04.11.2014
By Terry Flanagan

Fund Managers Eye ETF Adoption

Providers of ETFs and mutual funds are using targeted marketing approaches to match the right products with the right customers.

With ETFs use climbing among active investors, both retail and institutional, packagers of ETFs view the product as a low-cost vehicle for investors to access alternative strategies such as those employed by hedge funds, many of which act as sub-advisers for the ETFs.

ETF use among registered investment advisors (RIAs) has grown nearly 27% annually over the past 5 years, according to research firm Cerulli Associates anticipates this growth to continue.

“The allocation to ETFs among RIAs grew 48% from 2011 to 2012,” said Kenton Shirk, associate director at Cerulli. “The RIA channel is an extremely attractive opportunity for asset managers.”

ETFs gained popularity as a cost-effective method to achieve diversification, but with increased adoption they have evolved to cover a wide variety of investment strategies.

“ETFs provide an easy way for managers to offer out products to alternative investors,” said David Beth, president and chief operating officer at WallachBeth Capital. “The ETF wrapper is very easy and transparent.”

Fund manager Direxion offers leveraged and inverse ETFs for active traders looking to execute short-term trading strategies.

“We consider ourselves a provider of alternative investment strategies,” said Andy O’Rourke, Direxion’s chief marketing officer. “We also have a few strategy-based non-leveraged ETFs that they have rules-based indexes, such as KNOW, which is an ETF that tracks the buying activity of corporate insiders on the secondary market.”

Direxion recently unveil a marketing campaign designed to inform experienced active traders about the potential benefits of the firm’s 3X leveraged ETFs. A departure from simply highlighting the flexibility of trading in either direction, the marketing campaign’s 60-second television commercial invites active traders to join “The Fellowship of the Bold.”

“Our original approach was a much more straightforward ad campaign, the line of thinking being to just make sure they are aware of the product, know what the ticker is, so if they are inclined to invest in that particular asset class or sector they can do so,” said O’Rourke. “The approach with the new ads is to try to capture people’s attention a little bit more through higher production values.”

Direxion offers liquid alternatives in the form of mutual funds that provide exposure to commodities, managed futures, and currencies. “We are not your plain vanilla type of a mutual fund company,” said O’Rourke. “These products are geared toward people who are looking to build out their portfolio with certain types of non-correlated asset classes.”

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