Despite it being the summer doldrums, exchange-traded funds’ (ETFs) sponsors were busy this past week. The last seven days saw the launch of four funds from two different sponsors. Relative newcomer to the ETF world, Principal Financial Group, expanded its line-up to a total of five ETFs, while multi-billion dollar ETF-provider First Trust continued to flesh out its successful sub-managed active ETF suite.
Principal’s ‘Me-Too’ Launches
While Principal Financial Group has been a retirement mutual fund and insurance powerhouse for years, the firm is relatively new to the world of ETFs. The fund sponsor only recently launched its first set of active and smart-beta funds earlier this year. That included products tackling income solutions, wide-moated corporations and the total return concept of shareholder yield.
BTEC will go after the long-term trend of rising healthcare demand. The ETF will track the aptly named NASDAQ U.S. Healthcare Innovators Index. The index will follow healthcare companies that are considered at the forefront of new healthcare solutions and therapies. The index describes these firms as “early stage healthcare companies.” This can include the latest biotech drug manufacturers and medical device companies to healthcare equipment suppliers.
However, investors shouldn’t be confused by the “early stage” moniker. Not everyone in the ETF is a boot-strapped startup. For example, one of BTEC’s current top holdings is drug-coated stent and heart specialist Boston Scientific (BSX). Early stage refers to firms looking at illnesses and diseases that have yet to be treated or cured.
GENY takes a different approach and seeks to cash in on the rise of Millennials. Much has been written about the future spending prowess and habits of Generation Y or the Millennial Generation. This group of individuals that came into adulthood around the year 2000 – which happens to be the largest generation ever of Americans – have a very unique take on consumerism, technology, food, movies, etc. As a result, the generation is said to be completely re-writing how the world essentially functions. Companies that are able to court Millennials will succeed, while those that don’t are doomed to fail as time goes on.
GENY will track the Nasdaq Global Millennial Opportunity Index – a measure of U.S. and international stocks benefiting from the spending habits of the group. This includes everything from social media, digital media, technology, healthy lifestyles, consumer goods, retail stores and restaurants, as well as travel & leisure companies.
Edgy ETF issuer Global X recently launched the Global X Millennials Thematic ETF (MILN ), in addition to a suite of alternative-healthcare funds. ETF and mutual-fund specialist Janus also undertook the alt-healthcare angle with a suite of similar funds. The question will be whether BTEC and GENY offer enough differentiation to make them valid products.
BTEC will charge 0.42% in expenses, while GENY will charge 0.45%.
First Trust Lowers Volatility Actively
Let’s face facts. The market has been on a roller coaster the last few months. Successful ETF-sponsor First Trust wants to make that roller coaster seem more like a kiddie ride. With that as its goal, the firm launched the First Trust Horizon Managed Volatility Domestic ETF (HUSV ) and First Trust Horizon Managed Volatility Developed International ETF (HDMV ).
HUSV and HDMV build on First Trust’s successful platform of active ETFs that use various sub-managers. In this case, Horizon Investments. Both funds share a similar mandate: to provide exposure to those stocks that exhibit lower volatility than the overall market. By capitalizing on the low-volatility anomaly, investors should be able to realize better long-term risk-adjusted returns than a portfolio of high-volatility stocks.
Horizon will use a proprietary volatility-forecasting model to determine which stocks have the potential to exhibit the lowest overall volatility in the future. That model is based on previous historical data. The prime difference between the two ETFs is that HUSV will focus on large-cap U.S. stocks, while HDMV will hold developed market international ones. The number of holdings will also vary as HUSV will hold 50 to 70 stocks, while HDMV will hold 100 to 200.
HUSV has a 0.70% expense ratio. HDMV will charge 0.80%.
The Bottom Line
This week saw some interesting launches. Ultimately, Principal’s two new thematic funds and First Trust’s lower volatility ETFs could find their way into investors’ portfolios once they gather enough assets.