For the most part, financial advisers have taken a wait-and-see attitude toward actively managed ETFs, intending to hold off until the products can post at least a one-year or three-year track record. But some say that reluctance may be ebbing.
Of financial advisers who use actively managed ETFs, 25% plan to increase their usage over the next 24 months, while 14% plan to decrease their usage, according to a recent survey by GDC Research, Sherborn, Mass., and Practical Perspectives LLC, Boxford, Mass.
“It appears that advisers are more interested in using actively managed ETFs at the expense of passively managed ETFs,” said Howard Schneider, president of the consulting firm Practical Perspectives.
Many investment management companies are discussing getting around the track record hurdle by converting their mutual funds to ETFs, said William M. Thomas, chief executive of Grail Advisors LLC, San Francisco, which has five actively managed ETFs.
“We are working with several mutual fund companies that are contemplating converting mutual funds to ETFs because they have solid, strong performance and are in a crowded marketplace where they are one of 250 large-cap growth stock funds,” he said.
Newport Beach, Calif.-based PIMCO, which launched its first two actively managed ETFs last year, has registered to launch three more this year: the PIMCO Government Limited Maturity Strategy Fund, the PIMCO Prime Limited Maturity Strategy Fund and the PIMCO Short Term Municipal Bond Strategy Fund.
The company also has had discussions about launching an ETF version of its giant Total Return Fund, said Don Suskind, a vice president and head of the ETF product management team.
“We are discussing what makes the most sense for ETF buyers,” Mr. Suskind said. Specifically, PIMCO executives want to make sure that having total transparency in the portfolio's holdings and trades, as ETFs do, wouldn't hurt investors, he said. “If the disclosure doesn't favor the investor, that's something we have to think about carefully.”
Mr. Suskind said the firm has no timetable for a decision on launching an ETF version of the Total Return Fund.
Many money managers have held off launching actively managed ETFs because of disclosure issues.
Although T. Rowe Price, Baltimore, has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch actively managed ETFs, the firm has expressed such concerns.
“We want to explore ETFs for existing and prospective clients who may want to access our investment expertise through such a vehicle,” said Heather McDonold, a T. Rowe spokeswoman. “We will not launch an active ETF version of our traditional active mutual funds if the daily disclosure of the portfolio holdings could be detrimental to existing shareholders.”
Putnam Investments, Boston, is discussing launching actively managed exchange-traded funds. “As actively managed ETFs become a reality, we want to be part of it,” said Robert Reynolds, the firm's president and CEO.
Putnam is having conversations about the pros and cons of offering active ETFs vs. mutual funds, he said.
“We need to do careful analysis of what the advantages and disadvantages are of ETFs,” Mr. Reynolds said. The firm doesn't have a timetable for when it will make a decision.
Similarly, Hancock will file with the SEC in the next few weeks to launch actively managed exchange-traded funds, according to an official at the Boston-based firm.
Specifically, it plans to file for an actively managed ETF that mirrors its lifestyle funds, said the official, who asked not to be identified.
Keith Hartstein, president and chief executive of the Hancock fund unit, confirmed that the firm is discussing launching actively managed ETFs, but declined to elaborate since Hancock hasn't yet filed.
“There is nothing that leads me to believe that actively managed ETFs are going to be successful,” Mr. Hartstein said, noting that these funds are still very new to the market and haven't garnered much in assets yet.