Content provided by Grant Engelbart, CFA, CLS Portfolio Manager
How much have Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) grown so far this year? The quick answer is “tons” (TONS, ironically, is the ticker symbol of the ETF launched this year with the lowest assets). So far this year, 112 exchange-traded products have been launched, on pace to match last year, which saw 207 products launched. Of these, three have already gained over $100 million in assets under management.
Here are a few trends deciphered from this year’s product launches and ETF flows:
- First is the rise in actively managed ETFs, of which 12 products have been launched, including the SPDR DoubleLine Total Return ETF (TOTL), the largest ETF launched this year. Actively managed ETFs have thus far been most successful in the fixed income realm. BlackRock/iShares’ newly launched U.S. Fixed Income Balanced Risk (INC) is an actively managed fixed income product and is the fifth largest ETF launched this year.
- We’ve also seen a rise in currency-hedged product issuance. This year, 11 products have been launched, including WisdomTree Europe Hedged Small Cap (EUSC). This fund has raised over $200 million in assets, making it the third largest fund launched this year. Flows into currency-hedged products have been very strong, although less so as the dollar has slowed its climb recently.
- Another strong trend is in “strategic,” or “smart” beta. In sum, 42 products have been launched in this space, and asset growth continues to climb substantially. Essentially, smart beta funds re-weight traditional indices by something other than market cap in an attempt to provide incremental excess return. It can be thought of as an overlap between active and passive management. Low volatility, dividend weighting, and quality are all common examples.
- Finally, there has been an expansion of the issuer base for ETFs. Fifteen new issuers have launched ETFs for the first time in 2015 (ironically). The usual players – iShares, State Street, Vanguard, and PowerShares – have only launched 32 of the 112 new ETFs trading this year. Companies such as Elkhorn, Lattice, Highland, and Tuttle have ventured into the ETF world to name a few.
ETFs are definitely here to stay. In my opinion, some of the best ideas in asset management are being developed in the form of new ETFs. As the ETF marketplace grows and evolves, the due diligence and trading expertise required to purchase new and more intricate ETFs must also improve and increase.