Hamman: Active ETFs On Track To Blast Off

May 13, 2011

Active ETFs will get their day in the sun, AdvisorShares’ Hamman says.


Noah Hamman, the chief executive officer of Bethesda, Md.-based AdvisorShares is a firm believer that active ETFs will one day soon start raking in assets. When he spoke recently with IndexUniverse.com Managing Editor Olivier Ludwig, Hamman said he’s looking forward to many of his firm’s active funds getting three-year ratings from Morningstar—a milestone that he says will give the ETFs crucial credibility.

But even without Morningstar’s benediction, his firm’s Cambria Global Tactical ETF (NYSEArca: GTAA) shows that maybe Hamman’s optimism is well-founded. The fund, a trend-following strategy and AdvisorShares’ most successful to date, has gathered almost $170 million since its launch in October of last year. Indeed, Hamman says active ETFs are raking in assets faster than index ETFs did in their infancy almost 20 years ago.


Ludwig: You are clearly staking a claim in the transparent active ETF space. What about nontransparent ETFs?

Hamman: I’m one of those ones in the camp that I don’t think are going to see nontransparent active anytime soon.

Ludwig: Forget about the “anytime soon” part. How about any time?

Hamman: I think it’s a real long shot. I’m surprised a firm like Eaton Vance stepped into that structure. That doesn’t mean they’re exclusively tied to it, of course. But, from conversations I’ve had with the SEC, I just can’t tell any sort of way, shape or form they could get comfortable with trusting that someone is going to put an accurate replication basket out there.

Ludwig: When you talk about Eaton Vance, you’re talking about the deal it did with Gary Gastineau, right?

Hamman: Yes, absolutely.

Ludwig: OK. Now, as it relates to your own funds, the old adage that “money talks and you-know-what walks,” it would appear that the Cambria Global Tactical ETF is head and shoulders above the rest of your products in terms of pure asset-gathering.

Hamman: Yes. It’s global asset allocation using a trend-following model. So it’s a good core strategy that’s going to react to downturns in the market. A trend-following model is never going to call it correctly. It’s not going to call the tops, and it’s not going to call the bottoms. But it’s going to adjust where trends exist.

Ludwig: What about the Mars Hill Global Relative Value ETF (NYSEArca: GRV)? Last summer—I think it was the July flows numbers—it just came screaming to the forefront. It gathered nearly $40 million, almost overnight. And now it’s sort of settled back to something like $15 million. That seemed a pretty interesting strategy. What would you say about that and the asset decrease that has occurred in the past nine months?

Hamman: Unfortunately, it’s been hampered by performance. A long/short strategy like that is incredibly hard to do. The story really took off as you kind of saw with the growth in assets. Advisors we spoke to were very receptive to it. And a lot of them made early commitments to it.

But the product has struggled. I think it hasn’t really done a great job in factoring in a lot of government intervention, not only in the U.S. but in other European countries where they had been short. So, performance has really struggled as a result of that. They’ve got a lot of work to do to build that track record back up.

Ludwig: So, you’re saying that the government intervention basically ruined their short positions because it was like the cavalry came to rescue the floundering stocks that GRV had shorted?

Hamman: Yes, very much so. It was probably the managers’ opinion that maybe those government programs wouldn’t work, plus—and I’ve seen a lot of managers caught up in this—no one really has a model that accounts for this kind of intervention, historically.


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