Dividend payers deserve a berth in any long-term stock portfolio. But seemingly attractive dividend yields are not always as fetching as they may appear. Let's see which companies in the investment management industry offer the most promising dividends.

Yields and growth rates and payout ratios, oh my!
Before we get to those companies, though, you should understand just why you'd want to own dividend payers. These stocks can contribute a huge chunk of growth to your portfolio in good times, and bolster it during market downturns.

As my colleague Matt Koppenheffer has noted: "Between 2000 and 2009, the average dividend-adjusted return on stocks with market caps above $5 billion and a trailing yield of 2.5% or better was a whopping 114%. Compare that to a 19% drop for the S&P 500."

When hunting for promising dividend payers, unsophisticated investors will often just look for the highest yields they can find. While these stocks will indeed pay out the most, the yield figures apply only for the current year. Extremely steep dividend yields can be precarious, and even solid ones are vulnerable to dividend cuts.

When evaluating a company's attractiveness in terms of its dividend, it's important to examine at least three factors:

  1. The current yield
  2. The dividend growth
  3. The payout ratio

If a company has a middling dividend yield, but a history of increasing its payment substantially from year to year, it deserves extra consideration. A $3 dividend can become $7.80 in 10 years, if it grows at 10% annually. (It will top $20 after 20 years.) Thus, a 3% yield today may be more attractive than a 4% one, if the 3% company is rapidly increasing that dividend.

Next, consider the company's payout ratio, which reflects what percentage of income the company is spending on its dividend. In general, the lower the number, the better. A low payout ratio means there's plenty of room for generous dividend increases. It also means that much of the company's income remains in its hands, giving it a lot of flexibility. That money can fund the business's expansion, pay off debt, buy back shares, or even buy other companies. A steep payout ratio reflects little flexibility for the company, less room for dividend growth, and a stronger chance that if the company falls on hard times, it will have to reduce its dividend.

Peering into investment management
Below, I've compiled some of the major dividend-paying players in the investment management industry (and a few smaller outfits), ranked according to their dividend yields:


Recent Yield

5-Year Avg. Annual Div. Growth Rate

Payout Ratio

Och-Ziff Capital Management (NYSE: OZM) 17.7% 95.2%* NM
AllianceBernstein (NYSE: AB) 7.6% (15.3%) 96%
KKR Financial (NYSE: KFN) 6.2% (17.9%) 18%
Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX) 2.3% (24%) 53%
BlackRock 2% 25.1% 38%
T. Rowe Price 1.8% 34% 43%
Invesco 1.7% 7.1% 43%
Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE: BAM) 1.6% 8.3% 22%
Lazard 1.1% 6.8% 37%
Ameriprise Financial (NYSE: AMP) 1.1% 10.4% 17%
SEI Investments (Nasdaq: SEIC) 0.9% 16.5% 16%
Franklin Resources 0.8% 15.5% 13%
Legg Mason 0.7% (26.6%) 11%

Data: Motley Fool CAPS.
*Over past two years. NM = not meaningful due to negative earnings.

If you focus on dividend yield alone, you might end up with Och-Ziff Capital Management and AllianceBernstein, but they're not necessarily your best bets. Och-Ziff's huge dividend yield doesn't seem very sustainable, since the company has been reporting negative earnings lately. And AllianceBernstein's dividends have varied widely in recent years, with its recent payout ratio leaving little room for significant growth.

Instead, let's focus on the dividend growth rate, where Och-Ziff, T. Rowe Price, and BlackRock lead the way. Och-Ziff's heady growth only applies over a couple of years, though, since its dividend is rather new. And all three growth rates are so steep that they may be hard to maintain for long (though T. Rowe Price and BlackRock have low enough payout ratios to make that a less immediate concern). Peering even more closely at companies with solid yields but lousy dividend growth can also pay off. While KKR Financial's dividend has shrunk over the past five years, it has actually roughly doubled its dividend over the past year.

Just right
As I see it, BlackRock offers the most promising combination of dividend traits. It sports a 2% yield, a healthy dividend growth rate, and a reasonable payout ratio. It offers some income now and a good chance of strong dividend growth in the future. For those seeking more income now, AllianceBernstein and KKR Financial are worth considering, as well.

Of course, as with all stocks, you'll want to look into more than just a company's dividend situation before making a purchase decision. Still, these stocks' compelling dividends make them great places to start your search, particularly if you're excited by the prospects for this industry.

Do your portfolio a favor. Don't ignore the growth you can gain from powerful dividend payers.

To get more ideas of great dividend-paying stocks, read about "13 High-Yielding Stocks to Buy Today."

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. BlackRock is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. SEI Investments is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. Brookfield Asset Management is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. The Fool owns shares of Legg Mason and T. Rowe Price Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.