SIC 6722

The open-end management investment industry is comprised of investment companies that sell shares in open-end mutual funds. Open-end funds require the issuing company to redeem the shares upon request by the security holder. Often referred to as the mutual fund industry, the open-end fund industry comprises about 95 percent of the mutual fund market. Unit investment trusts, face-amount certificates, and closed-end mutual funds are excluded from this classification. Mutual fund management firms that work for investment companies are part of the investment advice industry SIC 6282: Investment Advice.

NAICS Code(s)

525910 (Open-End Investment Funds)

Industry Snapshot

The mutual fund industry experienced explosive growth in the 1980s and early 1990s, as investors transferred assets from other financial sectors into mutual funds, and investments in general increased. U.S. open-end mutual funds controlled more than $1.7 trillion in assets by 1993, making them a major force in the country's economy. In 1992, 27 percent of all U.S. households owned shares in mutual funds—up from 6 percent in 1980. In 1993, assets in funds continued to grow at a rate of more than $1 billion per day. More than 2,700 such open-ended funds are in existence. According to 1997 statistics, there were 1,489 establishments engaged in this industry. The industry reported 1997 revenues of $16.6 billion.

Following unprecedented industry growth throughout much of the 1980s, mutual fund assets continued to increase rapidly in 1996. A strong securities market, as well as an influx of new dollars from other financial sectors, contributed to the surge. Although mutual funds nourished the U.S. economy in many ways, such as providing capital to some thinly traded securities markets, the growing industry was also cited by some observers as a leading cause of stock market volatility.

Organization and Structure

A mutual fund is a corporation chartered by a state to operate as an open-end investment company. The company invests in a portfolio of assets and obtains capital by selling shares in its own securities. Capital is, in turn, reinvested in the portfolio. Income from investments is disbursed to shareholders or is used to compensate fund managers and expenses. The price investors pay for a share of the company is based primarily on the market value of the securities in the portfolio. The distinguishing characteristic of an open-end fund, in relation to a closedend fund, is that the investment company must redeem an investor's shares upon his or her request. Mutual fund investors also benefit from professional management of their money which they might otherwise be unable to afford. One disadvantage of mutual fund investing is that mutual funds are not tailored to the specific investment needs or tax status of individual shareholders. The shares in the fund are valued at their net asset value (NAV), and share prices fluctuate every day.

Many mutual funds provide investors with many services. Shareholders may elect to have money automatically withdrawn from their accounts on a periodic basis for investment in a mutual fund. Many funds also offer check-writing privileges and automatic reinvestment programs that pour dividends and capital gains back into new shares. The reinvestment option has proven to be very popular due to the tax saving advantages of not withdrawing dividends.

Types of Funds. The two primary types of mutual funds are "no-load" and "load" funds. No-load funds do not require investors to pay fees or sales commission, and the price of a share in a no-load fund is identical to its net asset value. The investment company typically acts as the distributor for its funds, and therefore bypasses brokerage fees and commissions. Investors in no-load funds do, however, usually incur some indirect costs related to marketing and other advertising expenses.

Shares in load funds, on the other hand, are usually sold through separate distributorships. The distributors sell fund shares through dealers and brokers, such as banks, insurance companies, or financial planners. The front-end load, or commission, is often about 8.5 percent, of which the distributor keeps 1.5 percent, and the dealer and broker receive the remaining 7 percent. Therefore, of $1,000 invested in an 8.5 percent load fund, $915 would actually be invested in the fund—resulting in an effective fee of 9.3 percent.

Commissions are often scaled down as the size of the purchase increases, and although investment performance on average is the same for no-load and load funds, total returns are usually higher on no-load funds because of their lack of fees. During the 1990s, about 30 percent of all funds were considered true no-load funds, although many "low-load" funds charged commissions as low as 2 percent or 3 percent.

Mutual funds can also be categorized according to the contents of their portfolios or their investment objectives. Although a plethora of funds serve diverse market segments, the three major categories of funds are common stock, bond, and money market.

Aggressive growth funds, also known as capital appreciation, seek to maximize capital gains, rather than current income. This type of fund is considered relatively risky and more volatile than many other funds because it typically focuses on securities of companies or industries with unproven potential for strong growth. Managers of aggressive funds may also make use of options or short-term speculative trading techniques. In the 1990s, more than 200 aggressive growth funds were available on the U.S. market.

On the other hand, the objective of a balanced fund is to conserve the investor's principal, pay a high level of income, and promote long-term growth. Assets in this type of fund are usually invested in a combination of conservative bonds, preferred stock, and common stock. Corporate bond funds try to achieve a similar objective by investing in a combination of corporate debt, U.S. treasury bonds, or other federal bonds. In 1999, there were approximately 100 balanced and corporate bond funds each.

Money market funds are low-risk investment vehicles holding short-term, high-grade securities such as treasury bills, certificates of deposit, and commercial paper. This type of fund is popular because it maintains a very stable net asset value. Tax-exempt money market funds differ in that they invest in municipal securities with short maturities. In the late 1990s, nearly 1,000 money market funds were available to investors.

Global equity and bond funds maintain a portfolio of securities and debt instruments traded worldwide. These funds offer American investors access to diverse financial markets and companies that would otherwise be difficult, or impossible, to capitalize on. The investment of the fund is in stocks of U.S. and foreign companies. Other popular open-end mutual funds include income-mixed, municipal bond, high-yield bond, precious metal, and income-equity funds.

Mutual Fund Owners. Although mutual funds are usually initiated and often indirectly managed by investment companies, shareholders own the funds. Shareholders include large numbers of individual investors with financial backgrounds ranging from modest to wealthy. In addition, many pension plans, profit-sharing funds, and other institutional investors also place portions of their assets into mutual funds. As Americans embraced mutual funds during the 1980s, the diversity of shareholders increased. For instance, in 1980 only 6 percent of all American households held shares in mutual funds. This jumped to nearly one-third by 1997.

Of the households that owned funds, 72 percent owned equity funds, 41 percent held bond and income funds, and 50 percent were shareholders of money market funds. The average household held shares in two funds. Eighty-four percent of these customers bought their shares through a sales force of some type, such as a financial planner, bank, brokerage firm, or insurance agent. Thirty-seven percent of the households invested directly through the investment company. The median mutual fund owner was 46 and earned $50,000 per year in the early 1990s. Fifty-six percent of all shareholders were male, 50 percent had college degrees, and 72 percent were married. Employed investors represented 72 percent, while 24 percent were retired.

The Industry's Role in Financial Markets. Because of its popularity with investors, the mutual fund industry is a major means of financial intermediation in the U.S. economy and has a decisive impact on formation of domestic capital markets. During the 1990s, money market funds regularly controlled more open-market paper in the United States than any other industry segment. Furthermore, mutual funds provided an efficient tool to help finance everything from corporations and start-up companies to mortgages and governments.

Mutual fund companies were also the largest institutional purchasers of corporate equities, buying approximately one-quarter of all corporate bonds that were issued. Moreover, the amount of discretionary assets that U.S. households invest in mutual funds was estimated at nearly 16 percent in the mid 1990s.

In comparison to other U.S. financial institutions, mutual fund investment companies have become serious contenders in terms of controlling assets. All mutual funds combined contained more than $1.6 trillion in assets in 1992. Insurance companies, by comparison, controlled about $1.6 trillion, and commercial banks held more than $2.4 trillion.

Regulation. Investment companies operating mutual funds are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Company Act of 1940. The 1934 act was established to maintain fair and honest securities markets, and it also enforces other laws requiring investors to have access to information about the underlying condition of companies in which they invest. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) administrates federal regulation of the industry. The 1940 act provides for the registration and regulation of companies that are primarily engaged in the business of investing in securities.

Among many other requirements, the 1940 act stipulates: A company must redeem shares duly offered by shareholders within seven calendar days at per-share net asset value; the maximum load cannot exceed 9 percent of the share's offering price; and shareholders must be sent complete financial reports at least semiannually. Furthermore, a fund must have at least 75 percent of its funds invested such that: Not more than 5 percent are invested in any one issue and not more than 10 percent of the voting securities of any corporation are held by the fund. Mutual funds must also comply with regulations of each state in which its shares are held.

Background and Development

Mutual funds, in one form or another, have been functioning in financial markets since the nineteenth century. Funds in Great Britain, for instance, helped to finance reconstruction of the post Civil War U.S. economy by investing in farms, railroads, and businesses. British mutual funds heavily influenced the U.S. industry's development, and the first American open-end mutual fund, Massachusetts Investors Trust, was started in 1924.

The Great Depression and World War II hampered asset growth in mutual funds. The period from 1929-40 did, however, serve to establish the regulatory infrastructure that would influence the industry throughout the twentieth century. For instance, in 1940 the Investment Company Institute (originally called the National Association of Investment Companies) was established to develop industry standards and to influence mutual fund legislation.

Fewer than 300,000 shareholders, representing about $450 million in accounts, were participating in the industry in 1940. By 1945, however, mutual funds held more than $1 billion. The industry continued to realize vibrant growth throughout the postwar expansion as a surplus of investment dollars flowed from all sectors of the financial markets. In 1951, mutual funds represented more than 1 million accounts. This amount grew to about $17.4 billion in 1960.

Before 1960, mutual funds were viewed as a relatively conservative and placid investment instrument—much like trusts and endowment funds. In the late 1960s, however, a new breed of mutual fund company began to develop. Focusing on investment performance, these new companies offered maximum capital appreciation and high risk. Several of the new funds also practiced speculative trading techniques, such as short selling and options, in the hope of raising profits. Sophisticated investors began to find the new breed of aggressive funds attractive, and many people felt these funds offered the hands-on investment management they were seeking. In fact, 96 new "maximum capital gains" funds were launched in 1968 and 1969 alone. By 1970, about 400 funds of all types held more than $50 billion. Although the new aggressive funds took a beating in the 1970 bear market, they helped to expand the role of mutual funds and increase public awareness of mutual funds.

Until 1970, mutual funds were viewed as an efficient means of investing primarily in the stock market. The industry was transformed by the advent of the first money market mutual fund (MMMF) in 1971, called the Reserve Fund. This product allowed small investors to participate in high short-term interest rates in the money market that had previously been accessible only to the relatively wealthy. People suddenly had a viable alternative to bank deposits with substandard government-regulated interest rates. Municipal bond funds followed MMMFs in 1977, and tax-exempt MMMFs debuted in 1979.

As interest rates surged past 17 percent in the 1970s and early 1980s, massive amounts of funds shifted from bank deposits to higher paying MMMFs. As a result, the mutual fund industry controlled about $300 billion in assets by the early 1980s. Furthermore, nearly 75 percent of all mutual fund assets were held by money funds in 1982. Nevertheless, the 1980s would be the industry's most pivotal decade for change and growth.

Since 1982, several factors have induced a major shift in the allocation of assets within the mutual fund industry. Falling interest rates reduced the popularity of money funds in comparison to other types of mutual funds. Strong securities markets brought more money into bond and equity funds. Also, a general increase in public familiarity with mutual funds, combined with the deregulation and metamorphosis of U.S. financial markets, increased the amount of money invested in mutual funds. By the early 1990s, the percentage of industry assets held by MMMFs had fallen to about 34 percent. Equity and bond funds each held about 36 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

While the composition of the industry was shifting, mutual funds continued to realize dynamic asset growth throughout the 1980s. Many new funds and investment vehicles brought more investors into mutual funds. The public's awareness and familiarity with mutual funds was another factor that boosted industry assets. Even many institutional investors, such as pension funds and bank trust departments, were investing increasing amounts in mutual funds to cut costs and increase returns on their portfolios.

Basic fund categories that were experiencing the greatest proliferation of new entrants in the late 1980s and early 1990s included taxable MMMFs, growth, state municipal bond, and international funds. Expansion of new funds had slowed, however, for income-mixed, high-yield bond, precious metal, and aggressive growth funds.

By 1990, 3,105 different mutual funds held more than $1 trillion in assets and represented more than 60 million shareholder accounts. These figures represented steady, stunning growth throughout the decade. While in 1980 only about 12 million shareholders participated in 564 accounts controlling $300 billion in assets, five years later the industry encompassed about $500 billion in assets, 35 million shareholders, and 1,528 different funds.

Mutual fund growth continued at a rapid pace throughout the 1990s, increasing from more than $1 trillion in fund assets in 1990 to more than $1.7 trillion by mid 1993. An influx of bank and pension assets into mutual funds was responsible for much of the growth. Other trends taking place in the industry in 1993 included an increase in the popularity of specialized mutual funds, shifts in the distribution channels used to sell shares, and escalating international activity.

Fund asset growth in the 1990s was largely a result of strong securities markets combined with an infusion of new investment dollars. Despite economic recession, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up past a record high 3,500 in 1993, resulting in a boon for equity funds. At the same time, new money was shifting to the mutual fund industry from other financial institutions. Although maturing certificates of deposit were sending assets from banks to fund companies, a diversion of retirement savings from traditional pension management institutions—banks, trusts, and insurance companies—was the greatest reason for the deluge of cash.

Various social and economic changes in the 1970s and 1980s had created an environment that was leading growing numbers of pension plan sponsors and participants toward mutual funds. By investing 401(k) and other pension assets into mutual funds, sponsors and participants were realizing greater diversification of assets and participation in retirement plans. Furthermore, many participants favored mutual funds over other investment vehicles because they felt they had more control over their savings and a better understanding of how their funds were being invested. Although the share of U.S. assets held by pension funds was nearly double that held by mutual funds in 1992, mutuals were gaining quickly.

The impact of mutual fund growth was also evidenced in the stock market. In the early 1990s, for the first time, mutual funds bought more stock market equity than pension funds. Mutual fund dominance of equity markets was causing some observers to question whether the trend was a positive one for the stock market, which was increasingly susceptible to fund-induced volatility. Mutual fund equity purchases shot up 87 percent in 1992, to $80.5 billion — beating the 1991 record high of $43 billion in equity purchases. Indeed, in 1991 and 1992 mutual funds bought more equities than all private pension funds combined had bought between 1960 and 1989.

Long-term mutual funds, which invest for long-term gains, were responsible for much of the industry growth in the early 1990s. As the percentage of industry assets invested in short-term funds fell to less than 35 percent by 1993, long-term fund assets grew to more than 65 percent.

Other Trends. Contributing to the growth and competitiveness of the mutual fund industry were new distribution routes. To survive in a more competitive economic environment, caused in part by the strength of the mutual fund industry, banks and other financial institutions were selling mutual fund shares to generate fee income.

The banking industry, in particular, plunged into mutual fund sales in 1987 — the year that banks were deregulated to act as full-service brokers. By 1992, more than 3,500 banks had entered the mutual fund fray and were selling 30 percent of all shares. James Shelton, executive director of the Bank Securities Association, commented in a June 1993 article in ABA Banking Journal, "Banks will soon become the major source of distribution for mutual fund products." In addition to selling shares, 700 banks managed proprietary funds in 1993, accounting for about 10 percent of the mutual fund market.

Prospects for regulatory changes in the early 1990s boded well for the industry's future in general. The SEC's Division of Investment Management recommended numerous changes in 1992 that would potentially affect the industry, such as deregulation of sales fees and commissions, registration exemptions for transactions involving sophisticated investors, and provisions for the globalization of mutual fund sales. A notable proposal advocated cross-border marketing of fund shares with countries that have safeguards similar to those in the United States.

In addition to new distribution routes, an abundance of new specialty funds were appealing to investors with unique needs in the mid 1990s. At this time, the number of categories into which mutual funds were divided had grown to 21, up from seven in 1975. Furthermore, at the end of 1996, there were more than 2,700 funds operating. This category had expanded to include funds emphasizing securities in utilities, biotechnology, aviation, telecommunications, real estate, and other niche markets.

In the long run, analysts speculated that demographic changes should boost industry assets, as aging baby-boomers save for retirement and investor-directed retirement programs continue to shift to mutual funds. Distribution channels and new products were expected to continue to evolve and increase the efficiency of the industry. Banks were expected to increase their sales role, and the division between load and no-load funds could eventually become obscured. As the industry matured, companies were expected to seek cost-efficiency through laborsaving automation, by streamlining marketing programs, and by merging with, or acquiring other mutual fund companies.

Current Conditions

By the late 1990s, it was estimated that 40 percent of households in the United States had stock investments. The overall favorable market conditions in the 1990s for the United States resulted in an average growth in fees and commissions for securities companies of up to 30 percent annually. Online stock trading resulted in consumers who could trade in real time, and in over only a few years time during the late 1990s, the financial services industry rose to a value of about $6 billion. The flurry of activity and increase in interested individual investors caused many financial services to offer new mutual funds at an increasing rate. Some of these funds grew so large that it impaired their ability to post outstanding returns.

The continued globalization of the world economy also affected the financial market and mutual fund offerings and performance. In a 1998 industry periodical article, experts suggested that investors take advantage of world market volatility by trading United States open-ended mutual funds. The authors outlined a strategy that included buying open ended, international mutual funds when the S&P index rose by a substantial amount; and switching back to a U.S. index fund on the day that the S&P declined significantly. Apparently, the strategy had proven effective because of foreign markets' tendency to show correlation among returns, and because this correlation appeared to travel from the United States to foreign markets.

Industry Leaders

Because open-end investment companies are actually owned by the shareholders that belong to the mutual fund, the shareholders elect board members and approve various operating policies, such as selection of the investment advisor and the basic contents of the portfolio. Because of the way that funds are structured, the day-today management and operation of mutual funds is typically handled by a separate fund management company (see SIC 6282: Investment Advice ). In fact, most funds are established by members of the board of directors, which owns a management company. Indeed, the purpose of starting a fund is often to allow those members' management company to earn fees as the investment advisor for the fund.

Leading companies typically manage a family of funds representing various investment focuses. Fidelity Investments, led by its flagship Magellan fund, was the leading fund management company by 1997 asset size. Its fund assets—representing nearly 200 individual funds—totaled more than $360 billion in 1997. Magellan alone commanded more than $105 billion in net assets by the year 2000. Fidelity was ranked the number one mutual fund at the beginning of 2000. It closed to new investment in 1997. The fund featured stock from domestic companies operating in the United States and overseas.

Vanguard managed the second-largest asset base, with $238 billion, followed by Capital Group/American Funds ($191 billion), Putnam Mutual Funds ($122 billion), and Franklin Templeton Funds ($119 billion). Vanguard's Index Trust 500 Portfolio fund was ranked the second best mutual fund at the beginning of 2000 for performance. In early 2000, the number three mutual fund was PX Washington Mutual Investors Fund, a fund managed for principal growth.

The mutual funds delivering the highest returns throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s were also some of the riskiest funds in which to invest. A $10,000 investment in 1988 in the Kaufmann Fund, for instance, would have grown to $43,658 by 1992. Similarly, a $10,000 investment in the Financial Strategic Health Sciences fund would have delivered $38,513. The same investment in the Fidelity Select Biotechnology mutual fund would have jumped to $37,155 during the same period. Few mutual funds delivered the performance offered by these successful high risk funds. Nevertheless, a $10,000 investment in 1983 in the American Capital Bond fund would have grown to $28,758 by 1992—a relatively healthy return for that sector of the industry.


Most of the jobs created by the open-end investment industry are with investment advisement firms, insurance companies, and other institutions that handle the daily management of funds and develop portfolio investment strategies. Management firms employ large numbers of portfolio managers, financial analysts, and other investment professionals. In 1997, a total of 35,271 people were employed in this industry. Further information may be found under SIC 6282: Investment Advice.

America and the World

U.S. mutual funds conduct negligible cross-border sales of their shares because of domestic and foreign regulations. In fact, foreign ownership of U.S. funds is estimated at less than 1 percent. Rather than combat barriers to cross-border sales, many mutual fund companies were expanding their sales to other countries in the 1990s by opening foreign subsidiaries that operated and advised overseas mutual funds. This tactic allowed companies to tailor their funds to meet regulatory, tax, and investment needs of the shareholders in a particular country.

International financial markets, furthermore, were steadily becoming a more important aspect of fund management. Fund managers were finding that they could increase their diversification and often boost investment returns by buying securities in foreign markets—despite risks inherent in overseas investing. In the early 1990s, there were more than 130 global bond and equity funds with combined U.S. and foreign assets of $48.7 billion. In addition, about 140 international funds, which invested solely in foreign securities, boasted growing assets of $23.1 billion. These figures were up significantly from 1989, for example, when the combined total of global and international funds was about $26.5 billion. In 1985, moreover, both types of funds held less than $8 billion in overseas assets.

Foreign Mutual Funds. As in the United States, mutual fund industries in many other industrialized countries were realizing rapid growth rates. Mutual fund assets in nine foreign countries studied in 1987, for instance, grew more than 55 percent by 1992, to $1.2 trillion. Total assets of 18 countries that had mutual fund industries totaled $1.5 trillion in the early 1990s. Worldwide, it was estimated that all non-U.S. mutual funds had grown to the approximate equivalent of assets held by U.S. funds.

As the middle class continues to expand, particularly in emerging industrial nations, the amount of foreign assets invested in mutual funds will likely accelerate. Furthermore, as financial markets become more globalized and integrated, opportunities for cross-border sales by U.S. companies could skyrocket. Although the large Japanese financial market remained closed to U.S. competitors, European and South American markets were showing promise. The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for instance, will likely boost opportunities in Mexico for U.S. firms.

The European Community (EC) was striving to implement Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS) in the mid 1990s. This directive would effectively facilitate cross-border marketing of mutual fund shares within the EC. Several holes existed in the plan, however. For example, many tax issues and questions about marketing and distribution needed work. Nevertheless, the plan does take significant steps toward integrated investment policies, public dis-closure guidelines, and other industry controls. When U.S. companies gained access to European consumers, they would gain access to mutual fund markets that topped $1 trillion in the late 1990s.

The U.S. mutual fund industry and the SEC were cooperating to liberalize fund sales during the 1990s. The SEC advocated a proposal that would allow foreign funds to sell shares in the U.S. market if they abided by certain guidelines. The objective of this strategy was to lead other nations into allowing U.S. companies to conduct sales on their soil. The SEC, along with U.S. mutual fund industry representatives, eventually sought to adopt a global system that mimicked the EC initiative.

Research and Technology

Technological advances in information systems and computer automation were having a significant impact on open-end investment companies throughout the 1990s. By implementing state-of-the-art systems, mutual funds and their management companies were achieving more efficient customer service, reducing errors in record-keeping and reporting, and reducing labor costs. As the industry becomes increasingly price competitive, automation will offer a critical edge for industry leaders. The proliferation of computers in households makes tracking mutual funds an easy task, since computers have made information on mutual funds and the stock market available on demand.

Mutual fund companies were also benefiting from technological advances affecting foreign and domestic securities markets. With advanced satellite communications networks and on-line trading systems, investment companies were increasing their access to up-to-the-minute investment information from markets around the world. At the close of the 1990s, for instance, it was possible to track, and to buy or sell, securities on several Asian markets. Mutual funds were also using these computer advances to integrate and synthesize their reporting and investment operations.

Interestingly, larger mutual fund companies were experiencing stiffer competition from smaller competitors that were using the new technology to level the playing field. By forming alliances with fellow companies that offered complimentary services, specialty investment and consulting companies were delivering high quality packaged services for prices at or below those commanded by the large "one-stop-shop" mutual funds.

Information technology that allowed allied companies to integrate their reporting and investing data provided the crucial link necessary to fuse their services. The alliances had been especially successful at capturing and managing investment dollars from retirement plans that would have otherwise been invested with large mutual funds. The trend toward alliances proliferated in the mid 1990s.

Further Reading

Bharagava, Rahul, Ann Bose, and David A. Dubofsky. "Exploiting International Stock Market Correlations with Open End International Mutual Funds." Journal of Business Finance and Accounting, June-July 1998.

Fidelity Magellan. Yahoo Fund Profile, 10 February 2000. Available from .

Spain, Barbara. Financial Services Industry. Hoovers Online. Available from,2204,18,00.html .

U.S. Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census. Washington, D.C.: GPO 1999.

U.S. Department of Commerce. Economics and Statistics Administration. County Business Patterns 1994. Washington: GPO, September 1996.

Vanguard 500 Index. Yahoo Fund Profile, 10 February 2000. Available from .

Washington Mutual Investors. Yahoo Fund Profile, 10 February 2000. Available from .

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