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Portfolio > ETFs

ETFs Grow Slowly in Wraps

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A study released Monday finds that while ETFs are growing within national broker-dealer wraps such as those at institutions like Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, UBS and Wells Fargo, growth has been slow and more or less tracks the growth rate in mutual funds in wraps since mid-2009.

By the end of 2010, ETFs made up 25% of retail fund (mutual fund + ETF) assets in wrap, or fee-based advisory, programs at national broker-dealers. That was up from 22% at the end of 2008.

The study from Strategic Insight, a report called “How Financial Advisors Use ETFs,” says that in part the reason for this is that some of the heaviest ETF users in such wrap programs drifted back to mutual funds as the stock market rose.

Loren Fox, senior research analyst at Strategic Insight and the report’s author, said in a statement, “This study provides a window into how advisors are using ETFs in NBDs—thus, by implication, providing a sense of how they’re being used by advisors in other broker-dealers, as well as among RIAs.”

“ETFs,” he explained, “continue to gain ground in national broker-dealer wrap programs, but most of their growth is in newly invested assets—not through advisors who are selling out of active mutual funds in order to switch such assets into ETFs. ETF firms have great opportunity in capturing incremental growth, while mutual fund firms have an opportunity in winning back advisor interest via innovative funds.”

The study found that, within national broker-dealer wraps, the most popular kinds of ETFs in 2010 were very similar to mutual fund favorites. The three most popular, by net inflow, were emerging markets equity, specialty (a group that includes gold and other commodities, natural resources, and inverse ETFs), and taxable fixed income. Except for inverse funds, these three were also among the most popular categories in mutual funds during 2010.


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