Relationships help fund firms retain assets, says Cogent Research.

So which fund firms do advisors favor most? According to a new Cogent Research report, advisors favor American Funds among mutual fund providers and iShares among ETF providers.

According to the report, 16% of 1,741 retail investment advisors surveyed felt the strongest connection with American Funds. Meanwhile, 37% favored iShares among ETF providers.

"Relationships are helping fund firms retain assets over time," said managing director Tony Ferreira. "American Funds for example have outflow issues, but the truth is advisors still choose them for their practice. A lot of fund firms may or may not be in favor, but those brands that advisors feel strongly about, they want to retain those."

In fact, advisors reported they felt personal connections with several firms, even when they were not currently using their products. Non-users' favor is a strong indicator for a provider's future momentum, said Linda York, director of research.

Firms that non-users felt more connected with than any other providers in the category, including their current providers, included J.P. Morgan Funds (5%), PowerShares (9%) and Jackson Life (11%).

Many of the fund firms noted by advisors are large players in their respective markets. Runners-up for the mutual fund category included Franklin Templeton, BlackRock and J.P. Morgan, while PowerShares, State Street, First Trust, and Vanguard followed iShares in the ETF category.

While mid-size firms like Ivy Funds and DoubleLine Capital may not have made the lists this time, stronger relationships should help these firms penetrate the market, Ferreira said.

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