A Separately Managed Account (SMA) is an investment account managed by a professional investment manager that can be used as an alternative to a mutual fund. They provide diversification and professional management. But they differ from mutual funds in that an SMA investor owns individual stocks instead shares in a fund.
Here are some of the benefits of SMAs.
- Customization: Investors in SMAs can usually exclude certain stocks from their portfolio. They may have an aversion to certain stocks, such as tobacco or alcohol. Or they may have legal restrictions on owning certain stocks. SMAs allow some customization that’s not available in mutual funds.
- Taxes: Investors in SMAs can take advantage of tax loss harvesting at the end of the year by instructing a manager to sell certain stocks to reduce capital gains taxes. In addition, an SMA has another advantage over mutual funds in that each stock in an SMA is purchased separately. Mutual fund investors are liable for “embedded capital gains” even if the shares were purchased before the investor bought the fund shares.
- Transparency: You know exactly what you own and can see whenever a change is made in your account. Mutual fund investors don’t see the individual securities they own or what changes are being made by the portfolio manager.
These are features that are attractive to certain investors. However, they are not for everyone. Most SMAs require minimum investments of $100,000. That means that they are only appropriate for high net worth investors who will typically use several SMA managers for purposes of diversification. In addition, the fees associated with SMAs are often higher than fees for mutual funds.
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