Independent broker-dealers (IBDs) continue to lead in third party distribution of funds, accounting for US$1.9 trillion in long-term mutual fund and ETF assets under management (AUM) as of September 30, 2013, according to quarterly data by Access Data, a Broadridge Financial Solutions company, and Strategic Insight.

Overall, third party distribution of long-term mutual fund and ETF AUM increased by 23% to US$8.3 trillion in the third quarter of 2013, compared to US$6.8 trillion in the same period last year.

According to data released today on Broadridge’s Fund Distribution Intelligence tool, registered investment advisors (RIAs) ranked second with US$1.58 trillion in long-term mutual fund and ETF AUM at the end of the third quarter of 2013, followed closely by wirehouses with US$1.52 trillion AUM.

A deeper look into the data shows that the product mix making up the growth in year-to-date (YTD) AUM (ended September 30, 2013) varied by channel. The IBD channel overwhelmingly favored long-term mutual funds with a US$241 billion increase, representing 91% of 2013 YTD growth, versus US$24 billion, or nine percent for ETFs.

In contrast, the RIA channel growth was more balanced with a US$99 billion increase in long-term mutual funds YTD, representing 65% of the growth in the RIA channel, versus a US$53 billion increase, or 35% for ETFs.

Wirehouse firms were similar to IBDs with the majority of the increase coming from long-term funds over ETFs, US$115 billion to US$36 billion, respectively.

Frank Polefrone, senior vice president, Access Data, Broadridge, said: "As market conditions improve, we continue to see total long-term mutual fund and ETF AUM within third party distribution increase significantly, on both a year-to-date and year-over-year basis. While the independent channels continue to drive overall growth, the use of products varies by type of firm. IBDs continue to show a preference for mutual funds, while RIAs utilize funds and ETFs more evenly."

Strategic Insight estimated net flows for these channels and found that, while all channels experienced growth due to market appreciation, the mix of net investor demand between funds and ETFs differed across market segments.

The aggregate IBD channel, for example, led net inflows to mutual funds over the first nine months of 2013 – attracting US$64 billion of net commitments. Within ETFs, the RIA channel displayed the strongest demand with roughly US$30 billion of net inflows to ETFs in the YTD period ended September 30, 2013.

Flows to actively managed funds were led by emerging markets equity, multi-asset allocation funds and the burgeoning liquid alternative space. US equity strategies have been a primary driver of net investor demand within ETFs.

Dennis Bowden, assistant director of US Research at Strategic Insight, said: "While, in general, we continue to witness increasing use of mutual funds and ETFs together in investors’ and advisors’ portfolios; the characteristics of demand across different asset classes, distribution channels and even individual distributors can vary in important ways. Whether analyzing the characteristics of active fund demand within important categories or the expanding presence of ETFs within the intermediary-sold marketplace, the ability to examine the nuances of these trends across channels is becoming more essential for fund and ETF managers."

The Fund Distribution Intelligence tool comprises the most complete sales and asset data collection in the industry, creating transparency into more than US$8 trillion of long-term mutual fund and ETF assets across 900+ distributors.

This intelligence provides firms with critical information to help them make strategic decisions about distribution, product development and sales and marketing, allocate resources effectively, and accelerate growth. Data is updated monthly and can be analyzed by channel, geography and more.