Before embarking upon the journey of building effective ETF portfolio combinations, advisors should have a logical framework. This means keeping the investors’ goals foremost in mind, regardless of what type of investors they are.
What’s Your Framework?
To that end, FlexShares, the sponsor of several ETFs, argues having the right framework “aids the portfolio construction process” along with helping advisors to select appropriate investments.
Aside from the usual factors such as time horizon, risk tolerance and age, there are other questions to be answered. FlexShares identifies four important aspects of developing an optimal portfolio building system: capital appreciation, income generation, risk management and liquidity. Each of these factors plays a vital role in the portfolio construction and management process.
A financial advisor without a framework, is like a baseball slugger without a bat. Not only is it impossible to get hits without foundation, but it’s impossible to succeed without tools. Now let’s look at the tools.
Ideal Bond Mix
On the fixed income side, finding the correct balance of bond exposure in a client’s investment account is always a challenge. The Fixed Income Portfolio Builder tool at iShares.com is a good place to start.
The tool allows you to choose a target yield that aligns with the risk tolerance and duration needs of the client. After inputs are entered, it generates a suggested bond ETF mix based upon different interest rate levels and credit risk. The tool also allows advisors to enter a customized bond portfolio for comparison purposes.
For a moderately risk-tolerant investor with target effective duration of 10 years, the simulator suggested an 49.99% allocation to the iShares Emerging Markets Corporate Bond Fund (CEMB), 36.52% to the iShares Barclays 20+Year Treasury Bond Fund (TLT) and 13.49% to the iShares Barclays 7-10 Year Treasury Bond Fund (IEF). The blended average holding period for bonds in the underlying ETFs worked out to be 15.18 years.
The Bigger Picture
Many brokerage platforms offer online portfolio building tools that cater to ETF focused advisors. For example, the Fidelity ETF Portfolio Builder tool allows you to construct a customized ETF portfolio with funds across various families. Weightings of the actual ETF holdings inside the portfolio can be modified and benchmarked against corresponding market indices.
Another choice is to outsource portfolio construction. Folio, based in McLean, VA, offers over 100 pre-designed investment portfolios called “Ready-to-Go Folios.” Each combination is built around a particular investing strategy—like an industry sector, investing style, geographic region or retirement goal. Every Ready-to-Go Folio has an overview of the securities within the investment portfolio along with performance tracking.