The Index Industry Association just announced the results of its annual survey, a census of the number of indexes across asset classes and geographies.
The number of indexes worldwide tops 3 million. The total increased by 4.4%, down slightly from 5% growth recorded last year. Across the three major regions (Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific), the distribution of indexes remained steady, as it has for several years now, the survey said.
However, the number of environmental, social and governance indexes grew by 55% to more than 50,000.
Digging down into that category, equity ESG indexes saw their numbers increase by 24.5%, but that pales in comparison with the nearly 96% increase in the number of ESG fixed income indexes. The press release adds that, for the first time, ESG fixed income indexes outnumbered ESG equity indexes.
“If you take a step back and look at the last three or four years, really the growth has been in fixed income and in ESG—those are the two areas that really jumped off the page to me. And I think this year's results really put an exclamation point on the trend in ESG growth,” IIA CEO Rick Redding told ETF.com.
“People are trying to figure out what they want in ESG, and investors haven't really coalesced on exactly what they want,” he added, explaining why ESG benchmarks experienced such dramatic growth. “ESG is so personal, and until there’s more coalescing around what it is, you’re going to continue to see the number of these indexes go up.”
Much of that growth in the number of ESG fixed income indexes can be attributed to ESG global fixed income, which increased by 122.5%. That data actually fits in quite neatly with the findings of another survey: FTSE Russell’s sixth annual survey of asset owners found that fixed income is now the No. 1 asset class in which survey participants use ESG or sustainable investment strategies, surpassing equities for the first time.
Fixed income indexes as a broad category saw an increase of 4.5%, mostly in line with the increase seen by the broad index universe, but outside of ESG fixed income indexes, municipal bond indexes grew by 10.86%. And while the distribution of the number of indexes has held steady over the past several years, the Americas have significantly more fixed income indexes than the other regions.
Redding says that U.S. fixed income markets are much deeper and larger than in other countries, which is the impetus for the growing number of indexes covering the space; meanwhile, he notes that the Americas have the least amount of equity indexes of the three regions and roughly three-quarters of all the indexes counted in the survey cover equities.
The IIA was founded in 2012 as an advocacy organization for index providers.
Contact Heather Bell at [email protected]