It’s just a matter of time, but low-cost ETFs will spell the end of mutual funds.
ETFs are likely to displace mutual funds within about 15 years, Ric Edelman, the top-rated financial advisor, told attendees at IndexUniverse’s 6th annual Inside ETFs conference on Tuesday, one of numerous views expressed at the conference that the ETF is likely to be at the very center of the asset management business.
“The mutual fund made sense when it came out in 1924,” Edelman said during a “fireside chat” with IndexUniverse President of ETF Analytics Matt Hougan. “That was a pencil and paper business model, and it doesn’t make sense in a technologically driven world.
Edelman’s views, founded on ETF attributes of low cost, transparency and tax efficiency, were consistent with the general thrust of commentary at the three-day Inside ETFs conference, held at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Fla., from Sunday, Feb. 10 to Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Inside ETFs, considered by many to be the “see-and-be-seen” ETF industry event of the year, takes place at a time when the ETF industry is in full bloom, boasting a record $1.4 trillion in U.S.-listed assets spread over some 1,400 funds.
Speakers at IndexUniverse’s Inside ETFs conference pointed to huge untapped markets and opportunities that will push the 20-year-old investment vehicle’s next leg of growth.
“This industry can grow five to seven times more very easily,” said Mark Wiedman, managing director and global head of iShares. Citing a low 3 percent rate of U.S. ownership as well as untapped foreign markets, Wiedman and other EFT industry leaders kept hammering home the idea that the ETF is still a young and largely misunderstood investment vehicle.
Education Is Mission-Critical
The key to keeping growth strong and steady is more education for investors unfamiliar with ETFs.
“More education is so important for our future growth,” said Joel Dickson, senior investment strategist and principal for The Vanguard Group. Because of the low rate of ETF ownership in the U.S. and abroad, quality education, he said, would be the key to unlocking those potential markets.
New approaches to ETFs will also aid the industry’s next leg of growth. For example, actively managed ETFs and those that give exposure to alternative strategies will offer investors wider exposure.
According to Martha King, managing director & head of U.S. Financial Intermediaries, ETFs currently cover every major investment segment, a testament to the increased maturity of ETFs. In the same vein, ETFs are changing the market landscape.
“We are seeing larger and larger ETF trades from institutional investors, $500 million trades for instance, that are changing the ways markets are operating and will continue to do so,” she said.
401(k)s, And Active ETFs
On Sunday, speakers focused on several important ETF trends for 2013 that included changes in indexing, free ETFs and the prospect of ETFs to 401(k) programs.
Jim Wiandt, chief executive officer and founder of IndexUniverse, outlined the ETF trends he sees developing.
“Of course, the big trend for ETFs is growth in AUM,” he said, adding that ETF-issuer trends include self-indexing, stealth self-indexing, fundamental indexing, more free ETFs, as well as facing potential pay-to-play platforms featuring fee-free ETFs.
Artience Capital's Kim Nordmo said Sunday she expects to see ETFs coming to 401(k) plans. “There are 72 million investors that don’t have ETFs available” to their retirement programs. Nordmo said she expects more 401(k) administrators to realize the fiduciary responsibility they have to offer those to participants.
The growth of actively managed ETFs was also identified repeatedly throughout Sunday, but State Street Corp. Vice President and Senior Counsel Ryan Louvar described the day that the Securities & Exchange Commission approves nontransparent ETFs as a “long ways off.”