We love the Trend of the Week, if only because ETFs have proven themselves to be the real deal. And once boomer clients got hip to mutual fund shortcomings (high fees, tax inefficiency) – to say nothing of the industry scandals of 2003 and 2004 – the arrival of ETFs could not have been better timed. But with all the excitement and hype that surrounds the product, let’s maintain perspective. Mutual funds are still the dominant investment product ($12.04 trillion in assets by ICI’s latest count) and will remain so for some time. Think fly on an elephant, although ETFs are admittedly an extremely large and noisy fly.
As Chip Roame of Tiburon Strategic Advisors notes, “mutual funds are used heavily by both the fast growing independent rep and fee-only financial advisor markets (39 percent and 61 percent of assets respectively) suggesting that mutual funds aren’t going away, even if much of the reporting and media focus is on other products.” And Roame reminds us that the $12.04 trillion mutual fund figure compares with ETFs’ $608.42 billion. ETFs, hedge funds, SMAs – all exciting products, but don’t fail to remember the old mainstay in your clients’ well-diversified and properly allocated plans.