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BlackRock Launches iShares Robotics and AI ETF: Portfolio Products

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BlackRock is expanding its suite of thematic iShares ETFs with the launch of iShares Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF (IRBO).

This new ETF gives investors the ability to access companies that are creating rapid advancements across a wide variety of industries.

“Secular trends in technology aren’t confined to any one industry or geography, and that is particularly true for the broad-sweeping influence we see with robotics and AI driving innovation across all industries today,” Mark Alberici, head of iShares product innovation at BlackRock, said in a statement. “Investors looking to capture these long-term technology shifts now have a targeted solution available that reaches around the globe to offer exposure to leaders in robotics and AI.”

IRBO seeks to track an index that utilizes a rule-based security selection process to target the robotics and AI value chain.

IRBO offers investors access to two innovative and interconnected themes. As the components of the underlying index are equally weighted, IRBO is not dominated by mega-cap names and provides equal-weighted access to companies specializing in innovations across robotics and AI.

IRBO seeks to track the investment results of the NYSE FactSet Global Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Index, composed of developed and emerging market companies that could benefit from the long-term growth and innovation in robotics technologies and artificial intelligence.

Vanguard Files for 2 New ESG ETFs

Vanguard filed a preliminary registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for two new exchange-traded funds.

The new ETFs — Vanguard ESG U.S. Stock ETF and Vanguard ESG International Stock ETF — will complement Vanguard’s existing FTSE Social Index Fund and are expected to begin trading in September.

The Vanguard ESG U.S. Stock ETF will seek to track the FTSE US All Cap Choice Index, a market-cap weighted benchmark comprising large-, mid-, and small-cap U.S. stocks screened on specific environmental, social, and governance criteria.

The Vanguard ESG International Stock ETF’s target benchmark will be the FTSE Global All Cap ex US Choice Index, a market-cap weighted benchmark comprising large-, mid-, and small-cap stocks in developed and emerging international markets (excluding the U.S.) screened on specific environmental, social and governance criteria.

The estimated expense ratios for the new ETFs are 0.12% and 0.15%, respectively.

Vanguard’s Equity Index Group will serve as the investment advisor for both ETFs.

Fidelity Launches Sustainability Bond Index Fund

Fidelity Investments expanded its suite of sustainability-focused index funds with a new fixed income offering: the Fidelity Sustainability Bond Index Fund.

The fund is available directly to individual investors, as well as through third-party financial advisors and workplace retirement plans.

The share classes have total net expense ratios of 0.20% for the investor class (FNASX), 0.13% for the premium class (FNBSX), and 0.10% for the institutional class (FNDSX).

In addition to launching the Fidelity U.S. Sustainability Index Fund and Fidelity International Sustainability Index Fund in 2017, Fidelity also became a signatory of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and created an ESG office in its asset management division to further the integration of ESG considerations into investing practices.

Franklin Templeton Launches 3 New Emerging Market ETFs

Franklin Templeton recently filed for a trio of emerging market ETFs tracking cap-weighted indexes, according to

The three proposed funds are the Franklin Latin America ETF, the Franklin South Africa ETF and the Franklin Saudi Arabia ETF.

The filings did not include tickers or expense ratios. The filings also do not provide much information about the funds’ underlying indexes, according to

Toronto-Based Emperor Investments Enters U.S. Robo Space

Emperor Investments, a robo-advisor with a technology platform built on 40 years of investment experience, announced its official launch.

The new firm, based in Toronto, is exclusively targeting U.S. retail investors looking for personalized equity portfolios, which are chosen by Emperor’s proprietary technology and evaluated by a team of investment professionals.

A key distinguisher of Emperor’s model is the firm’s focus on personalized portfolios that are invested directly in dividend-paying equities, not ETFs. To accomplish this, Emperor leverages the power of their algorithms to narrow down the universe of U.S. investable companies into a “dream team” selection, based off insights gleaned from four decades of investment experience by Francis Tapon, CIO and co-founder of Emperor.

Emperor’s model allows clients to have as many custom portfolios as they like, each one keyed to a different life goal, which in turn comes with its own unique investment horizon and risk appetite.

An initial investment of just $500 nets the investor a range of pure equity portfolios at a cost of 60 basis points.

Opportunity Fund Launches Small Business Impact Fund

Opportunity Fund, which a nonprofit community development financial institution, launched its Small Business Impact Fund.

The fund directly provides loans to underserved small-business owners, primarily minority and women-owned businesses in low-income communities.

Opportunity Fund’s Small Business Impact Fund, which debuts at $11.15 million, builds on the California-based organization’s nearly 25-year history of providing responsible and affordable small-dollar loans to underserved entrepreneurs who often don’t have access to affordable loans from conventional lenders.

This fund will have a significant impact on borrowers in underserved communities who struggle to attract affordable, responsible capital for their small businesses. Over five years, the $11.15 million raised so far will yield more than $38 million in loans for small businesses, create and retain more than 3,700 jobs and generate $75 million in annual economic activity, according to the firm, which says it has a 95% repayment rate.

The Small Business Impact Fund’s initial round offered investors two- and five-year terms with a nominal spread over a benchmark U.S. Treasury rate. Investors also took advantage of the option to source the investment from their donor-advised funds at large institutions like Schwab Charitable and Fidelity Charitable.

inStream, Advisors Excel Launch Enhanced Financial Planning Platform

inStream, a provider of flexible enterprise financial planning solutions, and Advisors Excel have launched a financial planning platform for financial advisors and their clients.

The platform is the initial offering resulting from a strategic partnership between the two companies, which also includes an investment by Advisors Excel in inStream and an agreement to develop and deliver customized technology to optimize the client experience, client outcomes, and the financial professional’s workflow.

As a result of the partnership with Advisors Excel, inStream’s offering now allows financial professionals to include customized annuity and other insurance solutions as they develop optimal financial plans for their clients.

The two companies are now jointly marketing inStream’s financial planning software across the Advisors Excel services platform.

Retirement Plan Industry Expert Launches ‘Rocket Dollar’ IRA

Rocket Dollar, a newly launched retirement savings site co-founded by retirement industry veteran Henry Yoshida, announced the launch of Rocket Dollar IRA.

The Rocket Dollar IRA is a self-directed retirement vehicle that allows for investments in alternative asset classes such as cryptocurrency, peer-to-peer lending, startups, private equity and real estate, in addition to traditional stocks, bonds and index funds.

Rocket Dollar also offers several account types including the Rocket Dollar Self-Directed Solo 401(k), the Rocket Dollar Self-Directed Traditional IRA, and the Rocket Dollar Self-Directed Roth IRA.

The Rocket Dollar process is done entirely online. Each 401(k) or IRA has a one-time $360 fee for account setup. After that, clients pay $15 per month for account administration and compliance.

— Check out Bob Doll Checks In on His 10 Predictions for 2018 on ThinkAdvisor.


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