Institutional Investor: Rumors Are Flying About a State Street Global Advisors Deal. Here’s What It Could Mean.

December 14, 2020 Media

Reports that State Street Corp. may sell or spin out its $3.1 trillion asset management business have been met with “mixed feelings” from analysts and other industry observers.

Bloomberg reported Friday afternoon that State Street was “exploring options for its asset management business,” State Street Global Advisors, including a possible merger with a rival asset manager. The report said that State Street had evaluated potential deals with competitors including the asset management units of UBS Group and Invesco, citing people familiar with the matter.

Whether that conflict is actually eliminated, however, depends on the structure of any potential deal, according to Graham Steele, director of the Corporations and Society Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Steele recently authored a paper on the “outsize influence” of State Street and the rest of the “Big Three” asset managers for the American Economic Liberties Project, a non-profit focused on antitrust policy.

In the paper, Steele advocated for breaking up State Street and its rivals Vanguard and BlackRock in order to reduce what he views as risks to financial market stability. One option, he said, was to separate State Street’s “systemically important” custody business — and the data it gathers — from SSGA’s “concentrated” asset management business. This won’t necessarily be achieved by the deals that are reportedly under consideration, according to Steele.

“There are ways of spinning stuff out that would remain a joint venture where the two entities could be linked in some way,” he said. “That would still create some of the same issues.”

Meanwhile, Steele said a merger between SSGA and another asset manager would increase the concentration of assets and stock holdings among the top three managers. However, he said regulators are likely to support any combinations with firms outside of the “Big Three.”

“Anything that increases competition among those three or adds a fourth or fifth player is seen as good for competition because it’s not all concentrated into the hands of one entity,” he said.