When it comes to choosing mutual funds, there’s more to life than just investment performance. At least that’s what financial advisors say about the fund companies they like to work with.

Though advisors certainly value long-term performance track records, they are also interested in their asset managers’ unique investment processes or expertise in specific asset classes, according to Cogent Research. “The investment philosophy, or distinguishing investment approach is actually more important now to advisors than just raw performance numbers,” says Linda York, vice president in the syndicated division at Cogent, which is now part of Market Strategies International.

In Cogent’s recently released “Advisor Brandscape” report, the company looked at 24 leading mutual fund companies and scored each according to financial advisors’ stated intent to either increase or decrease investments with them. The ratings were determined by calculating the net intent by advisors to increase or redeem investments, and the results were indexed along a continuum from +100 to -100.

The average score for the group was 27, and results ranged from a low of 1 to a high of 45.

Topping the list of fund companies with the highest scores was Dimensional Fund Advisors, which clocked in at 45. DFA offers a suite of equity and fixed-income funds whose strategies are based on applied academic research from financial economists such as Eugene Fama, Kenneth French and Robert Merton.
“Relatively few financial advisors use DFA funds, but those who do absolutely love them and they stand out in the eyes of advisors,” York says.

Other high-scoring funds include Pimco (with a score of 36), Vanguard and Franklin Templeton (both of which scored 33), and Ivy Funds and T. Rowe Price (both of which scored 32).

The Advisor Brandscape report is conducted annually, and the firm surveys more than 1,700 financial advisors in the U.S.