MarketMuse update is courtesy of CNBC. CEO and Founder of Betterment , Jon Stein, offered his commentary on this issue to CNBC. Betterment is an automated investing service that provides optimized investment returns for individual, IRA, Roth IRA & rollover 401(k) accounts.
There’s a natural progression in the way the public responds to innovation. Something that first seems like a mere novelty becomes an interesting new niche, then a great idea and then, “How did we ever get along without this?”
In financial services, exchange-traded funds are somewhere around the third or fourth stage, between new niche and great idea. ETFs attracted more net investment last year ($239 billion) than did mutual funds ($225 billion), according to data from Morningstar. Five years earlier the net inflow into mutual funds was more than triple the net amount invested in ETFs.
In the last five years, the public’s affinity for ETFs raised assets under ETF management by 152 percent, to $2 trillion, up from $793 billion. Mutual fund assets only rose 53 percent during the same period.
Faster and cheaper information system infrastructure has helped the growth of ETFs. In my view, ETF portfolios will be the inevitable default for investors in the years to come because they are lower cost, more transparent and offer greater liquidity and tax advantages than mutual funds. Already, the increasing number of assets invested with automated investing services, which use all-ETF portfolios, underscores this shift.
By passively and systematically tracking an index, ETFs are far cheaper to run than most actively managed mutual funds that employ portfolio managers and analysts to select securities. That research costs money, and so does the frequent trading that’s common in such funds—they call it “active management” for a reason—not to mention the buying and selling of fund shares themselves, transactions that always involve the fund provider.
ETFs also feature greater transparency. Their underlying portfolios change more rarely because the indexes that they’re based on generally maintain stable lists of components. The high turnover of many mutual funds and the fact that their holdings are reported only four times a year can make it difficult for shareholders to know exactly what they’re holding.
It’s not just the specific securities that can keep mutual fund investors in the dark. The broad nature of the fund itself can become obscured by what’s called “style drift.” Say growth is outperforming value; the managers of value funds, consciously or not, may start tilting toward more growth-oriented stocks.
Depending on what else they own, shareholders may become overweight in growth stocks and not even know it. By contrast, a value-stock ETF will hold value stocks no matter what.
ETFs are more transparent in another sense. The very low expenses and commoditized nature of ETFs make commissions and “kickbacks” to brokers or retirement-plan sponsors impractical. So if an ETF is recommended by an advisor or made available by a broker or retirement-plan sponsor, it’s likely to be an unbiased recommendation.
For the complete article from CNBC, click here