It may be too early to come to any conclusions about iShares’ recent launch of its ‘Core’ brand, but some early signs are promising.
We won’t begin to see the full ramifications of BlackRock’s new strategy for at least a few years, but you have to wonder if the company’s Chief Executive Officer Laurence Fink is patting himself on the back.
What I’m talking about is last month’s flows data showing that the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: IVV) was the top net gainer, with $2 billion in creations.
If those inflows keep coming, it would surely be a positive development for BlackRock’s iShares unit, which has been ceding ground in the pure beta ETF space to the likes of Vanguard Group in the past few years.
The fund, while large at $33 billion in assets, hasn’t exactly been a mainstay of the top creations list in the past few years.
So, did cutting the annual expense ratio to 0.07 percent from 0.09 percent bring a few new investors into the iShares tent?
Maybe so, maybe not; but it’s worth asking.
At the very least, you could argue that the large-cap ETF battleground is the single most important plot of land in the industry, with more than $200 billion in assets currently up for grabs.
More specifically, the battle for S&P 500 trackers is a dogfight, with more than half of large-cap ETF assets tracking the index.
But it’s not just about the assets. This segment of the market is in many ways the stepping stone for ETF assets. Large-cap equities are often the first allocation decision an advisor makes.
From the perspective of the brand, if your fund is the first ETF purchase advisors make, the easier it will be to keep them in your product suite.
That would make BlackRock’s incentive to lower fees on IVV that much greater.
Although BlackRock’s iShares unit tops the ETF league table by a wide margin, the company understands how critical being first and biggest is. The more advisors who adopt ETFs as their primary investment tool, the larger the share of ETF assets institutional investors will represent.
Because the large players like BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors offer exposure to index suites, with a large part of the sales pitch being the avoidance of overlap, this first step become increasingly important.
So we’re looking closely at those $2 billion in flows, mindful that upward of half of those flows came before the price cut became effective on Oct. 17, and that the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: VOO), at 0.05 percent a year, is still cheaper than IVV.
At the same time, all this is not to say that the battle of S&P 500 funds is the only one that matters.
If you think about certain ETF strategies as “entry level,” then the whole “Core” brand restructuring makes a lot more sense.