Institutions Favor Smart Beta ETFs

Terry Flanagan

Institutional investors report they are increasingly using smart beta Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), according to a new study conducted by Cogent Research, a division of Market Strategies International.

The results reveal that more than half (53%) of institutional decision makers will increase their use of smart beta ETFs over the next three years – higher than any other ETF category, including market-cap weighted ETFs (48%).

Smart Beta is an alternative and selection index based methodology that seeks to outperform a benchmark or reduce portfolio risk, or both. Smart beta funds may underperform cap-weighted benchmarks and increase portfolio risk.

“These results echo what we are hearing from our clients and confirms what we have seen with industry-wide flows: non-market cap weighted ETFs have captured 25% of the equity ETF inflows year to date, despite representing only 12% of the assets,” said John Hoffman, Invesco PowerShares director of ETF institutional sales and capital markets. “Furthermore, the research results show that interest in the smart beta category is being driven by a desire to improve risk-adjusted returns, reduce volatility and gain access to more sophisticated weighting methodologies.”

According to the study, larger institutions (those managing in excess of $500 million in assets) are twice as likely to agree that smart beta ETFs provide better risk-adjusted returns relative to market cap weighted ETFs – highlighting the focus on managing risk in today’s market.

“We are seeing an increasing amount of interest and usage of non-market cap weighted solutions among institutions,” said Dan Draper, Invesco PowerShares managing director of global ETFs. “The study results reveal that more than half of institutional decision makers agree that smart beta ETFs can be used to manage portfolio volatility.”

Survey respondents identified a number of ETF providers that offer smart beta products, however, nearly three-quarters (72%) of current smart beta users indicate PowerShares offers truly innovative ETFs. Another 62% believe Invesco PowerShares offers a breadth and depth of ETF offerings, and is a product and service innovator in the category.

“We’ve been working diligently to educate investors and to build awareness for our smart beta offerings. We believe our broad range of solutions can be used to meet the current and future challenges of institutional asset managers,” Draper added. “We’re proud that the vast majority of smart beta users consider us a leader in the category and we are committed to providing thought leadership for investors on this front.”

The data contained within the analysis was collected from 193 participants between September 5 and October 2, 2013. A 15-minute online survey was administered by Cogent Research, a division of Market Strategies International, to institutional decision makers, including pensions, endowments/foundations, non-profit institutions, mutual funds, as well RIAs who manage institutional assets. All institutions had at least $20 million in assets and allocated at least 1% of their assets to ETFs. Institutional RIAs had at least $25 million in assets under management – a portion of which was managed on behalf of institutional investors.

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