Dueling ETFs Target Millennial Theme

Dueling ETFs Target Millennial Theme

The two have some key differences in their approaches.

Reviewed by: Heather Bell
Edited by: Heather Bell

Millennials are getting significant attention these days, with global businesses fairly salivating to attract the largest post-boomer generation. As their numbers grow, they’re gathering consumer steam in its wake, so it’s not surprising two ETFs seek to exploit that potential.

The Global X Millennials Thematic ETF (MILN) was the first to hit the market, in May 2016, followed by the Principal Millennials Index ETF (GENY) in August. Both funds currently have about $7 million in assets under management, and despite their similar themes, they really are quite different.

They do not differ too much when it comes to costs. GENY is the cheaper of the two, at 0.45%, with MILN costing 0.50%.

More importantly, MILN takes a domestic perspective, while GENY a global one. MILN has nearly 80 holdings, while GENY has 110. The two funds have 32 securities in common, but where they diverge creates some interesting differences.

Domestic Vs. Global

Both include all of the FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google), but MILN’s U.S. focus means it omits well-known international firms like Tencent Holdings, Naspers and Adidas. GENY also excludes some U.S. firms with substantial global clout, such as Walt Disney and Twitter.

MILN has other popular U.S. names in its portfolio—like Etsy, Yelp.com and lululemon—that are less global in nature.

That said, GENY has outperformed MILN by a significant margin since its inception, with an increase of nearly 20% to MILN’s 11%. Year-to-date, GENY is up roughly 22%, while MILN is up more than 15%. That global component looks like it’s adding some extra oomph to GENY’s returns. 


Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com



Really, what investors need to decide when looking at these two funds is whether they consider millennials a U.S. phenomenon or a global trend.

The U.S. makes up 58% of GENY’s portfolio, followed by China, at nearly 9%. Three China stocks are included in GENY’s top 10 components, as well as a Hong Kong company. Given that China’s population dwarfs that of the U.S., it’s not surprising that there are nearly 400 million millennials in China. In the U.S., that number is in the vicinity of 80 million.

Based on China’s performance, the exposure to Chinese companies is likely part of what’s boosting GENY.

Other countries with sizable weights in GENY include South Africa at 5%, and Australia and the U.K. at approximately 4% each.

Question Of Sectors

Sector distribution could be another factor accounting for the difference in performance between the two funds. Both see their holdings fall into five sectors: consumer cyclicals, consumer noncyclicals, technology, financials and industrials. However, the funds have different weightings in those categories.

Consumer cyclicals is the largest for both, representing slightly more than half of MILN’s portfolio and roughly 45% of GENY’s. Technology is the second-largest sector, at a nearly 30% weighting for MILN, and more than 33% for GENY.

But the third-largest sector is different for each fund. For MILN, it’s financials, with a weighting of 12%, while GENY has roughly the same weighting to consumer noncyclicals, suggesting it has a stronger consumer focus than MILN, to the tune of a combined weighting of 67% to the consumer sectors. Consumer noncyclicals is the smallest sector in MILN, with a weighting of 3%, and financials is the smallest sector in GENY, also with a weighting of 3%.

Industrials is the fourth-largest sector for both funds, with a weighting of about 4% in MILN and nearly 6% in GENY.

Final Thoughts

With two funds available that offer different perspectives on the same theme, investors who want exposure to millennial-related trends are forced to think more precisely about how they define the theme.

Do they see it as a global phenomenon, or one that is driven mainly by young people in the U.S.?

Do they see it as a primarily consumer-focused trend, or one that has more of a dispersion across the financials and technology sectors?


Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

Heather Bell can be reached at [email protected].


Heather Bell is a former managing editor of etf.com. She has also held editorial positions at Dow Jones Indexes and Lehman Brothers. Bell is a graduate of Dartmouth college and resides in the Denver area with her two dogs.