Opportunities in China’s Securities Markets

Today I attened an event about the introduction of China’s Securities Markets hosted by New Horizon Career Club. Mr. Yong Wong, Chife Risk Investment of Everbright Securities of China, introduced the latest development of China’s securities market. Hundereds of young financial professionals and students from the University of Toronto joined the meeting. This is really a wonderful event that I learned a lot.

Securities Markets In China

My main takeaway from this event is that you should be a subject matter expert in a specific area if you want to advacne your career into a new stage. It may be portfolio management, ETF products, derivative products, or trading. The global financial markets are getting integrated, capitals and human resources are moving endlessly. There are always opportunities, but they are only available for those prepared.

Advertisements

S&P Dow Jones ETF Masterclass Event

On Thursday, June 23 2016, I attended the S&P Dow Jones Indices ETF Masterclass at downtown Toronto. This is the second year SPDJ hosts this kind of event and I attened both. Speakers are mainly from indices provider (SPDJ), ETF issuers, ETF strategists. The event was very well orgainized and informative.

IMG_4328

Although I learned a lot at the product and technique level, for me the most important takeaway from this event is the confidence of the direction I have choosen: to be a subject matter expert of ETFs. We are fortunate to be in the North America where the ETF markets are more advanced than the rest of the world. There are more than 2500 ETFs, 170 providers and 800 strategists combined in US and Canada. The ecosystem is well developed. At the same time, the markets are still developing rapidly and have lots of potential. The future is bright and exciting.

To achieve the goal of becoming an ETF expert, at least 2 layers should be done.

Layer 1, digest the products. This is very time consuming but it is absolutely essential. You need to read through the documents, understand the methodologies. A good way to enhance understanding is to compare similar products and find out their differences.

Layer 2, use ETFs to build portfolios. After you mastered the characteristics of different products, you’ll move to the state of utilizing them. Build a low cost and well diversified ETF require knowledge, discipline and patience. There are many lures and traps. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

These are the focus of my self-learning plan in the second half of 2016.

CSTA Annual General Meeting Takeaways

Today I attended the Canadian Society of Technical Analysts (CSTA) 30th general meeting at Sheraton Toronto. This is a great event that I got the opportunities to meet masters and practitioners of technical analysis, listened to their thoughtful sharings. It happened that I was sitting next to Mr. Ron Meisels, the founder and first President of the Canadian Society of Technical Analysts (CSTA). I also talked to Mr. Larry Berman, he won the most awards today due to his distinguished contribution to the technical analysis in Canada.

A few takeaways from the event:

IMG_4319

1, Technical analysis can explain something fundamental analysis cannot. This is true becasue fundamentals will not change as frequent as prices. If you can master both, you will be able to understand market behaviors more convincingly.

2, CFA + CMT. Mr. Larry Berman says, CFA helps you to get the job, CMT helps you keep the job. I totally agree with his point that a designation of technical analysis will sharpen your skills and boost your career.

3, Technology development make it possible for more people to utilize technical analysis. 20 years ago, due to technology limitation, general public don’t have the  convenient access to technical analysis. Today we have high speed internet, real-time data of global exhanges, customized screening tools, high performance computers can produce any technical analysis as you want. Sophisticated trading platforms now are available to common individual investors. All of these will make technical analysis more prosperous in the coming years!

4, Technical analysis is not only technics, but also arts. With the same chart, different technician may get different conclusions. You still need experience and intuiton to your final decisions.

5, Success comes from hard working. Success doesn’t come by chance. Many successful technical anaysts I meet today, they worked in the field for decades, from 6:00am to 12:00pm day after day. This let me recall a principle of 10,000 hours. If you want to be a specialist in any field, you need at least 10,000 hours deliberate practice.

 

Adaptive vs Dynamic: Comparison of two new currency hedged Japan ETF

Probably the majority of investors would agree that currencies are the most difficult markets to forecast. This year, the movement of Japanese Yen and Euro against US dollar good examples of currencies unpredicatability. Although Japan and Euro Zone are in the negative interest rate territory, US is going to increase interest rate, Yen appreciated 13.0%,  Euro appreciated 4.4%, against USD respectively. They are out of the majority’s predition.

JYP & EUR

At the beginning of 2016, currency hedged ETFs evolved into a new stage. Almost at the same time, iShares and WisdomTree launched their new currency hedged ETFs, and the ideas are very similar. On Jan. 5 2016, iShares launched 3 “Adaptive” currency hedged ETFs: DEFA (iShares Adaptive Currency Hedged MSCI EAFE), DEZU (iShares Adaptive Currency Hedged MSCI Eurozone), DEWJ (iShares Adaptive Currency Hedged MSCI Japan). On Jan. 7 2016, WisdomTree launched 4 “Dynamic” currency hedged ETFs: DDWM (WisdomTree Dynamic Currency Hedged International Equity), DDLS (WisdomTree Dynamic Currency Hedged International SmallCap Equity), DDEZ (WisdomTree Dynamic Currency Hedged Europe Equity), DDJP (WisdomTree Dynamic Currency Hedged Japan Equity).

By comparing DEWJ and DDJP, we can know more about how these new currency hedge strategies work.

DEWJ vs DDJP

From the table above, we can find that two funds are quite similar in almost all aspects. The major difference is the hedge ratio options: DEWJ has only 5 fixed options, while DDJP can be anywhere from 0 to 100%. Currently, DEWJ hedged 75% of its underlying assets, while DDJP hedged slightly above 50%. Due to the strong appreciation of Japanese Yen in June, both funds forward contracts (short Yen long USD) lose money.

Another notable point is that both funds are very small by net assets. In the iShares Japan fund series, EWJ is giant with net assets 14.7 billion, HEWJ (the fully hedged version of EWJ) has a net assets of 610 million, DEWJ (the adaptive hedged version of EWJ) has only 3.3 million. In the WisdomTree family, DXJ (fully hedged) has 7 billion, while DDJP has only 4.5 million. In the long run, if these adaptive/dynamic strategies really work, these funds will gain popularity.

 

 

 

 

 

Shall Smart Beta ETF Issuers Disclose Their “Secret Formula”?

This week I attended the “Exchange Traded Forum 2016” in Toronot. The event was fabulous. Industry elite from Canada, US and Europe shared their thoughts and visions about ETFs. Hudreds of advisors and ETF practioners participated the two day event. It is absolutely a grand feast for ETF lovers like me.

One small topic drew my special attention. It’s about if the smart beta ETF issuers should disclose their indexes, detailed methodologies, or we can also call it “secret formula”. During a panel discussion about smart beta in the first day’s meeting, the panelist from a smart beta issuer introduced their smart beta funds. He repeated several adjectives related to their funds: rule-based, multi-facotr, quantitative. But he was challenged by other panlists by a series of questions: (1) is this fund actually an actively managed fund wraped in a ETF? (2) Does the fund have a “pilot” or it is “autopiloted”? (3) By what degree the rule based fund manager play an active role in stock picking? (4) Since it is rule based, why no index disclosed? Is there a black box?

These questions are just what I want to ask if I have the chance. When I read that issuer’s ETF prospectus one year ago, question marks arised. The fund claimed it is rule based, but I didn’t see any index or detailed methodolgy of the calculation of the stock weighting allocation.

The panelist answered: (1) We are rule-based, but we also use fund manager’s discretion; (2) we can create an index, but it is not requried by the current regulation. (3) We save the cost of indexing (generally this work is outsourced from index providers) so that we can benefit our clients. (4) We have significant distribution capability (if my understanding is not wrong, he may imply that the lacking of index is not a issue).

Interestingly in the second day’s meeting, another speaker from the US mentioned this discussion. He said he agrees with the panelist’s standpoint and believe no-indexing or self-indexing (i.e. don’t rely on index providers) may be a industry trend due to its cost saving benefit.

My personal perceptions in regards to this discussion are two-sides:

1, On the “pro” side, what the ETF issuer panelist had said are facts. On the fund’s webiste, it clearly notes “Key differentiators of the ETF include professional money management – no index”. Although not every actively managed ETF can provide an index, most of the real rule-based quantitive ETFs can formulate their indexes. For these non-traditional ETFs, it is not mandatory to disclose the detail of methodology. This is also common in the US, especially among some newly launched small smart beta ETF providers.

2, On the “con” side, I want to say transparency is a lable of the ETF industry, and one of the sources of the fund’s competitiveness, although it also means cost. An example is Goldman Sachs’ Active Beta US Large Cap ETF (symbol GSLC). It is rule-based, quantitative and multi-factor. It also provide “target weight buffers”, which means fund manager has some discretionary authority. The fund disclosed detailed calcaulation methodologis of how the weigtings are allocated amongh three factors. It is trasparent,  persuasive and representing the high standard of the industry practice.

 

 

 

 

Currency Hedging: 0%, 50%, 100% or Dynamically

Currency factor played a critical role in regards to the porfolio rate of return. Sometimes its impact exceeds the underlying asset itself. So it’s no wonder currency hedging concepts and related ETFs are so popular these years. Let’s take Japan equity as an example, in terms of the treatment towards currency exchange rate risk, there are at least 4 versions of ETFs (let’s put aside the difference of underlying indices): unhedged, 50% hedged, 100% hedged, and dynamically hedged. Naturally a string of questions arise: How should we look at currency exchange risk? Why currency heding ETFs are so popular in recent years? What kind of hedging strategy is the best?

1, Currency exchange rate risk is everywhere

I learned this from personal investment experiences. Currency is affecting our porfolio return from several ways:

– Commodity prices are affected by pricing currency. I invested GDX for a while, a gold miners ETF. As gold price are denomiated in U.S. dollars, the price of GDX is negatively correlated with U.S. dollar index.

– International equity prices are affected by the currency exchange rates. I invested EWP, a Spain ETF issued by iShares. I have double layer exposure to currency risks: I resides in Canada and Canadian dollar is my income tax reporting currency, so the CAD/USD matters to me; EWP is denominated in U.S. dollar but Spain uses Euro, so USD/EUR matters too. If tax implication (such as withholding tax) is considered ,this kind of investment is complicated for retail investors.

– Company’s income sources are affected by the currency exhange rates. I invested BEP.UN, a LP unit trated on the Toronto Exchange. In 2015 its unit price decreased sustantially, so I listened its conference calls. The company’s income come from several places: Canada, U.S., Europe, and Brasil. The sharp devaluation of Brasilian Real and the gloomy outlook of Euro dragged the valuation of BEP.UN. If you don’t look into the details of the company income’s geographical distribution, you won’t know why the share price changes.

So my personal takeway from thoese experiences and lessons are, always consider the currency factor your portfolio may have. Try to dig a few layers further to know how your holdings will be affected by currency factor. This is very important.

2, Preconditions of Currency Hedging ETFs

Currency hedging is a risk management tool. It is used with cost and have some preconditions:

– Currency pairs are free float and highly liquid. If a currency such as Chinese RMB Yuan is not free float, it is very difficult or expensive to adopt currency hedge strategies.

– Foreign currency’s interest rate is around zero. This will eliminate the interest rate difference factor and make the hedging simplified. Otherwise there is a delivery of interest rate difference between the two parties. If the foreighn currency’s interest rate is very high, such as India, the hedging gain cannot cover the interest rate difference, thus make the hedging infeasible.

So from the view angle of the U.S., we can see most of the currency hedging ETFs are invested in Japan, Europe.

3, Which hedging strategy is the best

Currency hedging is a very good example of product innovation in the ETF industry. Since 2006 WisdomTree launched the first currency hedging ETF, DXJ, the evolution of currency hedging is never stopped. In 2005, IQ index launched 50% hedged ETFs. In the beginning of 2016, WisdomTree launched dynamic hedging ETFs. Let’s take Japan as the example again, there are 4 different versions of Japan total market equity ETFs: unhedged EWJ (iShares), 50% hedged HFXJ (IQ Index), 100% hedged DXJ (WisdomTree), and dynamically hedged DDJP (WisedomTree).

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 3.55.58 PM

I’d like to use a simplified illustration to explain my understanding of those strategies.

Currency Hedging

We can see there are 4 strategies altogether. Among those 3 are static strategies and 1 is dynamic.

– Unhedged. This strategy means you are fully exposed to the exhange rate risk. You may suffer from the depreciation of the foreign currency you invested, while you may aslo benefit from the appreciation of the foreign currency. If you have no idea about the trend of the foreign currency exchange rate and are willing to take the risk, this is your choice.

– 50% hedged. You still have no idea with the exchange rate direction but want to do something. 50% hedging is like a straddle strategy in options. You pay a bit of cost to participate the exchange rate movements.

– 100% hedged. You don’t want to participate the game of currency movement. You just want to play the pure game of the underlying assets themself. 100% hedgeing strategy filtered the currency factor and make it a pure game. Or if you think the foreign currency will depreciate and you need the protection, this is your choice.

– dynamically hedged. WisdomTree uese a rule based method to decide how much should I hedged at any given time. The formula watchs three factors: interest rate, momentum, value, which are equally weighted. Under this method, the ratio of hedging could be any percentage between 0 to 100%. This is why it is called dynamic.

Debates about the effectiveness of currency hedging have never been stopped. It’s not easy to say which strategy is overwhelmingly superior than the rest. From the 4 ETFs chart above, we can see that due to recent appreciation of Japanese Yen, unhedged EWJ outperformed 50% hedged HFXJ and 100% hedged DXJ. With the direction of exchange rates become more and more difficult to predict, maybe the 50% or dynamic strategis are better choices. As those two funds are rolled out a very short period of time, we still need to watch for some time.

Abstract in Chinese / 中文摘要

在ETF领域,货币对冲是近年来的热门话题,包含货币对冲策略的ETF呈现爆发式增长,并在吸引资金方面表现抢眼。与此同时,货币对冲策略本身也在不断演进,令投资者面临多种选择。以投资日本的ETF为例,从货币对冲的角度看至少有4种类型的基金:(1)完全不采取任何对冲策略的,比如iShare的EWJ;(2)采取50%对冲策略的,比如IQ Index的HFXJ;(3)采用100%对冲策略的,比如WisdomTree的DXJ;(4)采用动态对冲策略的,比如WisdomTree的DDJP。1、3两种策略的基金较为普遍和成熟,3、4则是新近出现,3是去年6月上市,4则是今年1月才上市。这篇笔记写作之前花了较多时间进行文献阅读,对这几种策略进行了比较,试图从更宏观角度来理解和把握这4种策略的关系。

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ETF vs Index Fund: Confusion and Clarification

On the internet I saw many times ETFs are explained in such way: “ETF is a fund tracking an index…” or “ETF has tracking error risk…”. In fact, these are not the truth. ETFs are not always tracking indices. The name ETF itself focuses on its tradability feature, it may or may not track an index. Meanwhile, “Index fund” is another frequently quoted name, it may refer to either ETF or mutual fund. I’d like to use a simple chart to clarify the relationship between ETF and Index Fund.

Slide1

1, Indexed based ETF. Many ETFs track the performance of specific market indecis, such as SPY and QQQ. Some other ETFs use multiples, inverse, or even multiple inverse of index performance. Some ETF providers are very good at providing those kind of products, such as Direxion and Horizion.

2, Actively managed ETF. This kind of ETF emerged in 2008 in the United States as SEC provide regulatory relief. The fund companies are required to provide detailed holding information on their webisite on the daily basis. Here is a list of BMO’s non-index ETFs:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 11.29.20 PM

Source: http://www.sedar.com

3, Index mutual funds. In Canada, Many asset managers have their own index mutual funds. For example, RBC has U.S. Index Funds (fund code RBF557), TD has U.S Index Fund (code TDB661), BMO has U.S. Dollar Equity Index Fund (code GGF70803), all of these three funds are trying to replicate the performance of S&P500 Total Return Index ($CAD). These funds can be sold in branches, clients not necessarily have brokerage accounts.

Even though an ETF and an index mutual fund are tracking a same index, their performace may vary substantially. This is mainly because of the transaction nature differences of two types of funds.

4, Ordinary mutual funds. Comparing with the above three types of funds, ordinary mutual funds (or actively managed mutual funds) generally have the lowest transparency and highest management fees.

Abstract in Chinese / 中文摘要

经常看到有人这样定义ETF:ETF就是指数基金,追踪某一个特定的指数。事实上,把ETF和指数基金等同起来的说法是错误的。ETF这个名称是从它的交易特征来定义的,能在交易所交易的基金叫ETF,不能在交易所交易的基金叫共同基金、对冲基金或者其他名称。指数基金这个名称是从追踪指数与否的角度来定义的,ETF中只有一部分基金是追踪指数的。现在的市场趋势是,越来越多的ETF并不追踪指数,而是采用主动管理策略,近两年最为热门的“聪明贝塔”型基金就是这种类型的基金。

 

 

From Pioneer to Latecomer: TD Re-Enters the ETF Market

TD Global Asset Management registered its ETF lineup in December 2015. It consists of 4 individual funds, 2 of them have CAD hedged version. The funds haven’t been listed on the Toronto Exchange yet. Their preliminary prospectus are available at http://www.sedar.com. This is a blockbust for the Canadian ETF market due to TD’s market status in Canada. A series of questions come to my mind: Why does TD do this? What’s special of TD’s products? How will the whole market be shaped in 2016? I tried to find some answers.

TD ETF LINEUP

Why does TD re-enter the ETF market?

Undoubtedly, TD’s re-entry means the ETF market is something you must have for major participants. It is an overwhelming market trend that no one can be just a spectator.

According to the media news, TD was once the pioneer in the Canadian ETF market. It lauched 4 ETFs in 2001 but exited in 2006 due to low money inflow and trading volume. This is an excellent proof of the importance of timing, just as what was disclosed in a widely spreaded TED speech “The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Scucceed (June 2015)“. Good business idea is not enough to promise success, timing matters. This time when TD enters again, although we cannot say it is perfect, but I won’t say it is too late.

TD has considerable client assets managed in form of mutual funds. With the approaching of CRM2 implemantation deadline and the increase of consumers’ awareness of MERs, TD have to find substitution for those mutual fund assets. If it have no in-house ETFs, inevitably customers will turn to other ETF providers. So TD has no choice. All the big banks have no choice but to join the battlefield. This is the cold hard truth for the banking industry.

What’s TD’s ETF products strategy?

By reviewing the 4 ETFs, we can see TD is using the strategy of outsourced broad base index and competitive pricing.

1, Currently all the indices are provided by S&P Dow Jones. One of the 4 indices, S&P EPAC EX-Korea LargeMidCap Index was launched just launched on December 7, 2015, looks like a customized index for TD. We can compare it with BMO. BMO has over 60 funds, so it uses many different index providers, such as FTSE, S&P, Solactive and etc.

2, All the 4 ETFs are broad based. We can say that as TD’s first step, it just manufactured some building blocks. If we look at RBC, the strategy is quite different. Its “Quant” series are using rule-based, multi-factor approach. RBC’s Quant series can be regared as smart beta funds though it didn’t use related name. RBC don’t have those basic building blocks. I think RBC’s strategy is more pragmatic as they don’t compete with iShares or Vanguard on those building blocks. From another point of view, I may say TD’s strategy is more aggressive.

3, TD ETFs’ pricing are competitive. We can compare TD’s Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF’s management fee with 3 major players in the marekt. TD charges 0.10%, iShares Canadian Universe Bond Index ETF (XBB) is 0.30%, BMO Aggregate Bond Index ETF is 0.20%, Vanguard Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF is 0.12%. Although these ETFs track different index and have different holdings, we still can get some color of TD ETFs’ pricing strategy.

How will the Canadian ETF market evolve in 2016?

The prosperity of the ETF market needs a ecosystem which includes many participants, such as index providers, fund issuers, exhanges, distributors, regulators and consumers. It takes a long time to cultivate the market and make all parts integrated smoothly. 15 years has passed since the first ETF was launched on Toronto Stock Exchange, 2016 will be a critial year for the ETF market as the majority of big banks entered the market. Here I have some personal prediction for 2016:

1, Big five banks will have some substantial move in the ETF market. BMO may consider sreamlining its lineup as ETF is a scale-do-matter game. RBC has already accelerated its product rolling out speed. TD will hit the ground running in the first quarter of 2016. Scotia and CIBC should have some news related to ETF in the year.

2, Purpose Investment is a company I will pay close attention to. Som Sief, the charismatic CEO who successfully created Claymore Canada, positioned his new company to “change the industry”. I have very postitive anticipation with this company.

3, Regulation should change to adapt to the development of ETFs. Currently most of the retail finance sales people are licensed as mutual fund representative, they cannot talk about ETF products with clients. It is expectable that the license rules will be modified to reflect the industry evolution.

4, Advisors should upgrade themselves to meet clients needs. ETF proliferation and product innovation are so fast that they challenge advisors’ capability of learning new things. Robo-advisors emerge to compete with human beings. Advisors should provide some “Advisor Alpha” which the concept was firstly presented by Vanguard.

Abstract in Chinese /中文摘要:

加拿大第二大银行TD即将推出4支ETF基金,标志着其在时隔10年之后,再次进入这一市场。早在2001年,他们就率先进入这个市场,但于2006年折戟退出。TD的加入标志着ETF领域成为兵家必争之地,也令2016年的加拿大ETF市场更具看点。从其首批推出的4支基金看,TD全部采用标普道琼斯指数公司提供的指数,从最基础的广域市场指数基金切入,定价很有竞争力。这与RBC的ETF产品策略有显著不同。相信TD的进入会推动加拿大ETF生态系统的完善,推动监管配套,以及投资顾问行业的转型升级。

BMO SmartFolio Review

Last week, BMO launched its new service SmartFolio. It’s “a digital portfolio management service”, the bank’s news announcement says. I tried its online registration process, read its online documents, examined its model portfolios, talked to a service representative over the phone. Here are some brief comments:

1, BMO’s spirit of innovation in the wealth management field is impressive and respectable. For example, in the discount brokerage battlefiled, it launched “AdiviceDirect” service several years ago. It provides stock/fund recommendations and portfolio construction/rebalencing suggestions to self-direct trading account holders, charges fees by 0.5-1.0% of the portfolio assets. In 2014, I tried this services for 6 months. No matter the successfulness of AdiviceDirect, the attempt itself is absolutely meaningful and respectable.

another good example is the ETF products. By the end of 2015, BMO accounts for 27.1% AUM in the ETF market (vs. BlackRock’s 52.4%), yet 3 years ago it had only 16.4% (vs. BlackRock’s 73.8%). Comparing the two charts below, we can see the Canadian ETF markets are getting more crowded, but BMO still gains market share substantially.

Canadian ETF Market by the end of 2015

Canada ETF Issuer stats Dec 2015

Canaidian ETF Market by the end of 2012

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 10.55.23 AM

Direct source: Canadian ETF Association Website, http://www.cetfa.ca

2, BMO SmartFolio can be regarded as a kind of compact/simplified discretionary portfolio management service. Many news reports linked SmartFolio to robo-advisors such as WealthFront, Betterman or WealthSimple. Actually, there are very different. Robo-advisor service are strictly rule based, while SmartFolio is “actively managed by a team of BMO professionals”. Collectively, the 12 expert team has over 165 years of experience (quoted from its website). We can regareded the SmartFolio as a fully discretionary account which use in-house ETFs as components (rather than pooled funds or individual securities). In the below I creat a simple chart to position SmartFolio in the spectrum of different services from totally DIY to fully discretionary:

SmartFolio

3, Its fee policy is not competitive. But this service could be very good substitute to mutual fund portfolios. BMO SmartFolio is not cheap at all. It charges annual management fee of 0.7% for the first $100,000, on top of that, clients shall also pay the average 0.3% MER of the ETFs in their portfolio. In total it’s about 1%. This doesn’t make sense to high value clients, as most of them they need face-to-face interactions. This doesn’t make sense to fee-sensitive couch potato DIYers as they can build their portfolio with much lower cost and much more variety/flexibility. I don’t know BMO’s real stragety and expectation of SmartFolio, but considering the context of CRM II in Canada and consumers awareness of mutual fund fees, I think it is a very good strategy to convert current mutual fund customers into SmartFolio gradually, targeting the mass affluent market.

4, The portfolios are Canada focused. The SmartFolio has 5 model portfolios which covered the whole spectrum from very conservative to growth driven. I tried the online questionare and reviewed 3 of them and found they weighted relatively high in Canada. In the Capital Preservation portfolio (10% equity/90 bonds), Canada bonds account for 69.7%. In the balanced portfolio (50/50), 62.6% is invested in Canada equity and bonds. In the equity growth portfolio (90/10), 49.31% is Canadian equity.

5, SmartFolio still has a lot of potential to evolve. The SmartFolio is still in its preliminary stage so unavoidably it has some limitations. Here are some by my perception: (1) It consists of only 2 asset classes, equity and bonds. Currently there is now way if client wants to add REITs, commodity, or other alternative components into their portfolio. (2) It only uses BMO’s in house ETFs. (3) It doesn’t support U.S. funds.

Among the big 5 banks in Canada, only BMO and RBC has their own ETFs. BMO is the only one which provide this kind of ETF-only portfolio services up to now. But I belive all the other banks are paying close attention to the market trend closely. RBC is catching up in the ETF issues very quickly, yesterday it launched 4 more new ETFs which make its ETF lineup has 24 funds. The rest 3 banks may consider purchase a established robo-advisor in the market by my guess.

 

Goldman Sachs’ Entry is a milestone for the ETF markets

2015 is a year of innovation for the ETF industry. Smart Beta is no doubt the hottest theme.  Hundreds of smart beta (or other fancy names) rolled out throughout the year. But one of the most remarkable news attracted my attention is Goldman Sachs launched its first ETF in September 2015 which also uses smart beta concept.

By my personal percetpion,  the ETF market has an overwhelming “winner takes all” characteristic. The big three fund managers, Black Rock, State Street and Vanguard, take away 80% of the asset under management. By my rough calculation, the largest 20 ETFs count for only 1% of the numbers of funds, but count for more than 30% AUM and trading volume. Scale really matters in ETF markets. This make new funds very difficult to survive. Neither for the big name as Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs launched its first ETF in September 2015, the Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta(R) U.S. Large Cap Equity ETF. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission webiste, Goldman Sachs’ ETF lineup has 12 funds, among which 6 funds are ActiveBeta ETFs, 5 are Hedge Fund Tracker ETFs, 1 is ESG ETF. Up to now only 3 ActiveBeta funds are incepted.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 11.52.17 AM

Source: WWW.SEC.GOV webiste

In order to know more about Goldman Sachs’ ETFs, I read theire documentations and have some personal findings:

1, Goldman Sachs funds’ positioning strategy is taking the two ends of the spectrum. At one end, it has 6 broad market ActiveBeta ETFs, which are must-have components in any portfolios. At the other end, it tries to target a niche market with Hedge Fund Tracker ETFs, which the market has high potential demand but limited supply. I believe Goldman Sachs don’t want to compete in the very crowdy middle market (funds of single investment theme).

2, Its funds use multi-layer indexes. For example, the Goldman Sachs US Large Cap Euqity ETF (GSLC), uses Solactive US Large Cap Index as the bottom layer index which provides the investment universe. Then the fund construct 4 sub-indexes with seperate methodologies. Lastly, the fund combine 4 sub-indexes and get a fund index. The second and third indexes are developed by Goldman Sachs. I checked both Solactive Index and the ETF’s holdings, the Solactive Index has 493 holdings, but the ETF has only 44o holdings. This is becase some stocks are allocated to zero weight after the screening process.

3, The Goldman Sachs US Large Cap Euqity ETF (GSLC) utilized a 4-factor model: Value, Momentum, Quality, Low Volitility. These 4 factors are equally weighted in the final index. These 4 factors in a higher degree played a weight tilt role rather than screening role. So that even 4 factors are applied, 90% stocks in the investment univers (base index) are ketp in the ETF. Some other smart beta funds use multi-factors as multi-layer filter, so the final holding numbers are very concentrated relative to the initial investment universe, such as QVAL (only 41 holdings) and OUSA (147 holdings).

4, The ETF utilized a “Turnover Minimization Technique”, which is pending patent, to decrease the trading cost. So when rebalancing schedule comes, the fund has some discretion to decide the amount of adjustment within the buffer range.

Why do I say Goldman Sachs’ entry is a milestone for the ETF market? Because it is the most infuential power in the financial industry. It has all the resources to enter the ETF markets at any time. But it didn’t do that until 2015. This is an persuasive evidence that Goldman Sachs realized ETF is the market trend you cannot ignore. I like Goldman Sachs becasue of its innovation. I beilive its joining with make the ETF markets much more exciting and prosperous.