What happened

The stock market was having a mildly strong day on Monday, with all three major market indices up by 0.5% or less as of 2:30 p.m. EST. But Affiliated Managers Group (NYSE:AMG) was a big standout, with shares of the asset management firm higher by more than 14%.

So what

The company reported its fourth-quarter earnings, and the results were significantly better than investors had expected.

Couple meeting with advisor.

Image source: Getty Images.

Starting with the headline numbers, Affiliated Managers Group handily surpassed expectations on both the top and bottom lines. While earnings of $4.22 per share represented a decline from the same period in 2019, it was about 14% higher than analysts had been looking for. And revenue of $554.4 million came in more than $40 million higher than estimates.

The company's adjusted EBITDA grew by 27% year over year, and although assets under management declined slightly, fee income ticked higher by 2.4%.

Affiliated Managers Group also reported that it repurchased 10% of its outstanding shares in 2020, a pretty aggressive buyback rate. And the majority of the repurchases took place in the fourth quarter.

Now what

2020 was a rough year for the asset management business and the entire financial sector as a whole, but 2021 is shaping up to be much stronger. It appears that Affiliated Managers Group got through the tough times in decent shape and is in a good position to move forward in 2021.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.