Exchange Traded Funds, or ETF by its initials, are the trendy security in the last years. Their assets have doubled in the last five years, as this BlackRock chart shows, although there is a reduction in January 2016, because of the general volatility of the equity markets:
ETF are there to stay. There will be no reversal. In this short history (although they exists since the end of the 1980’s), there have been a few entities that have specialised in creating and selling these products: iShares by BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street, as the following table shows:
But why are ETFs so successful? Why is there an offer from a few to 1,800 different products in so short period of 10 years? Flexibility, low fees and trading like stocks are some of the advantages against traditional mutual funds. Although there are also some disadvantages, investors still look at them as a very attractive asset. The explosion of them as a business contributed to create a long list of specialised media in Internet, because professionals and individuals have been looking continuously for information about them.
The design of an ETF is very different depending the cases: equities, fixed income, money market, commodities… They replicate an index or track a collection of securities or sectors in the known as passive management. After creating the product, there are only some adjustments every certain period, but the product performs independently of the manager.
In T-Advisor, our Watchlist has a long list of ETF categorised by their strategy for our registered users:
It is just an option, but it is interesting to consider because of its price transparency linked with diversification. You invest in a diversified product, that means that you reduce some risks, and you have steady information of the price fluctuation, against mutual funds, whose prices are updated when markets are closed. In costs, they are cheaper than mutual funds. Yes, they are more expensive that a share, but you have to consider the above-mentioned diversification.
This is probably the reason of the success: the combination of the flexibility and transparency of a share and the diversification of a mutual fund. A survey conducted by EY in 2014 already talked about the promising future of ETFs amongst wealth managers and invertors. That future is already here.