Global ETF Review 2018: Insights into a multi-trillion dollar industry | BetaShares

Global ETF Review 2018: Insights into a multi-trillion dollar industry

BY Ilan Israelstam | 20 February 2019
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Quick read – Summary:

  • We launched the first edition of the quarterly BetaShares Global ETF Review – analysing the key trends & developments in the industry outside Australia.
  • The global ETF industry ended 2018 at US$4.8 trillion in assets under management (AuM), posting a robust annual growth rate of 20% since 2005.
  • In the US in 2018,  passive funds (including traditional unlisted mutual funds and passive ETFs) attracted net inflows of US$431 billion. In comparison, active mutual funds in the U.S. reported net outflows of US$418 billion, the highest level of annual outflows for this category on record.
  • In the larger and more mature market of the U.S., ETFs represent about 16% of the size of the broader mutual fund industry. Comparatively, in Australia, penetration is at about 1.5%. While recent growth has been fast, we believe Australian investors are just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to ETF usage.
  • Fears that the popularity of ETFs has fuelled sharemarket volatility are unfounded and data from 2018 assists in debunking this myth.
  • There has been strong growth in  ESG/ ethical oriented products. ETF AuM grew by 26% year-on-year.
  • There has also been strong growth in smart beta strategies- recording growth in flows of 10% compared with 2017, and reaching a record high of $86B in 2018.


Reading time: 4 min

We recently launched the first edition of the quarterly BetaShares Global ETF Review – a complement to our monthly Australian-focused publication which focuses on the local ETF industry, and analyses key trends and developments in the industry outside of Australia. Looking at more mature ETF industries globally is a great way to gain insight into the potential future for our own Australian market, and that future looks bright!

The full report is available for download, but I’ve captured some key highlights below.

Index strategies dominate investor preferences

The global ETF industry ended 2018 at US$4.8 trillion in assets under management (AuM), posting a robust annual growth rate of 20% since 2005. The strength of the ETF industry can be largely explained by the growing preference for passive strategies, which still dominate the global ETF space. More broadly, unlisted funds (known as ‘mutual funds’ in the U.S.) are also evidencing a tilt towards passive strategies. In the U.S. in 2018, passive funds (including traditional unlisted mutual funds and passive ETFs) attracted net inflows of US$431 billion. In comparison, active mutual funds in the U.S. reported net outflows of US$418 billion, the highest level of annual outflows for this category on record.

The chart below clearly illustrates the trend away from traditional active mutual funds. Interestingly, since 2012, there have been net inflows into Active ETFs as well as Passive ETFs, indicating investor preferences for the ETF structure whether or not the underlying investments are actively or passively managed.

us passive active flowsSource: Bloomberg.

Investor preferences are perhaps even more strikingly evidenced in the chart of U.S. Equities Mutual Fund v ETF flows. With both categories including both passive & active strategies, the investor trend towards the ETF product wrapper is very clear!

us equities mutal fund flowsSource: Bloomberg.

As is the trend in Australia, investors around the world are continuing to focus their attention on asset allocation, which has been demonstrated, over time, to be responsible for the vast majority of investors’ returns.  The cost-effectiveness, transparency and accessibility offered by ETFs makes them appealing for all investor types, whether an institutional asset allocator, a financial advisor, a high net worth individual, or a millennial who is just starting to build an investment portfolio.

Compared to larger and more mature markets, such as the U.S. and Canada, Australia sits behind in terms of net inflows and size. Putting the size of the industry in context, in the most mature industry globally, the U.S., ETFs represent about 16% of the size of the broader mutual fund industry. In Australia, the penetration is far smaller, at about 1.5%, evidencing the growth opportunity in our local market. While recent growth has been fast, we believe Australian investors are just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to ETF usage and believe that the local ETF industry is positioned for a period of strong growth.

Who owns the sharemarket? Not ETFs.

The popularity of ETFs has raised concerns that they themselves are fuelling sharemarket volatility, but these fears are unfounded. The data from 2018 assists in debunking this myth.

As per the graph below, which compares the flows of U.S. Equity ETFs traded in the U.S. vs the performance of the S&P 500 Index, market moves were entirely independent from flows into and out of exchange traded funds.

s&p 500 index returns vs us etf flowsSource: Bloomberg

December 2018, for example, saw a strong market decline, despite the positive inflows coming from ETFs. It’s this kind of data that is helpful to concretely debunk one of the most common myths about ETFs. Saying ETFs can move markets makes little sense – they’re designed to replicate what their underlying securities do. Nothing more, nothing less!

 

Spotlight: ESG and smart beta on the rise

Two of the key trends observed by our research were the rise of ESG/Ethical orientated products and smart beta strategies.

In the U.S. last year, ESG ETF AuM grew by 26% year-on-year, while inflows grew even more rapidly with 57% annual growth.

Smart beta exchange-traded products also grew fast in 2018. Smart beta exchange-traded products – funds which weight constituents based on a methodology other than market capitalisation – recorded growth in flows of 10% compared with 2017, reaching a record high of $86B in 2018.

Between 2009 and 2018, flows into Smart Beta strategies have experienced a compounded annual growth rate of 60%. As the popularisation and sophistication of the ETF industry and of investors around the world continue to grow, we predict the uptake of funds with differing methodologies to continue to be adopted.

Sector, asset class and country preferences

The industry report provides insight from the full year 2018 and Q4 as a way to illustrate investor sentiment in relation to asset class, sector and regional exposures. More detail can be obtained via the report itself. In summary:

  • Meaningful declines in the share of flows into equity ETFs and towards fixed income ETFs across 2018.
  • For the full year, significant increases in flows to North American exposures at the expense of European products – a striking contrast to flows in the fourth quarter, which saw flows to North American exposures drop significantly and go instead towards ex-US global exposures.
  • At a sector level, over the course of 2018, a large increase of flows into technology, health care and thematic exposures and away from financials – again however in Q4 those technology flows dried up and went instead into defensive equity sectors such as utilities, communications and consumer staples.

The Global ETF Review will be published each quarter with our next scheduled publication date in early April.

 

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