The most recent EDHEC Risk Institute’s European Exchange Trade Funds (ETF) survey* provides valuable insights into the developing trends and innovation in relation to the use of ETF in a diversified and robust portfolio.
The following Post outlines the key findings of the EDHEC ETF survey, which is well worth reading.
The changing Purpose of using ETFS
Increasingly ETFs are being used for tactical allocation purposes. Historically the dominant purpose of ETF usage has been to gain a truly passive investment, a long-term buy-and hold investment to gain broad market exposures via the major market indices.
Results by EDHEC indicate there is now a greater usage of ETFs for tactical allocations rather than their role for long-term positions (53% and 51% respectively).
The survey also noted:
- Gaining broad market exposure remains the focus of ETF for 73% of users, compared with 52% of respondents using ETFs to obtain specific sub-segment exposure.
As EDHEC note, the increasing focus on sub-segment exposures can be linked to product development, “which has led to the introduction of new products for a multitude of sub-segments of the markets (sectors, styles etc.). It also correlates with the growing use of ETFs for tactical allocations, which tend to favour a more granular investment approach over broad exposures.”
ETF Use continues to Grow**
The adoption of ETF continues to grow, particularly for the traditional asset classes. “In 2019 91% of respondents used ETFs to invest in equities, compared with 45% in 2006. As for governments and corporate bonds, the result went from 13% and 6% in 2006, to 66% and 68%, respectively, in 2019…”
“Investors prefer ETFs for traditional asset classes over alternative asset classes in line with this expression of conservatism in their use of ETFs, which is mainly focused on gaining access to broad market exposure”….
The Survey recorded a high level of satisfaction by investors with ETF in the traditional asset classes.
The survey also notes:
- A high percentage of investors (46%) still plan to increase their use of ETFs in the future, despite the already high maturity of this market and high current adoption rates
- Lowering investment cost is the primary driver behind investors’ future adoption of ETFs (74% of respondents in 2019).
- ETF investors are planning to increase their ETF allocation to replace active managers (71% of respondents in 2019) and replace other passive investing products through ETFs (42% of respondents in 2019)
Future Growth and ETF Innovation Drivers
“Ethical/SRI and smart beta equity / factor indices are the main expectations for further development of ETF products”
Further developments where called for in the following market segments:
- 31% of respondents wished for further development of Ethical/Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) ETFs.
- ETFs related to advanced forms of equity indices – namely those based on multi-factor and smart beta indices – 30% and 28% of respondents
In aggregate 45% of respondents would like further development in one of the following areas of either smart beta indices, single-factor indices, and multi-factor indices.
More specifically, the EDHEC Survey found that “respondents would like to see further development of smart beta and factor investing products in the area of fixed income”……“The integration of ESG into smart beta and factor investing, and strategies in alternative asset classes (currencies, commodities, etc.), closely follow.”
EDHEC conclude, “It is likely that the development of new products corresponding to these demands may lead to an even higher take-up of smart beta and factor investing solutions.”
Criteria for selecting ETF Providers
The two main drivers of selecting an ETF provider are Cost and the quality of Cost and Quality of Replication. These two criteria dominate the survey results.
The long-term commitment of the provider, range of solutions, and level of innovation also rank highly.
Smart Beta and Factor Investing
The EDHEC Risk Survey has a large section on the drivers of using Smart Beta and Factor Investing Strategies.
Motivation for Smart Beta and Factor investing strategies include improving performance and managing risk
Albeit, the adoption of these strategies is a small fraction of portfolio holdings.
EDHEC found that there was a preference for passive for open-ended passive funds to invest in equity products, and active solutions to invest in fixed income products.
In relation for smart beta and factor investing the “take-up remains partial despite more than a decade of discussion in the industry, with the vast majority of adopters investing less than 20 per cent of their portfolio in such approaches.”
They find that this is partly due to a lack of ‘transparency and difficulty in accessing information about such strategies”….“In the case of fixed income strategies, investors express doubts over the maturity of research results at this stage. They also see a need for further development of long/short equity strategies based on factors, strategies that address client-specific risk objectives, and strategies that integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations.”
Personally, I see an increasing demand for smart beta and factor investing within fixed income strategies. Whether this is within an ETF structure, time will tell.
Therefore, for product provides to capture the growth and innovation outlined above, as EDHEC highlight, there is work to be done “to improve their solutions for smart beta and factor investing strategies if they are to make it into the mainstream.”
This is an area of opportunity for ETF providers, particularly if it includes an ESG overlay.
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* The 2019 EDHEC survey gathered information from 182 European investment professionals concerning their practices, perceptions and future plans. Respondents are high-ranking professionals within their organisations (34% belong to executive management and 42% are portfolio managers), with large assets under management (42% of respondents represent firms with assets under management exceeding €10bn). Respondents are distributed across different European countries, with 12% from the United Kingdom, 70% from other European Union member states, 14% from Switzerland and 4% from other countries outside the European Union.
* * At the end of December 2018, the assets under management (AUM) within the 1,704 ETFs constituting the European industry stood at $726bn, compared with 273 ETFs amounting to $94bn at the end of December 2006 (ETFGI, 2018b).