Neuberger Berman last week filed to offer three actively managed thematic exchange-traded funds, the more than 80-year-old money manager's first foray into the ETF market.
The Neuberger Berman Carbon Transition Infrastructure ETF, the Neuberger Berman Disrupters ETF and the Neuberger Berman Next Generation Connected Consumer ETF, each typically will invest at least 80% of their assets in equity securities of U.S. and foreign companies, according to a Dec. 9 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
A Neuberger spokesman declined to comment on the filing specifically. He did, however, say that assets of Neuberger's existing active, thematic investment portfolios have grown to $17 billion, spurred by global client demand. The firm managed $437 billion in total client assets as of Sept. 30.
"The ability to deliver thematic equity investment strategies in an ETF format would broaden the base of clients," Alexander Samuelson, the Neuberger spokesman, said in an email.
New York-based Neuberger's entry into the ETF space comes as little surprise to Ben Johnson, director of global ETF research at Morningstar.
"All I can really say is it's better late than never," Mr. Johnson said in an interview, adding that "increasingly, few asset managers have a choice but to finally at least put their toe in the water and begin to participate in the ETF category."
ETFs have become the format of choice for an increasing number of investors, he said. Net inflows into ETFs this year through Dec. 10 have totaled $813.8 billion, according to Morningstar's most recent data. That's already more than the full-year record of $506.8 billion set last year, Mr. Johnson said.
ETFs have also dominated fund launches, with 421 new ETFs launched this year through Dec. 10, nearly double the 219 open-end mutual funds that launched.
Neuberger had been among the "few remaining holdouts of note," when it comes to money managers entering the ETF arena, Mr. Johnson said. AQR Capital Management and Dodge & Cox remain two noteworthy holdouts, neither of which he expects to enter the space any time soon.
"AQR had filed once upon a time to launch ETFs, (but) has yet to do so," Mr. Johnson said, adding that he doubts that Dodge & Cox is inclined to participate in the ETF space "given that it's got a very focused stable of offerings offered chiefly in the mutual fund format that is very appropriate for what they do and just how they do it, who their investors are."