AllianceBernstein Holding's CEO Discusses Q4 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: AllianceBernstein Holding (AB)

AllianceBernstein Holding L.P.(NYSE:AB)

Q4 2012 Earnings Call

February 12, 2013 08:00 AM ET

Executives

Andrea Prochniak - IR

Peter Kraus - CEO

John Weisenseel - CFO

Jim Gingrich - COO

Analysts

Matthew Kelley - Morgan Stanley

Cynthia Mayer - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Michael Kim - Sandler O'Neill

William Katz - Citi

Marc Irizarry - Goldman Sachs

Operator

Welcome to the AllianceBernstein Fourth Quarter 2012 Earnings Review. (Operator Instructions). As a reminder, this conference is being recorded and will be replayed for one week. I would now like to turn the conference over to the host for this call, the Director of Investor Relations for AllianceBernstein, Ms. Andrea Prochniak, please go ahead.

Andrea Prochniak

Thank you, Sarah. Hello and welcome to our fourth quarter 2012 earnings review. As a reminder, this conference call is being webcast and accompanied by a slide presentation that can be found in the Investor Relations section of our website.

Our Chairman and CEO, Peter Kraus and our CFO, John Weisenseel will present our financial results today; our Chief Operating Officer, Jim Gingrich is with us as well, and will join in answering questions after our prepared remarks.

Some of the information we present today is forward-looking and subject to certain SEC rules and regulations regarding disclosures. So I would like to point out the Safe Harbor language on slide one of our presentation. You can also find our Safe Harbor language in the MD&A of our 2012 form 10K which we filed this morning.

I'd also like to remind you that under Regulation FD, management may only address questions of a material nature from the investment community in the public forum. So, please ask all such questions during the call.

Now I'll turn it over to Peter.

Peter Kraus

Thanks Andrea and thank all of you for joining us for our fourth quarter 2012 earnings call. John, Jim and I are pleased to be here with you today. Like all of you we’re already well into tackling our 2013 initiatives but we’re proud of what we have accomplished in 2012 and we look forward to reviewing our results with you. So let’s start with an overview of our results which is on slide three.

In our fifth consecutive quarter of sequential growth, total gross sales for the fourth quarter of 24 billion were up 13% for the third quarter and were our highest since the second quarter of 2008, a truly terrific result. Annual gross sales of 82 billion were up 46% from 2011 and our highest since 2007. Not only that our 5 billion in fourth quarter net flows were positive for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2007 and our annual net outflows declined by 77%.

We achieved this shift in large part because of our clear momentum in retail throughout the year but our increasing stability in many other areas contributed as well. So did improving equity markets which translated to stronger fourth quarter investment performance. We finished the year with AUM of 430 billion up 11 billion for the third quarter; market performance contributed 6 billion to AUM on top of our 5 billion in net flows. Average AUM was up versus the third quarter but down 8% from last year.

Moving to slide four, which shows the breakout of outflows by channel. Here is what you can see the tremendous run we had in retail which finished the year on a high; fourth quarter retail sales of 16.4 billion were up 8% sequentially and are highest since the first quarter of 2000 and net inflows of 5.3 billion were our highest since the second quarter of 2000.

You may have seen that we released our January AUM this morning retail flows of January were negative, though our gross sales remain strong. In institutions fourth quarter gross sales were up 29% sequentially and are highest since the second quarter of 2010 driven by continued strong fixed income sales in EMEA, Japan and North America.

Institutional net flows of 2.9 billion turned positive in the fourth quarter for the first time since the first quarter of 2008, a combination of higher sales and lower redemptions in four out of five regions. Flows were positive in January as well. In Private Client, uncertainty around the fiscal cliff sidelined investors during the fourth quarter which made it challenging to increase sales despite strong quarterly investment performance. Redemptions also increased in part because investors liquidated security positions to take advantage of capital gains. Net outflows rose to 3.2 billion, we did see outflows come down significantly in January.

Now let’s take a look at our channels beginning with institutions on slide five. The chart at the top left illustrates how underlying trends in this business improved throughout the year. In the fourth quarter gross sales were the highest since the second quarter of 2010 and redemptions were the lowest since the fourth quarter of 2005, this took us into positive net flow territory.

More and more we have a seat at the table with clients and consultants that talk about our leading fixed income offerings but increasingly a better equity services as well. Last year we completed nearly 400 new business RFPs up 18% from 2011, RFP activity for strategies like U.S. and global high yield select equities, market neutral increased by triple digits for the year. More activity bought more wins and we finished 2012 with an $8 billion pipeline of awarded mandates across diverse asset classes and regions that’s the chart at the top right.

So we come into 2013 with a much higher pipeline than we had coming into 2012. As important nearly half of our year end pipeline represents new business wins in the fourth quarter, some of these are represented in the table at the bottom right, fixed income continues to drive our institutional sales in fact sales to U.S. based fixed income clients nearly tripled in 2012 but we also had some nice wins in the U.S. mid-cap growth, select U.S. equities and our new U.S. factored (inaudible) portfolio.

Clients demand for our fixed income offering is high because they continue to consistently outperform, that’s clear from the next slide, slide six. Our largest U.S. global, regional and emerging market services have outperformed for every time period. In fact at year end 89% of our assets were in services that were out performing their benchmarks for the three year period. That number never dropped below 85% in 2012 underscoring how consistently we deliver for our fixed income clients. Of course the question in everyone’s mind is that at this point in the cycle is how long can it last.

What happens when interest rates ultimately start rising. In our mind the answer lies in having a diverse and global fixed income platform so let’s take a look at slide seven. What we are illustrating here is what we all know; fixed income is not one investment service but several. They all behave quite differently in a rising rate environment, the chart at the left shows the beta of various bond indices against a market weighted index of all U.S. treasuries. Look at how the co-relation varies across the spectrum of fixed income services from a beta of point 8 for U.S. credit index to 0.44 for intermediate munis to zero for emerging market bonds and to minus 25 basis points for high yield credit.

So why would you expect U.S. credit or munis to underperform in an environment where rates are rising from these levels and the economy is expanding emerging markets or high yield debt is more apt to perform like a stock than a bond. Now look at the pie on the right which breaks out our fixed income business by AUM. We do have a good size U.S. credit business though more than half of it is with less interest rate sensitive insurance clients that focus on matching liabilities with assets.

We also have a meaningful and growing business insured to intermediate munis. But we’re big as well in global strategies like high income, emerging market debt which have a zero to negative correlation in U.S. treasuries in most environments. You can look at it this way, within half of our fixed income business is in services with less than 0.5 correlation to U.S. treasuries. So even though we don’t see a rise in U.S. rates as eminent we’re happy to have a global and diverse fixed income franchise that we do today.

Now let’s look at our equities investment performance on slide eight, our newer stability equity services like market neutral, low vol and select U.S. equities have served our clients well through the volatile markets for the past several years. In growth the changes we have made in people, process and approach have paid off this year in improved performance. Strategies like U.S. large cap and emerging market growth outperform for the one year and global research growth a service that has had challenges for some time narrowed its underperformance gap considerably.

But our big performance shift came on the value side in the fourth quarter, every one of our largest strategies outperformed by at least 100 basis points. Two things happened in the fourth quarter which we layout on slide nine, correlations came down and fundamentals became more relevant. Look at the top chart, S&P stock correlations which averaged 0.2 for 30 years spiked to the high 40s from 2008 through the third quarter of 2012 before suddenly recovering by 10 basis points the fourth quarter to 0.37. While that’s still high of course it's a lot lower than what we have been living through in the past. Now look at the bottom left chart which shows returns for the highest quintile and are large cap universal stocks minus the lowest quintile using key value factors for the quarter of 2012 which were annualized versus average long term low correlation periods. We have discussed in previous calls that value factors such as low price to book, price to earnings and enterprise value to EBIT have performed poorly in the past few years. In the fourth quarter these factors surged outperforming even low correlation periods on average over the long term.

High correlations make active management difficult since stocks are moving similarly even if their fundamentals are different. With correlations down stock pickings have a chance to work again as you can see from the chart at the bottom right, the performance of U.S. active managers improved significantly in the fourth quarter relative to the first three quarters of 2012 and well exceeded the prior 12 year average. We said for a while that the markets will ultimately reward our investment discipline and consistently exposure to these value factors. This could be the beginning of that turn.

Now on to retail highlighted on slide 10, I have mentioned earlier that our momentum here was unmistakable in 2012 and here is more evidence of that. We had record annual gross sales of 56 billion driven by growth in every region and triple digit growth in EMEA, Japan and Asia, ex-Japan. We had consecutive 5 billion plus net inflow in the quarter in the second half and our highest annual net flows since 2000.

We experienced strength in legacy offerings like global high yield in America income. Each had record sales in 2012, and our sales of our newer offerings doubled in 2012 to 8.5 billion and were 15% of total gross sales. I can’t mention our retail franchise without mentioning Asia. A region where we truly dominate in fixed income. Look at the chart at the bottom left, we have grown our AUM there by more than 580% since 2008 and now command a leading market share in Taiwan and Hong Kong. I’m impressed by what our client group has been able to accomplish in Asia. I know we have only begun to capitalize on the opportunity to serve this important fast growing client base. Let’s move on to Private Client who has also been focused on enhancing our investment solutions for our clients. I’m now on slide 11, on the top left is what a traditional client portfolio used to look like and on the top right is what Bernstein fully diversified investment solutions look like today.

Our clients want three things, more diversification, more consistency and better risk management. So we have launched a series of enhancements to meet those needs, dynamic asset allocation is designed to mitigate volatility while maintaining returns and appropriate allocation alternatives can approve portfolio outcomes overtime offering like real asset and bond inflation help protect against inflation spikes and taking in multi-style all cap approach to equity investing with strategic equities offerings can deliver stable performance in different market environments. They are working; DAA has reduced volatility and client portfolios by 11% since inception while maintaining returns. Another way to look at this is that DAA has allowed our 60% equity portfolios to maintain the return with the volatility of a 50% equity portfolio.

Strategic equities has added important diversification U.S. stock portfolios and clients are responding well to our alternatives offering which we have made more broadly available through our new way. We are not done, we will keep enhancing our service offering our best advice, investment insight in a flexible approach where clients come first and because we have kept clients properly allocated to equities throughout the market cycle. Our Private Clients business stands to benefit the most in a sustained equity rally. I will finish our business highlights with Bernstein Research Services on slide 12.

Throughout the year we saw greater revenues stability in this business than the declining global trading volumes that suggest and the fourth quarter was no different. That’s clear from the top of this slide. Our fourth quarter earnings were up both sequentially and year-over-year while U.S. and Europe trading volumes were flat to down sharply. For the year Bernstein Research revenues were down just 5%, though the U.S., European and Asia equity markets all sustained double digit volume declines. Our strategy to grow in this consolidated industry and gain share profitably is working. Eight new analyst wants coverage in Europe and Asia during 2012 and we believe we will reach critical math in Asia research this year.

We have achieved triple digit growth in Asia revenues and clients in the past three years; again and again we heard the same message from clients Bernstein Research is simply in class by itself. Our research model is portable and great source of pride for our firm. To wrap up 2012 it represented tremendous growth for AB, and a year when we were able to demonstrate tangible success with our long term growth strategy. Slide 13, highlights our accomplishments when performance we continue to outperform in fixed income and demonstrated improvement in core growth and value equities.

We will look to extend both in 2013. On diversification and globalization fronts we built upon our retail dominance in Asia and our EMEA institutional business were back. Our engagement with client is more frequent and diverse since it's been years and we have continued our successful global sale side expansion. Speaking innovation 2012 cap four years of relentless innovation for our clients, we launched a 145 new offerings that have together attracted 60 billion in new assets. We have also grown our presence in both the U.S. and UK to find contribution space as product innovators and thought leaders. Finally on our financials we have added 1.8 percentage points to our adjusted operating margin in 2012 finishing with an annual margin of 18.8. Our goal is to continue improving our margin by staying vigilant on expenses regardless of the revenue environment.

Our strategy is working, we’re getting better delivering for our clients, our firm is much stronger today than it was a year ago. I feel good about what the future holds for us and AB. Now I will turn over to John for the discussion of the quarter’s financials. John.

John Weisenseel

Thank you Peter. As a reminder I will focus my remarks today primarily on our adjusted earnings. As always you can find our standard GAAP reporting in the appendix of this presentation of our press release and our 10K. Let’s start with our adjusted financials on slide 15. Fourth quarter adjusted revenues were up sequentially but down on an annual basis. Fourth quarter adjusted expenses were essentially flat sequentially but annual expenses were down. Our adjusted operating margin in the fourth quarter was 20.6% up from 20.2% in the third quarter.

The full year adjusted operating margin was 18.8% up from 17.0% in 2011. Adjusted earnings per unit were $0.40 per the quarter versus $0.36 in the third quarter. For the full year adjusted earnings per unit were a $1.28 versus $1.14 in 2011. Now I will review the quarterly GAAP to adjusted operating metrics reconciliation on slide 16.

Here you can see the adjustments we make to our gap revenues and expenses and the net impact on fourth quarter operating income. Two adjustments throughout the difference between gap and adjusted operating income in the quarter.

First we adjusted for $39 million non-cash real estate charge we took in the fourth quarter which was included in GAAP expenses. I’ll discuss the detail for this charge in the coming slides. Second, we excluded from net revenues 2 million of investment losses related to the 90% non-controlling interest in the venture capital funds.

Slide 17 provides the full year GAAP to adjusted reconciliation. Similar to the fourth quarter reconciliation the largest driver and the differences in GAAP and adjusted operating income was the 223 million in non-cash real estate charges, we recorded throughout the year related to our global real estate consolidation plan. Now I will turn to the adjusted income statement on slide 18.

Adjusted net revenues of 578 million for the fourth quarter increased 1% sequentially; full year revenues of approximately 2.3 billion were down 7% from 2011. Adjusted operating expenses was 459 million were flat sequentially, full year expenses were approximately 1.8 billion were down 9% from the prior year. Adjusted operating income of 190 million for the quarter increased 3% sequentially, full year adjusted operating income of 424 million was up by 2%. Adjusted earnings per unit was $0.40 of which approximately $0.04 represents a change in estimate of the federal tax benefit relating to the first nine months of 2012. Our cash distribution will also be $0.40 per unit this quarter. For the full year adjusted earnings per unit were a $1.28 up from a $1.14 in 2011 and our distribution was a $1.23 per unit from a $1.14 in 2011.

Slide 19 provides more detail on adjusted revenues, base fees for the fourth quarter increased 2% sequentially due primarily to an increase in retail average AUM. The 10% decline for the full year is due to lower institutional and Private Client average AUM and the continued shift from equities to lower fee investment strategies. Today equities are about 1% of our total AUM versus close to 1/3 a year ago.

Performance fees declined from the third quarter when we are significant performance fees associated with the successful liquidation of our public private investment program of PIP fund. Annual performance fees increased by $32 million due to PIP liquidation in the third quarter and fourth quarter fees earned on our fund to fund offerings. Bernstein Research Services fourth quarter revenues increased 3% sequentially on higher trading activity. On an annual basis revenues were down 5% as a result of a steep drop in trading volumes during 2012 partially offset by market share gains. Investment gains and losses included state investments, our 10% interest in the venture capital fund and our broker dealer investments.

In the fourth quarter we had lower gains, in our seed capital investments compared with the third quarter. For the year we had gains our seed capital investments versus losses in 2011 as well as lower broker dealer investment losses.

We ended the fourth quarter with 476 million in seed capital investments and $18 million quarterly increase as a result of both additional net investments and market appreciation. Total adjusted net revenues were up 1% sequentially and down 7% for the full year. Now let’s review our adjusted operating expenses for the quarter and the year on slide 20.

Beginning with compensation expense, as you know we accrue total compensation excluding other employment cost such as recruitment and training as a percentage of adjusted net revenues. We accrued compensation at approximately 49% ratio in the fourth quarter and a 49.8% for the full year. Total compensation and benefits for the fourth quarter decreased 2% sequentially due primarily to the lower compensation ratio for the quarter. The 9% full year decrease is due primarily to lower adjusted net revenues head count and compensation ratio.

We ended the fourth quarter with 3318 employees down 12% for the year. Now looking at our non-compensation expenses, fourth quarter promotion and servicing expenses increased 12% sequentially due to higher client related travel and entertainment versus our seasonally slow third quarter and higher marketing and advertising cost associated with the launch of our U.S. defined contribution ad campaign during the fourth quarter.

For the full year promotion and servicing was down 7% due primarily to lower T&E and trade execution cost partially offset by higher marketing and advertising. In addition to the recent U.S. DC ad campaign we also launched fixed income campaigns in the U.S. and Asia in 2012. Fourth quarter G&A expenses increased 1% sequentially as higher legal expenses were partially offset by occupancy and office related expense savings associated with our ongoing global real estate consolidation plan.

On an annual basis G&A cost declined by 10% due primarily to real estate related expense savings and lower technology expenses. Total adjusted operating expenses were flat sequentially for the quarter and down 9% for the full year. Now let’s move on to slide 21, adjusted operating results. Adjusted operating income for the quarter was a 190 million up 3% sequentially. For the full year adjusted operating income of 424 million was up 2%. Adjusted operating margin of 20.6% for the fourth quarter and 18.8% for the full year increased versus both prior periods. Higher adjusted net revenues throughout the sequential margin expansion and for the full year expense reductions outpaced in decline in revenue.

Adjusted earnings per unit of $0.40 for the fourth quarter compares to $0.36 in the third quarter and a full year’s $1.28 compares with a $1.14 in 2011. As I discussed earlier about $0.04 of the $0.40 represents a change in estimate of a federal tax benefit for AB Holding relating to the first nine months of 2012. AB Holdings income tax is computed by multiplying certain AllianceBernstein LP qualifying revenues by holdings ownership interest in AllianceBernstein LP multiplied by the 3.5% tax rate.

To compute this tax, AB Holdings ownership interest and AllianceBernstein LP was adjusted to exclude holding units owned by AllianceBernstein LP's rabbi trust. This estimate change was recorded during the fourth quarter and is effective for the full 2012 tax year and on a go forward basis. This change resulted in lower holding taxes of $6 million for the full year 2012 of which 4.2 million related to the first nine months of the year. We expect to realize similar annual savings in holding taxes in the future. Finally the effective tax rate for AllianceBernstein LP for 2012 was 6.8%.

This is higher than our 5% forecast at the end of the third quarter due primarily to higher than anticipated fourth quarter income at foreign locations with higher tax rates. At this juncture we expect at 2013 full year effective tax rate of approximately 6% for AllianceBernstein LP.

I’ll close today by providing you with an update on our real estate consolidation plan outlined on slide 22. We’re scheduled with our global real estate consolidation plan which we started in 3Q, 2012 and our estimates for the total charges as we expect to incur and related expense savings we expect to realize have not changed.

We still project total non-cash real estate charges of 225 million to 250 million resulting in approximately 38 million to 43 million in annual expense savings. To-date we have recorded 207 million of charges and realized 9 million of expense savings. We expect the remainder of the charges to be recorded throughout 2013 although we may not incur charges in every quarter and we expect the full run-rate of most of the total annual savings to be reflected in our financials by the end of 2013. The actual timing of both the charges and related expense savings will depend upon when we vacate specific floors and market them for sublease.

Though our estimates are based on current assumptions we do expect that the actual total charges have actually recorded and related expense savings realized will defer from our current estimates as market conditions change overtime. We’re pleased with our progress so far and believe its comprehensive real estate consolidation plan combined with our continued focus on cost will position our firm for stronger future.

With that Peter, Jim and I are pleased to answer your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Your first question comes from the line of Matt Kelley from Morgan Stanley. Your line is open.

Matthew Kelley - Morgan Stanley

Just wanted to get a sense on the Private Client business. Can you talk about the expectation of these investors? You laid out pretty well what the diversified stimulation is that you guys are running for them and then towards the back in the appendix you gave the performance versus broader market indices. So I’m just wondering how you know are you migrating customers towards thinking about that simulation that way or they already, is their mindset already there and are they happy with their performance? And what do they want from the performance?

Peter Kraus

The Private Client is of course an individual or a set of individuals that have varied different investment objectives and we spent a lot of time with each of our clients trying to understand what their risk and return attributes look like as a family unit and sometimes as individuals. And so much of what we ultimately design for an individual family is based upon that conversation what their cash needs are and what those risk parameters are. But the ultimate engine of allocating capital and providing that solution that the client wants that meets their specific unique family situation is driven by the strategic equity process and the dynamic asset allocation, capital structure and the alternatives platforms that we have, not to mention the historical muni business that we run for a long period of time.

So you know the building blocks of what a Private Client ultimately wants we have I think evolved into a more sophisticated, more sensitive set of investment services for clients but the actual construction of that and what we actually do for each client is unique and that is based upon the conversation we have with them. So to get to your question about client expectations I think those client expectations have changed over time as our advisors have worked with our clients and prospects on what it is that they want to accomplish in the more volatile markets that we have experienced and how would we array the investment services that we have created and evolved so that it would meet their needs.

Matthew Kelley - Morgan Stanley

And then my follow-up and then I’ll jump back in. On retail in January, I know you put out your January numbers this morning, just wonder if you can comment a little bit on the change in the trend from a strong fourth quarter to what seems like slight outflows in January. Anything notable to call out there or any other color you can give there will be helpful. Thanks guys.

Jim Gingrich

We have been in Asia ex, where we are for a long time and I think that’s where we saw a tick up in redemptions, we are happy with our level of gross sales, we are happy with our performance but we did see a tick up in redemptions. We have seen this before, it's nothing that we are hugely concerned about either way and I think what we have seen is that there is a market where people chase yield and we have a situation I think where people are moving down the credit spectrum in January whether or not that continues going forward we will see, nothing that we’re particularly concerned about either way.

Peter Kraus

To Jim’s point you also noted that in January there was about a 20 basis point move in long term treasuries and we generally don’t get 20 basis point moves a month.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Cynthia Mayer from Bank of America. Your line is open.

Cynthia Mayer - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Maybe just a question or follow-up on that when you said they were moving down the credit spectrum what were they moving to and if that would continue would you, is there any way for you to migrate them to one of your products. And then second of all just in terms of your pie-chart on what kind of fixed income you have, how should we think about the percentage of that that’s high yield. Thanks.

Peter Kraus

Well on the last piece first, I’m not sure I have that number in my mind but if you follow-up with Andrea she can give you that number. On the first question look we have been, American high income as a product is a core product in investment portfolio throughout Asia and in the United States, it's marketed that way, it's constructed that way, it's intended to be that. And so there are points in time when you know markets in fact when credit is effectively getting stronger where portfolios that have more exposure to credit will perform better in that environment. Now you know we advise our clients that you have an allocation to American income because you want a core allocation to a stable service and that remains the core selling point of that service. We have other services that actually do have more credit exposure and clients can migrate to that but in instances in which you see you know monthly moves in markets that are larger than normal either away from credit or towards credit and in this case credit was getting stronger, you can have that impact, it can have that impact on that core service.

I don’t think that underscores, I don’t think that undermines the necessity of the core services and the attractiveness of the core service and as Jim said and I think as both I and John had said our gross sales for the services continue to remain quite strong and we don’t see any evidence of that meaning the gross sales been weaker.

Cynthia Mayer - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Okay, if I can follow-up, in Private Client it looks like the flows are better but still outflows in January. So can you maybe update us a little bit on sort of numbers of FAs and whether there is any trend in terms of sort of stabilizing the number of FAs keeping them in place or numbers of accounts something other than AUM.

Peter Kraus

I would say that our Private Client business and I have spent a fair bit of time out with FAs and clients, it is experiencing some positive momentum. You could say that the number of FAs that have left voluntarily has declined but I’m a conservative fellow and I’m not want to projecting that in any direction. I think that is generally a function of the aggressiveness of other parties and what drives other parties to that level of aggression and you know in interest in compensating to buy people out is very hard to predict and I have learned over time that’s just not estimable.

What I do think is important in terms of retention of top talent in the business is that people meaning FAs are excited about the platform, excited about the variety of investment services that we have created, the flexibility of the business and frankly their ability to service our clients in many different market situations with many different kinds of families and I think when you see that and you see the excitement in FAs and then recognize as I said the improving process of people staying or the higher retention of people staying I think you get a sense of the momentum has turned towards the positive.

So I think we feel better about the Private Client business, it still has plenty of work to do both to grow into net positive flow goes into expand our business but it's very, very solid business, core business for the firm. I think we have invested a lot of effort in both the investment side and in the fundamental thinking of how to service big family and I think that’s going to pay dividends overtime.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Michael Kim from Sandler O'Neill. Your line is open.

Michael Kim - Sandler O'Neill

First Peter I would just be curious to get your take on kind of recent step up in equity mutual fund flows that we have seen across the industry, you know how much of that do you think is kind of more tactical in nature versus maybe clients getting more comfortable moving up the risk curve and then assuming that investors do trend in that direction. How incremental do you see that being for your flows?

Peter Kraus

Michael that’s a good question but obviously a tough question, I think as we have said over the last 18 months we have been nervous as investors have been more and more of reliant on fixed income to get returns and as I have said that equities will provide returns in excess of fixed income as they have for 10s and 10s of years and we still believe that. Now that doesn’t mean that we believe investors are going to be sell fixed income wholesale and run to equities. In fact the monthly numbers in January as I’m sure you have noted suggest that there are some equity flows but December was a really bad month for equity flow. So it's very difficult to project off of January as an inflection point because you know in December you had the opposite behavior and the economy didn’t really change you can say the fiscal cliff you know discussions maybe got resolved, maybe didn’t get resolved. I think a better statement of the state of being is that investors are beginning to recognize that fixed income should play more traditional role in their portfolio and that the outside returns that they have gotten from fixed income are unlikely to continue and that some rotation therefore in their risk budgeting is necessary and I think we definitely see that going on at clients both institutional, retail and private clients and that rotation into other kinds of investments whether they be equities or alternatives is frankly something that we would celebrate and support because there are many fixed income services actually that we offer that have positive can actually give to them that investors will want in this market.

There are equity services that we think like value and the longer term growth prospects that we also think investors returning to and we also think the alternative side in both hedged product and risk seeking product is also a place that we feel comfortable inviting clients. So frankly I think this is a little bit more of an evolution as an opposed to a revolution. I don’t think that we see investors heading for the doors of fixed income and celebrating the wonderful returns of equities. But I do think it's going to begin to go in that direction overtime just because you can’t expect to get the returns that you have received in last 10 years in long bonds in the future. And I think that’s actually what’s underneath this.

Michael Kim - Sandler O'Neill

And then just second question thinking about all of the new strategies that you have come to market with over the last several years, are there any products that might be approaching kind of three year track records or any other milestones as you look across kind of the equity and fixed income strategies either here in the U.S. or in any international markets?

Peter Kraus

There are and I think for us as you know in the last three years we have tried to build as I mentioned in my comments a much broader set of options across both equities, fixed income and non-traditional investment services and we need to get to the point where they all have three year track records and we’re still in the process of doing that. But there are some products that we have hit three year track records, real assets is one example, in municipal area intermediate products and I think we’re getting to the high yield three year track record as well but I suspect that we’re still one year away from having the dominant or majority of those new assets, new services having their three year track record. So we still think that there is significant growth opportunities out of that portfolio of options that we have built as we get to the third year of returns and we have good returns and then we start to see much stronger flows into those services because their track records have become mature.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of William Katz from Citi. Your line is open.

William Katz – Citi

Can you talk a little bit about on margins I think the comp ratios is about 49%, if I read the numbers correctly. How much of that was just a through up so the full year versus a newer run-rate?

Jim Gingrich

That was basically through up and we were going at the year 49.8 so basically, 50 percent in ’08 so basically after 50% we have talked about and I wouldn’t anticipate that our planning for 2013 is any different than the 50% run-rate we have talked about in the past.

William Katz – Citi

Okay just a clarification, in your real estate discussion the savings so far are those annual numbers? Just talking about the incremental savings from here.

John Weisenseel

Those savings were what hit in the quarter so there was 2 million in Q3 another 7 million in Q4 so but that will be the annual, that’s part of the annual going forward so as we talked about the end goal here is 38 million to 43 million we have nine of that on an annual basis.

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Your next question comes from the line of Marc Irizarry from Goldman Sachs. Your line is open.

Marc Irizarry - Goldman Sachs

Peter can you talk a little bit about the diversification in some of the Asia ex-Japan region and the regions outside of the U.S. in terms of retail. How much concentration of those gross sales are there and products and is really the opportunity here sort of build out products, outside the U.S. sort of back filled what new strategies are coming in?

Peter Kraus

I spend a fair bit of time myself in Asia and not just Japan or Australia but Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea and the firm has built a terrific brand throughout Asia, Japan and non-Japan Asia and you could see it in the growth sales and it's not just in Taiwan where we have a very significant share and it's not just in Hong Kong where we have significant share and it's not just in Singapore where we are also building a big business, it is not just in Korea, we are actually well known. You know it's been all of those places and in a way they are all connected because I mean the distributors in those markets operate in many of the same markets, the global bank UBS, HSBC, Credit Suisse to name three are obviously distributing in many of those markets and the strong Chinese banks in Taiwan and in Hong Kong were also in many of those markets and those platforms are broad and diversified. So we have a strong brand, a strong set of products and a strong opportunity with partners who are growing rapidly throughout that region and that is a big opportunity for us and for our partners in offering their clients broaden investment services.

We have noted for a long period of time that Asia is a market where investors are attracted to yield and a monthly cash flow and other diversifying kinds of investments less so in equities but we see more interest in equities over time, regional equities, Asia ex-Japan is a big product for us or service for us in that market place. We shouldn’t skip Australia which has been a tough market for us in the last four years because of our very large size there and the superannuation industries investment in equities but I think if that’s going to adjust too, I think that industry will come back into equities and that will be opportunity for us. So when I look across Asia for AllianceBernstein our track record, our brand, our footprint, our penetration in the many different distributors in that market. We have a terrific opportunity as markets recover and as investors take more risk and move out into different products and having it frankly had some of the more challenging experiences that Europeans and Americans have had with the traditional core services.

So we think that there is big opportunity there and although we haven’t been banging the table that hard about our capabilities in Asia we probably should start but that’s a huge growth part of the world and a place where AllianceBernstein brand is frankly at the top.

Marc Irizarry - Goldman Sachs

Okay and then just quickly on the institutional flows which are up pretty nicely sequentially, is there any more AXA related outflows that we should be aware of?

Peter Kraus

Well AXA from time to time will buy things and sell things and when it does you know it will impact on us. As you know their revenues are I think less than 5% around that of our….

John Weisenseel

4% of our total revenues and 25% total AUM.

Peter Kraus

So the AUM is big, the revenues are low and I think that you know the changes in AXA are not strategic to us, you know they will have modest positives and modest negatives on the revenues over time. I think that so I don’t think the AXA thing is much of an impact, what was the other point you raised?

Marc Irizarry - Goldman Sachs

That was the question, any (inaudible) if you can give us? That was all set.

Peter Kraus

More impact on institutional yes, just a comment on institutions, we had positive numbers for January in institution. I think what that really is getting at and we have said this a number of times is deeper conversations with consultants around the world, more RFPs, better performance in equities, strong and consistent performance in fixed income, longer track records and alternatives. It's you’re beginning to see a penetration of that and we have always told you that we have got very strong and deep relationships with the institutional community and with investors even through the period of tough performance and I think that if you keep at it and you keep servicing your clients and being in front of them with good ideas and explaining even in periods of underperformance why you believe in a stocks that you believe or why you own the securities that you know. You earn that respect and when things do change and they do people will notice and I think that you’re beginning to see.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Matthew Kelley from Morgan Stanley. Your line is open.

Matthew Kelley - Morgan Stanley

I just wanted to quickly follow-up on the institutional flows for January. In terms of kind of by product where you’re seeing versus the pipeline, is the pipeline a pretty good representation of the January inflows or was there anything else that kind of came in and worked its way through? Thanks.

Peter Kraus

I think that it's relatively consistent. We said in the call that our fixed income penetration in the U.S. is up handsomely from historical levels. Again reflecting the strength of fixed income and the volatility of fixed income. We have noted in the pipeline that they were equity services that were also being won by us and that will continue. Those services have strong track records and significant interest both in the United States and overseas. So you know I think the institutional picture is developing nicely although it's lumpy, you will have good months and bad months that’s just the way the institution works but I think you see all the things we have been talking about and I mentioned in the previous answer to Mark’s question are beginning to take some shape.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of William Katz from Citi Group. Your line is open.

William Katz – Citi

When you think about the incremental drivers to the margin, soon recognize the real estate opportunity in front of you and I recognize the competition at the Private Client side. What takes the margins up from the year, is it more of a top line driven opportunity set or are there more things you can do on expenses?

Peter Kraus

I think that what we have tried to build going forward is some dynamism in both ends of the equation meaning that we do think that there is some more for us to get in expense mostly we have more opportunity in real estate but we’re going to continue to be vigilant about driving expense down where we can throughout the organization but I would say to you that revenues will play the larger part in the expansion of the margin going forward. We can’t cut our way to you know huge margins we have always said that was not our plan but we also said to you and I would repeat that we’re never going to be done where they spent us, we can always be more efficient and we will attempt to figure out how to do that and I think that you will see that overtime.

But we have to grow the business too and I think we have been satisfied, we’re not happy but satisfied that we’ve seen some growth this year and we’ve seen turnaround in our core services and we think that will lead to revenue growth and there is significant operating leverage in that revenue growth.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Cynthia Mayer from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Your line is open.

Cynthia Mayer - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Just maybe a follow-up to that, you outsourced to State Street and I’m wondering what impact that could have on expenses because I think correct me if I’m wrong that’s more variable based on how you see, so would that have a positive or negative impact or no impact at all if AUM rose from here. Thanks.

John Weisenseel

The decision to outsource to State Street was really not a cost driven situation, it was more of a core competence in terms of the services that are being provided. They have a better core competence to provide those services than we do. The migration is actually happening over a period of a couple of years, currently we had transfer some of our headcount over to them and again charged on a per FTE basis. Once we convert over to those systems which right now is scheduled for some time in 2014 towards the later part we will switch over to a variable base pricing which will be a function of AUM and the number of transactions that are done.

Operator

With no further questions in queue. I’ll turn the call back over to Ms. Prochniak for any closing remarks.

Andrea Prochniak

Thank you everyone for participating in our conference call today. Feel free to contact me in the investor relations with any further questions you might have. Thanks and have a great day.

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