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Passive Investing - August 2015



    Confirmation came from research and consultancy firm ETFGI, which reported there was $2.971trn (£1.908trn) held in ETFs at the end of the second quarter of 2015, while a new report by Hedge Fund Research revealed there was $2.969trn invested in hedge funds.

    ETFGI claims there are 5,823 ETFs and exchange-traded products listed globally, compared to 8,497 hedge funds worldwide, which means ETFs are far more efficient at gathering assets.

    Those figures are all the more remarkable considering the ETF industry is only 25 years old, with ETFGI quick to point out hedge funds have reached the ripe old age of 66.

    The remarkable rise of ETFs, and of passive products in general, seems to pose a serious threat to traditional actively managed funds, which are increasingly associated with high fees.

    In contrast, ETFs and other tracking products are generally cheaper to buy and sell. Passive investments also tend to be more liquid, more transparent, and able to track even quite specialised indices, offering exposure to a range of asset classes.

    In particular, fixed income ETFs are gaining in popularity among investors, with BlackRock recently predicting global fixed income ETF assets will likely surpass $2trn by 2025.

    The bond ETF market has already grown to a healthy $459bn globally, the asset manager pointed out, despite the market having launched only 13 years ago in Europe.

    Usually an industry that demonstrates such rapid growth does not go unnoticed, least of all by regulators. The Securities and Exchange Commission has voiced its interest in closer scrutiny of the ETF market in the US, so UK investors might want to monitor closely any actions the regulator might take as this may well spur the Financial Conduct Authority to adopt similar measures.

    Investors may be wondering where next for the ETF industry. Will it continue gathering assets unabated? Or is there a limit to investors’ interest in passive products like ETFs? Indeed, can some of the biggest passive providers continue to flood the market with new products?

    Well actually, yes. In the same week ETFGI’s figures came out, online trading platform IG Group announced it will be offering clients access to ETF-based investment portfolios through its stockbroking platform, with a little help from BlackRock’s model portfolios.

    In the accompanying press release, Ian Peacock, head of UK and Ireland at IG Group, boasts that portfolios comprised of passive investments, like ETFs, “have the potential to disrupt the investment management industry, challenging the traditional high-fee approach to asset management”.

    Michael Gruener, co-head of sales for iShares EMEA at BlackRock, adds: “The global ETF market is currently growing at a rate of 20 per cent per annum.”

    This move should alert the active fund management industry that the passive sector is not afraid to challenge norms in order to cater to investors’ changing demands.

    Ellie Duncan is deputy features editor at Investment Adviser

    In this special report


    Please answer the six multiple choice questions below in order to bank your CPD. Multiple attempts are available until all questions are correctly answered.

    1. Towers Watson reports its global institutional investment clients allocated more than what figure to smart beta strategies in 2014?

    2. According to Viktor Nossek because of the near-zero short-term interest rates in the US and eurozone the cost of hedging the euro against the dollar would have been approximately what, on average, this year?

    3. The global ETF market is currently growing at what rate per year, according to Michael Gruener?

    4. Increased computer power meant quantitative investing really started to take off in what decade?

    5. How old is the ETF industry, according to research by ETFGI?

    6. Research shows the bond ETF market has already grown to a healthy $459bn globally, but at what level does BlackRock predict global fixed income ETF assets will likely surpass by 2025?

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