Demand for British stocks is finally resurgent, but it looks like there'll be no such revival for the nation's embattled mutual funds: All that cash is headed to ETFs.
Investors have added $6 billion to Europe-listed exchange-traded funds tracking British assets since a breakthrough on Brexit in October, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. Over that same period, active mutual funds saw their miserable run of withdrawals extend as investors pulled out $1.2 billion, EPFR Global data show.
The pattern will be familiar to most American observers. The same forces that have spurred the passive revolution in the U.S. — disillusionment with managers, rising cost-consciousness, desire for transparency and more — are now storming the U.K. Investors who have been yanking cash from mutual funds almost relentlessly since the 2016 EU membership referendum are apparently in no rush to go back.
"We tend to see that active managers aren't so good when it comes to the FTSE 100 and being able to add value," said Tristan Dolphin, senior associate in the investment strategy and research team at Stonehage Fleming. "We get more bang for our buck by taking a position in the FTSE 100 ETF."
The seeds were planted even before Prime Minister Boris Johnson won parliamentary backing for his Brexit plan. While U.K. stocks struggled to find buyers in the wake of the referendum, the world's biggest ETF tracking them proved more appealing. BlackRock Inc.'s iShares Core FTSE 100 fund has more than doubled since 2016 to £8.7 billion ($11.3 billion). The growth in assets far outpaces the total return of its underlying index.
BlackRock ETF asset growth has far outpaced FTSE 100 performance
Weixu Yan, investment manager at Close Brothers Asset Manager, can offer plenty of reasons these funds are winning fans. Three in particular, when it come to the BlackRock vehicle.
"Size, cost and exposure," he said. "It's the largest by assets under management, arguably the most liquid of its kind, and it's one of the more cost-effective options available."