Huntington won't waver on fee waivers for money funds

Firm plans to reinstate charges when yields rise; for now, asset manager will ‘forgo profitability'

Sep 16, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

By Jessica Toonkel

Despite low yields on money market funds, Huntington Asset Advisors Inc. plans to continue waiving the management and shareholder fees on its four money market funds indefinitely.

Huntington began waiving the 40-basis-point management fee and 25-basis-point shareholder administration fee on its four money market funds in late 2008 and will continue to do so until yields rise, according to Randy Bateman, the firm's president and chief investment officer.

“Huntington has chosen to forgo profitability on its money fund complex,” he said. “While there is a temptation to take more risk to increase yields, we aren't going to do that.”

Huntington expects to be able to reinstate the shareholder administration fee and the management fee on its money market funds, assuming interest rates, and thus yields, rise, Mr. Bateman said.

Money fund yields have been close to zero for several months, but most firms, like Huntington, are bearing down and waiting for better times, said Pete Crane, president and chief executive of Crane Data LLC.

“Sticking with the business is seemingly contrarian, but that's what firms seem to be doing,” he said.

One firm that did get out of the money fund business this year is Ridgewood Capital Asset Management Inc.

For banks such as Huntington, keeping money market funds makes sense because they can use them as sweep vehicles for other mutual funds, such as bond funds, which are very popular right now, Mr. Crane said.

“Banks make more on bond funds than they do on money funds,” he said.

And there isn't much opportunity for money funds to take on additional risk, Mr. Crane said. The Securities and Exchange Commission passed rules this year that restrict money funds' holdings of lower-quality securities and require them to keep at least 30% of assets in securities that mature within seven days.

“Money funds are basically glorified index funds,” Mr. Crane said. “You take what the Fed gives you.”

It is easier for Huntington to maintain the fee waivers indefinitely because many of its processes, such as its transfer agency and its accounting, are all in-house, Mr. Bateman said.

“We don't have to pay third parties to do those things,” he said.

Huntington has $1.1 billion in assets in its four money market funds, and the total operating expenses for the funds is 32 basis points with the waivers. The firm has $13.29 billion in assets under management.

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