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May 11, 2010 (05:05 PM EDT)

Exclusive Study Shows Shift in Investments As More Than One-Third Rank Among 'Mass Affluent'

Plus: Their Picks for Top 10 Financial Services, Bank Brands

NEW YORK, May 11 /PRNewswire/ --, the national business news website, today revealed results of an exclusive sentiment, investing and brand-preference study of small to mid-sized business owners in the U.S., conducted by American City Business Journals (ACBJ). The findings reveal shifting investment trends among the one-third of these business owners who rank among the "mass affluent." The exclusive study probed attitudes and investment strategies, and revealed clear brand preferences within the banking and financial services sectors.

"Business optimism has rebounded in the group compared to the all-time lows we saw in 2009, though perceptions of banks are lagging that of other financial-services companies," said Godfrey Phillips, Vice President for Research at ACBJ. "Today, SMB owners represent a robust, $605 billion opportunity to the financial services industry, with those having a portfolio of more than $250,000 planning to invest more than $60,000 this year."

That said, investment strategies are shifting, added Phillips: "Fewer are sourcing their financial advice from traditional full-service brokerage companies. And they're showing a definite return toward real estate, retirement IRAs and annuities."

The study found some 1.17 million high-value SMB owners with average investment portfolios of $518,000 representing some 33% of the SMB market. The study also found that affluent business owners are predominantly men, earn more than $228,000 per year, are well-educated and live overwhelmingly in urban and suburban counties. They run successful ($6 million to $11 million in annual revenues) and well-established (28-31 years) businesses.


"This group is showing a clear return to trusted brands, with more than 77% saying they look to buy from well-known brands in down times," said Phillips. "Overall, the strongest financial services brands in 2010 were TDAmeritrade, the Vanguard Group, E*Trade and Charles Schwab."

According to the study, the top 10 most trusted financial services brands now are: TDAmeritrade, The Vanguard Group, E*Trade, Charles Schwab, NASDAQ, Fidelity, Principle Financial Group, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Morgan Stanley and Raymond James. Meanwhile, the top 10 bank brands for the group comprise: US Bank, BB&T, Wells Fargo, HSBC, Chase, Key Bank, SunTrust, Capital One, Northern Trust and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

The biggest gainers in the rankings compared to 2009 results were TDAmeritrade (up 67 points from last year's ranking), U.S. Bank (up 46 points), and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (up 45 points).  Also showing sizeable gains: Principal Financial Group, Key Bank, E*Trade, and Morgan Stanley.

The annual study was conducted with 1,762 business owners, CEOs and presidents of companies with more than one employee. The study also included additional interviews or augments specifically with companies that have 1-4 employees, 100-499 employees and more than 500 employees. These augments, each of which has at least 100 respondents, allowed ACBJ to look in-depth at these particular size groups of business and business owners.

About is a national business news site that provides services for small and mid-sized business executives. Comprising original, in-depth reporting, thought-provoking insights, colorful features, exclusive analysis of custom research, and an intelligent business-news filtering tool, is the first national business media outlet dedicated solely to delivering actionable news and information to this coveted audience. relaunched in December 2009 as the information destination for business executives, insiders and strategists within the growing and profitable American City Business Journals.

About American City Business Journals

American City Business Journals engages 13.5 million decision makers each month through the company's 40 newsweeklies, 42 Web sites, digital newsletters and more than 400 local events across the country. It is the largest publisher of business-to-business information in the United States. More than 4 million readers each week engage with exclusive, in-depth coverage of local business communities; some 9 million unique monthly users engage with the company's digital content; more than 11 million e-newsletters are delivered each month via email; and the company sees more than 1 million mobile page views each month. American City is a unit of Advance Publications Inc., which also operates Conde Nast Magazines, Parade magazine, Fairchild Publications, the Golf Digest companies, Newhouse Newspapers and cable television interests.

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