In general terms, a money manager can be described as someone who helps investors meet their needs and objectives for investments, tax planning, asset allocation, retirement planning, risk management and estate planning.

The firms making up this year's list deal with all kinds of investing, including money-market accounts, mutual funds, real estate and, of course, stocks and bonds. All told, these 25 companies manage assets totaling $893.6 billion, a 36 percent increase over assets managed by last year's top 25 firms.

Just over half of the top 25 firms on the list manage foreign assets, an area that seems to be changing. Last year, the most common foreign asset was American Depository Receipts, which allow U.S. investors to buy and trade shares of international companies on U.S. exchanges rather than in overseas markets. This year, investing directly in foreign stocks is becoming a much more common practice as information becomes more readily available and global communication becomes easier and more widespread.

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