ETF Advisor-Loyalty Study: Vanguard Tops iShares

A Cogent Research study found that Vanguard ETFs capture about $5.5 million in assets per advisor vs. $5.7 million for iShares.

Vanguard is now the top-ranking ETF provider in terms of advisor loyalty, says Cogent Research, which performed and funded the independent study.

Cogent's recent survey of 1,560 financial advisors found that Vanguard had a gain of 10 points in its loyalty score this year vs. a drop of 8 points for iShares, which came in second.

(The scoring system was developed by Bain & Company and has been used in a variety of industries, according to Cogent).

State Street/Spiders ranked third overall, while PIMCO came in fourth.

The study found that Vanguard ETFs currently capture about $5.5 million in assets per advisor vs. $2.3 million last year.

The AUM-per-FA figure for iShares is now $5.7 million.

Vanguard outperformed all other major ETF providers in nine of 10 critical areas of client experience and service, explained Meredith Lloyd Rice, a senior project director for Cogent, in a phone interview. She says that fees and expenses are not among the top critical areas.

The top attributes advisors cite when describing ETF-provider loyalty include consistency of performance (including the tracking of errors), transparency and the demonstration of integrity and honesty, and the projection of a bold investment philosophy.

"The momentum in terms of loyalty is with Vanguard," said Lloyd Rice.

While iShares is ahead in terms of market penetration among advisors, 87% vs. Vanguard's 42%, Vanguard ETFs tend to have lower expenses. For instance, the iShares Emerging Markets Index Fund has an expense ratio of 0.72%, while the Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF has an expense ratio is 0.27%.

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