There are a lot of shiny objects in the ETF space clamoring for advisors’ attention: active strategies, thematic funds, ESG and cryptocurrencies, just to name a few. But when it comes down to where investors are actually putting their cash, boring is beautiful by one analysis.
The ten largest ETFs on the market have collected $150 billion in new money in the 12-month period ending August 13, according to a research note from CFRA’s Todd Rosenbluth. And that’s despite investors pulling $5.2 billion out of one gigantic fund: the $394 billion State Street SPDR S&P 500 ETF. And together, the ten biggest ETFs represented about $1.9 trillion of the $6.7 trillion ETF market.
For all of the focus on the 250 products launched this year “many investors have been and will remain happy keeping it simple and continuing to add to well-established products offered by the top-four providers,” Rosenbluth wrote. The marquee brands include State Street, BlackRock’s iShares, Vanguard and Invesco.
As more advisors and investors dip their toes into the growing pool of ETFs on offer, broad-based, low-cost ETFs that cover well known benchmarks like the S&P 500, Nasdaq 100 or the Bloomberg (formerly Barclays) U.S. Aggregate Bond Index tend to be where they wade in, analysts say.
In addition, these ETFs often have a clear cost advantage over active mutual funds and even more niche ETFs. The Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF, Vanguard S&P 500 ETF and iShares Core S&P 500 ETF, three of the ten largest products on the market, each charge a mere 3 basis points. In fact, the only top-10 member to charge over 10 bps is the Invesco QQQ Trust.
Beside leaving room to plug in pricier thematic or more niche strategies into portfolios, broad-based ETFs serve as the foundation of many model portfolios. BlackRock and Vanguard ranked first and third in terms of number of model portfolios created by asset managers in Morningstar’s 2020 review of the space. They also are frequently used in roboadvisor or savings platforms like Wealthfront, Betterment, Acorns and others.