Price Returns Used For All Time Periods
Inspire similarly uses the MSCI ACWI Equal Weight's price return for its one-year and since-inception comparisons.
Over a one-year period, Inspire claims that BLES was up 1.37%, compared with the MSCI ACWI Equal Weight's drop of 3.63%. However, -3.63% is the price return of the MSCI ACWI Equal Weight, whereas the total return of the index over that period is actually -0.96%.
Furthermore, we were unable to replicate Inspire's 1.37% figure for its ETF; using Bloomberg data, we found the total return for BLES is 0.97%. (Author's note: After we spoke to Inspire for this story, it amended the figure in its posted press release to 1.07%. We were unable to replicate that figure, either.)
|BLES' 1-Year Returns, Inspire Data Vs. Bloomberg Data|
|YTD "Return" Inspire||1 Year Total Returns, Bloomberg||1 Year Price Change, Bloomberg|
|MSCI ACWI Equal Weight Index||-3.63%||-0.96%||-3.63%|
Sources: Inspire, Bloomberg; data range: Sept. 28, 2018 to Sept. 30, 2019
Finally, Inspire claims that, since inception, BLES has delivered 6.62% in annualized returns, or "three times" that of the MSCI ACWI Equal Weight, which returned 2.19%. We were unable to replicate either of these numbers. Instead, using Bloomberg data, we found that BLES had returned 6.30% since inception, compared with its benchmark's 5.17%.
|BLES' Since Inception Returns, Inspire Data Vs. Bloomberg Data|
|Since-Inception "Return," Inspire||Since-Inception Total Returns, Bloomberg||Since-Inception Price Change, Bloomberg|
|MSCI ACWI Equal Weight Index||2.19%||5.17%||5.95%|
Sources: Inspire, Bloomberg. Data range: Feb. 28, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2019. Returns are annualized.
Data Service Snafus?
When we spoke to Inspire for this article, CEO Robert Netzly blamed Inspire's data provider, Ultimus Fund Solutions, for the inconsistencies.
Ultimus Fund Solutions, which according to the most recent semi-annual report is owned by the same third-party firm that owns BLES's distributor, "gets their data directly from the NYSE and index providers, as far as I know," said Netzly. The performance figures for BLES, he stressed multiple times in a phone interview, are "all FINRA reviewed and approved."
"This is the only performance data FINRA allows us to publish," he added in an email.
Netzly also claimed that the data for the MSCI ACWI Equal Weight returns came from the index's fact sheet—an incorrect assertion, as the MSCI ACWI Equal Weight's fact sheet matches the Bloomberg data listed above.
"I don't know why Bloomberg might have different numbers," said Netzly.
When asked why Inspire compares BLES' total return to the MSCI ACWI Equal Weight's price return in its literature, Netzly acknowledged that was what Inspire was doing—"We're using the market price of the ETF compared to the price return of the index"—but failed to provide a reason, despite several follow-ups.