term registered investment companies in 2015. From 2006 to 2015, households invested an annual average of $366 billion, on net, in long-term registered investment companies, with net investments each year except 2008. In contrast, households sold an annual average of $274 billion in directly held equities and bonds, on net.


Share of Household Financial Assets Held in Investment Companies

Percentage of household financial assets; year-end, 1980–2015

Figure 1.3

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Note: Household financial assets held in registered investment companies include household holdings of ETFs, closed-end funds, UITs, and mutual funds. Mutual funds held in employer-sponsored DC plans, IRAs, and variable annuities are included.
Sources: Investment Company Institute and Federal Reserve Board


Household Net Investments in Funds, Bonds, and Equities

Billions of dollars, 2006–2015

Figure 1.4

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1Data for long-term registered investment companies include mutual funds, variable annuities, ETFs, and closed-end funds.
2In 2012, directly held bonds had outflows of less than $500 million.
Note: Household net investments include net new cash flow and reinvested dividends.
Sources: Investment Company Institute and Federal Reserve Board

The growth of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and defined contribution (DC) plans, particularly 401(k) plans, explains some of the increased household reliance on investment companies during the past two decades. At year-end 2015, households had 9.6 percent of their financial assets in 401(k) and other DC retirement plans, up from 7.6 percent in 1995. Mutual funds managed 54 percent of the assets in these plans in 2015, more than double the 26 percent in 1995 (Figure 1.5). IRAs made up 10.4 percent of household financial assets at year-end 2015, with mutual funds managing 48 percent of IRA assets that year. Mutual funds also managed $1.2 trillion in variable annuities outside retirement accounts, as well as $5.7 trillion of other assets outside retirement accounts.


Mutual Funds in Household Retirement Accounts

Percentage of retirement assets in mutual funds by type of retirement vehicle, 1995–2015

Figure 1.5

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* This category includes private employer-sponsored DC plans (including 401(k) plans), 403(b) plans, 457 plans, and the Federal Employees Retirement
System (FERS) Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
Sources: Investment Company Institute, Federal Reserve Board, Department of Labor, National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators, American Council of Life Insurers, and Internal Revenue Service Statistics of Income Division

Businesses and other institutional investors also rely on funds. Many institutions use money market funds to manage some of their cash and other short-term assets. Nonfinancial businesses held 23 percent of their short-term assets in money market funds at year-end 2015 (Figure 2.17). Institutional investors also have contributed to growing demand for ETFs. Investment managers, including mutual funds and pension funds, use ETFs to invest in markets, to manage liquidity and investor flows, or to hedge their exposures.

Role of Investment Companies in Financial Markets 

Investment companies have been among the largest investors in the domestic financial markets for much of the past 20 years. They held a large portion of the outstanding shares of U.S.-issued equities and money market securities at year-end 2015. Investment companies as a whole were one of the largest groups of investors in U.S. companies that year, holding 31 percent of their outstanding stock at year-end 2015 (Figure 1.6).


Investment Companies Channel Investment to Stock, Bond, and Money Markets

Percentage of total market securities held by investment companies, year-end 2015

Figure 1.6

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Note: Components may not add to the total because of rounding.
Sources: Investment Company Institute, Federal Reserve Board, and World Federation of Exchanges

Mutual funds remained the largest investors in the U.S. commercial paper market—an important source of short-term funding for major corporations around the world. From year-end 2014 to year-end 2015, mutual funds’ share of outstanding commercial paper decreased from 46 to 40 percent (Figure 1.6). Prime money market funds accounted for most of mutual fund commercial paper holdings. Consequently, mutual fund holdings of commercial paper tend to fluctuate with the total net assets in prime money market funds. In 2015, assets in prime money market funds fell $180 billion as these funds adapted to a 2014 SEC rule change that will be fully implemented in October 2016 (see Recent Reforms to Money Market Funds).

At year-end 2015, investment companies held 26 percent of tax-exempt debt issued by U.S. municipalities, a fairly stable share over the past several years (Figure 1.6). Investment companies held 11 percent of U.S. Treasury and government agency securities at year-end 2015. Investment companies’ share of outstanding corporate debt securities remained stable at 19 percent at year-end 2015.

Types of Intermediaries and Number of Investment Companies 

A variety of financial services companies offer registered funds in the United States. At year-end 2015, 79 percent of fund complexes were independent fund advisers (Figure 1.7), and these firms managed 67 percent of investment company assets. Other types of fund complexes in the U.S. market include non-U.S. fund advisers, insurance companies, banks, thrifts, and brokerage firms.


More Than Three-Quarters of Fund Complexes Were Independent Fund Advisers

Percentage of investment company complexes by type of intermediary, year-end 2015

Figure 1.7

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Note: Components do not add to 100 percent because of rounding.

In 2015, 873 fund sponsors from around the world competed in the U.S. market to provide investment management services to fund investors (Figure 1.8). In the 1980s and 1990s, low barriers to entry attracted many new fund sponsors. But in the early 2000s, increased competition among these sponsors and pressure from other financial products reversed that trend. From year-end 2004 to year-end 2009, 248 fund sponsors left the business but just 238 entered, for a net loss of 10 sponsors. Larger fund sponsors acquiring smaller ones, fund sponsors liquidating funds and leaving the business, and several large sponsors selling their fund advisory businesses played a major role in the decline. The percentage of fund companies retaining assets and attracting net new investments generally has been lower since 2000 than in the 1990s, and fell to 38 percent in 2015, its lowest level since 2008 (Figure 1.9).

Figure 1.8

Number of Fund Sponsors


Figure 1.8

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Figure 1.9

Fund Complexes with Positive Net New Cash Flow to Long-Term Mutual Funds

Percentage of fund complexes, selected years

Figure 1.9

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This steady turnover and merger activity has contributed to somewhat greater concentration of mutual fund and ETF assets managed by the largest fund complexes. The share of assets managed by the five largest firms rose from 32 percent in 2000 to 45 percent in 2015, and the share managed by the 10 largest firms increased from 44 to 56 percent (Figure 1.10). Much of the increase in market share occurred at the expense of the middle tier of firms—those ranked from 11 to 25 whose market share fell from 25 percent in 2000 to 19 percent in 2015.

Figure 1.10

Share of Mutual Fund and ETF Assets at the Largest Fund Complexes

Percentage of total net assets of mutual funds and ETFs; year-end, selected years

  2000 2005 2010 2015
Largest 5 complexes 32 36 42 45
Largest 10 complexes 44 47 55 56
Largest 25 complexes 69 69 74 75

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Note: Data include only mutual funds and ETFs registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940. Mutual fund data do not include mutual funds that invest primarily in other mutual funds. ETFs registered as UITs and ETFs that invest primarily in other ETFs are excluded.

Two other factors also contributed to rising industry concentration. First, the growing popularity of index funds increased concentration, because the 10 largest fund complexes manage most of the assets in index mutual funds. Actively managed domestic equity mutual funds incurred outflows for 10 consecutive years, thus reducing market share for middle-tier firms, while index domestic equity funds had inflows in each of these years. Second, strong inflows over the past decade to bond funds (Figure 2.7), which are fewer in number and have fewer fund sponsors than equity mutual funds, helped boost the share of assets managed by large fund complexes that offer bond funds.

Nevertheless, in recent years, the number of sponsors has risen once again as the economy and financial markets have recovered, with a net increase of 191 from year-end 2009 to year-end 2015 (440 entering and 249 leaving) (Figure 1.8). Many of the entering firms took advantage of the series trust—a cost-effective management solution in which the fund’s sponsor arranges for a third party to provide certain services (e.g., audit, trustee, some legal) through a turnkey setup. The series trust allows the sponsor to focus more on managing portfolios and gathering assets, and its operating costs are spread across the funds in the trust.

Macroeconomic conditions and competitive dynamics also affect the number of funds offered in any given year. Fund sponsors create new funds to meet investor demand, and they merge or liquidate those that do not attract sufficient investor interest. A total of 594 funds opened in 2015, fewer than the year before and less than the 2007 peak of 725 and the 2005–2015 average (Figure 1.11). The rate of fund mergers and liquidations increased significantly from 365 in 2014 to 462 in 2015, leading to the annual net increase being close to the average of the prior 10 years.

Figure 1.11

Number of Mutual Funds Entering and Leaving the Industry


Figure 1.11

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Note: Data include mutual funds that do not report statistical information to the Investment Company Institute and mutual funds that invest primarily in other mutual funds.

Unit Investment Trusts  

Unit investment trusts (UITs) are registered investment companies with characteristics of both mutual funds and closed-end funds. Like mutual funds, UITs issue redeemable shares (called units), and like closed-end funds, they typically issue a specific, fixed number of shares. But unlike either mutual funds or closed-end funds, UITs have a preset termination date based on the portfolio’s investments and the UIT’s investment goals. Units of UITs investing in long-term bonds might remain outstanding, or in circulation, for 20 to 30 years depending on the maturity of the bonds they hold. UITs investing in stocks might seek to capture capital appreciation in a few years or less. When a UIT is dissolved, proceeds from the securities are paid to unit holders or, at a unit holder’s election, reinvested in another trust.

UITs fall into two main categories: bond trusts and equity trusts. Bond trusts are either taxable or tax-free; equity trusts are either domestic or international/global. The first UIT, introduced in 1961, held tax-free bonds, and historically, most UIT assets were invested in bonds. Equity UITs, however, have grown in popularity over the past two decades. Since 1998, the assets in equity UITs have exceeded the assets in taxable and tax-free bond UITs combined each year except 2002, and constituted 85 percent of the assets in UITs in 2015 (Figure 1.12). The number of trusts outstanding began to fall in the mid-1990s, as sponsors created fewer trusts and existing trusts reached their preset termination dates.

Federal law requires that UITs have a largely fixed portfolio—one that is not actively managed or traded. Once the trust’s portfolio has been selected, its composition may change only in very limited circumstances. Most UITs hold a diversified portfolio, described in detail in the prospectus, with securities professionally selected to meet a stated investment goal, such as growth, income, or capital appreciation.

Investors can obtain UIT price quotes from brokerage or investment firms and investment company websites, and some but not all UITs list their prices on NASDAQ’s Mutual Fund Quotation Service. Some broker-dealers offer their own trusts or sell trusts offered by nationally recognized independent sponsors. Units of these trusts can be bought through their registered representatives. Units can also be bought from the representatives of smaller investment firms that sell trusts sponsored by third-party bond and brokerage firms.

Though only some units of a UIT are sold in a public offering, a trust sponsor is likely to maintain a secondary market, in which investors can sell their units back to the sponsor and other investors can buy those units. Even absent a secondary market, UITs are required by law to redeem outstanding units at their net asset value (NAV), which is based on the underlying securities’ current market value.

Figure 1.12

Total Net Assets and Number of UITs

Year-end, 2000–2015

Figure 1.12

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Note: Components may not add to the total because of rounding.

The total number of investment companies has increased since 2005 (the recent low point), but it remains well below the year-end 2000 peak (Figure 1.13). This largely reflects the sharp decline in UITs in the early 2000s. The number of UITs continued to decline, falling to 5,188 at year-end 2015 from 5,381 at year-end 2014. The number of mutual funds grew in 2015 for the fifth straight year to a total of 9,520 funds. The total number of closed-end funds fell to 558 at year-end 2015, the lowest level since 2002. The number of ETFs grew by 13 percent in 2015, with 183 new ones on net. There were 1,594 ETFs at year-end 2015, double the total number of ETFs at year-end 2009.

Figure 1.13

Number of Investment Companies by Type

Year-end, 1997–2015

 Year Mutual funds* Closed-end
ETFs UITs Total
1997 6,778 486 19 11,593 18,876
1998 7,489 491 29 10,966 18,975
1999 8,003 511 30 10,414 18,958
2000 8,370 481 80 10,072 19,003
2001 8,518 489 102 9,295 18,404
2002 8,511 543 113 8,303 17,470
2003 8,426 581 119 7,233 16,359
2004 8,417 618 152 6,499 15,686
2005 8,449 634 204 6,019 15,306
2006 8,721 645 359 5,907 15,632
2007 8,745 662 629 6,030 16,066
2008 8,879 642 728 5,984 16,233
2009 8,611 627 797 6,049 16,084
2010 8,535 624 923 5,971 16,053
2011 8,673 632 1,134 6,043 16,482
2012 8,744 602 1,194 5,787 16,327
2013 8,972 599 1,294 5,552 16,417
2014 9,259 568 1,411 5,381 16,619
2015 9,521 558 1,594 5,188 16,860

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* Data include mutual funds that invest primarily in other mutual funds.
Note: Data are for investment companies that report statistical information to the Investment Company Institute. Assets of these companies are 98 percent
of investor assets. ETF data prior to 2001 were provided by Strategic Insight Simfund. ETF data include investment companies not registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 and ETFs that invest primarily in other ETFs.
Sources: Investment Company Institute and Strategic Insight Simfund

Investment Company Employment 

Registered investment companies typically do not have employees—instead, they contract with other businesses to provide services to the fund. Except for UITs, funds in the United States have fund boards that oversee the management of the fund and represent the interests of the fund shareholders. Fund boards must approve all major contracts between the fund and its service providers including the advisory contract with a fund’s investment adviser.

Fund sponsors and third-party service providers offer advisory, recordkeeping, administrative, custody, and other services to a growing number of funds and their investors. Fund industry employment in the United States has grown 53 percent since 1997, from 114,000 workers in 1997 to 174,000 workers in 2015 (Figure 1.14).

Figure 1.14

Investment Company Industry Employment

Estimated number of employees of fund sponsors and their service providers, selected years*

Figure 1.14

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* Years are those in which ICI conducted its employment survey.

Fund investment advisers are one of the prominent providers of services to funds. This group of service providers is responsible for managing the fund’s business affairs, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, overseeing other third-party service providers the fund may rely on, and directing funds’ investments by undertaking investment research and determining which securities to buy and sell. The adviser will often undertake trading and security settlement for the fund. In March 2015, 38 percent of the industry worked in support of fund management functions such as investment research, trading and security settlement, information systems and technology, and other corporate management functions (Figure 1.15).

The second-largest group of workers (28 percent) provides services to fund investors and their accounts (Figure 1.15). Shareholder account servicing encompasses a wide range of activities to help investors monitor and update their accounts. These employees work in call centers and help shareholders and their financial advisers with questions about investor accounts. They also process applications for account openings and closings. Other services include retirement plan transaction processing, retirement plan participant education, participant enrollment, and plan compliance.

Figure 1.15

Investment Company Industry Employment by Job Function

Percentage of employees of fund sponsors and their service providers, March 2015

Figure 1.15

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Fund administration, which includes financial and portfolio accounting and regulatory compliance duties, accounted for 10 percent of industry employment (Figure 1.15). Employees performing those services are often affiliated with a fund’s investment adviser.

Fund administration encompasses the middle- and back-office functions necessary to operate the fund and includes clerical and fund accounting services, data processing, recordkeeping, internal audits, and compliance and risk management functions. Typically, employees with administration duties are responsible for regulatory and compliance requirements, such as preparing and filing regulatory reports, overseeing fund service providers, preparing and submitting reports to regulators and tax authorities, and producing shareholder reports such as prospectuses and financial statements of the funds. Administration services also help to maintain compliance procedures and internal controls, subject to approval by a fund’s board and chief compliance officer.

Distribution and sales force personnel together accounted for 24 percent of the workforce (Figure 1.15). Employees in these areas may work in marketing, product development and design, or investor communications, and can include sales support staff, registered representatives, and supermarket representatives.

For many industries, employment tends to be concentrated in locations where the industry began. The same is true for investment companies: those located in Massachusetts and New York, early hubs of investment company operations (Figure 1.16), employ 24 percent of fund industry workers. As the industry has grown, other states—including California, Pennsylvania, and Texas—have become major centers of fund employment. Fund companies in these three states employed one-quarter of U.S. fund industry employees as of March 2015.

Figure 1.16

Investment Company Industry Employment by State

Estimated number of employees of fund sponsors and their service providers by state, March 2015

Figure 1.16

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