iShares: Active ETFs Would Be Transparent

November 15, 2010

iShares throws cold water on a wish among some for active ETFs to be spared transparency requirements.

iShares, the world’s biggest exchange-traded fund company, filed new paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying, among other things, that any actively managed ETFs it may launch once it obtains regulatory approval would be transparent, exactly as its passively managed index funds are.

The announcement is noteworthy to the extent that actively managed ETFs in general have yet to gain meaningful assets, and some industry sources have suggested that making active ETFs less transparent, like actively managed mutual funds are, might be a way to jump-start asset-gathering. While indexed ETFs disclose portfolio holdings daily, mutual funds typically do so with a three-month lag.

The company’s original “exemptive relief” filing cast a wide net, laying the groundwork for the San Francisco-based company to roll out equity and fixed-income funds or ones that combine the two asset classes. It also said new ETFs created under the order could buy shares in other ETFs as well as shares of money market mutual funds.

The decision to offer actively managed ETFs puts iShares in the company of a number of noteworthy money management firms that plan to launch actively managed ETFs, such as J.P. Morgan and Legg Mason. Of the firms that already offer actively managed ETFs, WisdomTree and Pimco have been among the most successful.

The WisdomTree Emerging Markets Local Debt Fund (NYSEArca: ELD), which launched in August, collected more than $150 million in its first two weeks, as we wrote about in a story called “WisdomTree’s ‘ELD’ Raking In Assets.” As of Friday, Nov. 12, it had $420.4 million. The Pimco Enhanced Short Maturity Strategy ETF (NYSEArca: MINT), a money market fund proxy, had collected $455.9 million as of the same date.

Exemptive relief filings grant the ETF firms exception to sections of the Investment Act of 1940 and are just the first step in the path to launching ETFs. It often takes at least six to 12 months from the date of the initial filing for a company’s first ETF to hit the market.

iShares, a unit of BlackRock, the world’s biggest publicly traded asset management company, first filed for active ETFs in June.

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