An unprecedented year

Looking back at the global outlook for 2020 for ETFs, every sage comment and well thought out prediction is as nothing compared with what actually happened in the year. It makes one cautious of taking a view for the coming year, but a number of brave ETF investors, representing billions of dollars in the industry, have overcome their hesitance and expressed their predictions for the ETF industry in 2021 in the following pages.

For some parts of the ETF industry, the year that brought us the global pandemic, lockdown, the work from home scenario and accompanying market volatility was a good thing. Money has flowed in with the ETF industry enjoying another record-breaking year.

BlackRock’s November flows report for global ETPs revealed that flows into ETPs surged to new highs over the month, with a record USD125.6 billion of net inflows, overtaking the USD47.4 billion added in October.

BlackRock writes that in a clear risk-on shift, USD111.0 billion was added to equity ETPs, and as US election uncertainty subsided and new vaccine announcements were heard daily, investors returned to US equity ETPs with USD65.2 billion of inflows – the highest on record.

2020 was the year when ETFs got their first major recognition that they worked well in volatile markets, with august bodies from all sides admitting that ETFs kept their liquidity and acted as sources of price discovery during the extreme market volatility of the first quarter.

Thematic ETFs and ETPS enjoyed an extraordinary year. Interview after interview with thematic ETF issuers this year showed an extraordinary rise in assets and also performance. This phenomenon is best demonstrated by the interview with Ark Invest’s Ren Leggi, client portfolio manager at the firm, who detailed year to date figures for ARK Disruptive Innovation at 101.8 per cent as of 17/11/2020, while the firm’s assets, totalled at USD4 billion when ETF Express last interviewed them in 2018, were USD33.3 billion, as of 31/10/2020.

The returns come from investments in the mostly tech-led sectors that have benefited from the pandemic: internet usage, online shopping, e-medical consultations, online education, even entertainment for everyone who has pretty much been stuck indoors, with their family group for months at a time. Ark Invest’s CEO Cathie Wood and her team believe that the global economy is undergoing the largest technological transformation in history and many of these thematic ETFs have been in exactly the right place at the right time.

In the US, there has been another driver for growth in ETFs with the implementation of the ETF rule, 6c-11, which has precipitated a raft of innovation and conversions. 2020 saw firms converting mutual funds, separately managed accounts and even hedge fund strategies into the ETF format in the US this year.

Texas-based Dimensional Fund Advisors is set to become one of the largest ETF issuers in the world in the first quarter of 2021, as it converts six of its mutual funds to ETFs, bringing in a predicted USD30 billion of ETF assets. And the investors are likely to convert. Why? A 27 per cent reduction in management fees is pretty convincing.

Please read on for the ETF Express Global Outlook 2021 special report, with investors in ETFs, representing billions of dollars, from the US and Europe, answering a series of key questions.
 


How has the ETF industry emerged from the market volatility and pandemic of 2020?

Rusty Vanneman, CIO, Orion Advisor Solutions
The ETF industry thrived in 2020, despite epic market volatility. The benefits of liquidity, diversification, dependable market exposure, low costs, improved after-tax performance, among other factors, were recognised by both individual and institutional investors. ETF assets grew nearly 20 per ceny in 2020 (through 11/30), with more new ETFs being introduced than being closed. This was a much better fate than the mutual fund industry, which experienced hundreds more fund closures and lagged significantly in asset growth.

Johan Grahn, Vice President, Allianz Investment Management LLC
The chaos, turbulence, and uncertainty caused by Covid-19 brought about sea change for the ETF industry in March and April of 2020. It demonstrated the ETF market’s ability to function under extreme conditions and some ETFs even served as price discovery tools for institutional investors trying to make sense of less liquid markets. Even the Fed decided that it was time to buy bond ETFs instead of the underlying bonds. Another manifestation of the tradability and liquidity of ETFs was found in the ability of newer and smaller ETFs to handle large flows without blowing out spreads. It was, in other words, a very important year for the ETF industry. A year in which any remaining doubt about its viability was laid to rest – and replaced with confidence. This surge in confidence emboldens investors and issuers alike and there is no doubt that this will fuel both growth and innovation within the ETF industry.

Allan Lane, founding partner, Algo-Chain
To many people’s surprise the pandemic accelerated the uptake of ETFs both in the US and Europe. Looking back over that time it is very clear that the two key driving factors behind that success were the way that Fixed Income ETFs successfully managed its way through the liquidity crisis that came with a bond market that was close to collapse, albeit with a little help from The Fed. Also, with the realisation yet again that too many active fund managers simply were not able to deliver the downside protection they had promised their investors, and, as if by magic, almost overnight ETFs gained a new fan base.

Bob Smith, President and CIO, Sage Advisory
The ETF market has survived and, indeed, thrived over the course of the last year. The ETF market reached nearly USD5 trillion in size with 2300 funds compared to just USD1trillion in AUM and a few hundred funds less than a decade ago through the third quarter. The ETF market remains dominated by the equity sector at roughly 73 per cent of total market AUM with fixed income at 21 per cent and the remaining 6 per cent spread across a variety of specialty categories. However, fixed income was the runaway winner most of this year in the new fund flows category, with over USD300 billion inflows representing nearly 50 per cent of all flows into the ETF market this year. Clearly, government and Central Bank policy actions in the middle of the year played a very significant part in the escalation of interest in fixed income ETFs. Those influences remain and will continue to support investor interest in this sector of the ETF markets. Equity inflows represented roughly 37 per cent of new flows going into the fourth quarter. ETFs are gaining mutual funds currently have AUM roughly equivalent to 26 per cent of the mutual funds market, which suffered further outflows of approximately USD400 billion this year as we entered the fourth quarter.

James McManus, chief investment officer, Nutmeg
The ETF industry faced one of its biggest tests during the extreme market volatility in March 2020. Since the downturn, ETFs have emerged from this period with not only their reputation intact, but an improved reputation through the acknowledgement of policy makers such as the Bank of England, European Systematic Risk Board and Investment Association. Policy makers realised that the unique secondary market for exchange traded fund products offered investors enhanced liquidity attributes. While market losses have been widespread in 2020, we hope that a positive from the episode is that it will help investors better understand the liquidity attributes of ETFs and improve education on this topic.

Mark Northway, Investment Manager, Sparrows Capital
Unscathed. Asset growth has not even paused for breath, and the crisis has yet again underlined that the diversification and discipline offered by these instruments are invaluable in difficult markets.

Oliver Smith, Investment Director, Sandaire
Overall, the industry has emerged strongly from Q1, with ETFs gaining assets and becoming an ever larger part of client allocations. The temporary trading difficulties experienced in March caused issues for active traders, as bid-ask spreads widened, but had no impact on the average investor. Certainly concerns, from a small section of investment figureheads, suggesting that ETFs are a source of systemic market risk have been proved unduly pessimistic.

Matt Brennan, head of passive portfolios, AJ Bell
The market volatility of this year is exactly what the ETF industry needed. Performance held up against active strategies, they remained largely liquid and gave investors an easy way to gain or reduce market exposure. It has helped to highlight the benefits of the wrapper whilst dispelling some of the myths.


Will global ETF assets rise, level out or fall over 2021?

Rusty Vanneman, CIO, Orion Advisor Solutions
Expect growth to continue. For example, some project that the US ETF market will grow to USD6 trillion by the end of 2021 (as of 11/30 ETF AUM was just over USD5 trillion). Given the industry’s momentum, combined with innovative new ETFs, increasing investor demand, and new brand-name manufacturers coming to the market, it would not be unexpected to see ETF assets surprise market experts next year to the upside in terms of assets under management (of course, Mr. Market has a say in all this too).

Allan Lane, founding partner, Algo-Chain
The returns delivered in 2020 by thematic ETFs were beyond every investor’s wildest dreams and represented the zeitgeist of an era where in every country from Belgium to Brazil hope was thin on the ground but in abundance as investors placed their hope in future technologies like never before. In between pockets of success, 2021 will be the year when the adage ‘buy the rumour, sell the fact’ kicks in and the market will give back some of those massive returns.

Bob Smith, President and CIO, Sage Advisory
Global ETF issuance will continue to grow and excel in 2021. We anticipate that the ETF market will continue to grow three to five times its current size over the next decade. This will primarily be fueled by the preference for intra-day liquidity, scalability, customisation, and effective risk hedging afforded by ETFs vs. mutual funds. We expect further expansion of ETF markets in the international markets in reaction to weakness in the US USD and the post-pandemic economic recoveries currently emerging.

James McManus, chief investment officer, Nutmeg
ETF assets are set to rise in 2021. As the industry continues to grow on the back of several structural trends the increased investor recognition of the liquidity, transparency and cost benefits that ETFs offer continue unabated.

Mark Northway, Investment Manager, Sparrows Capital
Covid-19 has meant that we’ve all learned a huge amount in 2020 about interpreting trends in data sets. The growth in ETF/ETP uptake (over USD500 billion or around 9.5 per cent annualised to November 2020) shows that the instruments are steadily and continuously eating into mutual fund an index fund territory, and that process shows no sign of abating yet.

Oliver Smith, Investment Director, Sandaire
It seems inevitable that with fixed income yields in developed markets at very low levels, that investors will feel obliged to squeeze every last basis point from their costs. ETFs continue to be well positioned to benefit from this, meaning that assets can continue to rise even if equity markets post losses in 2021.

Matt Brennan, head of passive portfolios, AJ Bell
We would expect to see them rise, driven especially by ESG.


Which geographical areas will do the best in terms of asset raising over 2021: UK, Europe, Canada, US or Asia?

Rusty Vanneman, CIO, Orion Advisor Solutions
To be honest, I don’t have a strong conviction on this question given my US focus, but it’s my understanding that ETF adoption has been more embraced in North America and that industry momentum favours North America as well. This all said, as an ETF advocate and as a betting man, I would expect that ETF adoption will also significantly increase globally in the years ahead.

Allan Lane, founding partner, Algo-Chain
Asia has been one step ahead in the Covid-19 cycle which will see that region continue to attract a higher share of investors’ attention.

Bob Smith, President and CIO, Sage Advisory
The US will lead the way in AUM growth, followed by Asia and Europe. This is because the US market environment offers a more creative and innovative atmosphere and a flexible regulatory environment to allow US participants to introduce new strategies and risk management orientations compared to the other regions.

Mark Northway, Investment Manager, Sparrows Capital
Asset growth rates are marginally higher outside the US, suggesting that the US is closer to a saturation point. This is logical given the earlier uptake of ETFs than elsewhere. It remains to be seen whether Brexit will stimulate the development of UK based product for UK investors; ideally we will continue to us Irish jurisdictions and avoid further liquidity and product fragmentation.

Matt Brennan, head of passive portfolios, AJ Bell

Europe, given the new climate regulations coming into force, encouraging the use of ESG/climate ETFs


Which sector trends and thematics will dominate ETFs over 2021?

Rusty Vanneman, CIO, Orion Advisor Solutions
As we enter the new year, the momentum is on the side of Thematic ETFs that capitalise on investment themes such as technological disruption and breakthroughs. Additional themes would include demographics and social change, rapid urbanisation, climate change, and emerging global wealth.

Thematics have had an incredible 2020 in terms of investment performance and raising assets. In fact, their AUM growth rate exceeded over 100 per cent (through 11/30), with 3x as many new thematic ETFs being introduced than closing. Expect more strong growth as they tell concise and compelling stories, and many have genuine merit for inclusion in investment portfolios, especially with the added bonus of diversification benefits.

A close runner-up would be actively managed ETFs. Already popular in fixed income, more equity investment management firms are entering the ETF market and bringing along with them considerable talent and resources in product and marketing. This will be a major driver of growth in the ETF industry not only in 2021, but in the years ahead.

Johan Grahn, Vice President, Allianz Investment Management LLC
A year like 2020 leaves behind it some investment strategies that earned their stripes, and others that cracked under pressure and failed to live up to expectations. But no matter what kind of investor you might be and whatever strategies you might be investing in, 2020 certainly brought risk management back into focus. While the financial crisis of 2008/2009 was an entirely different kind of event, it too spurred the quest among investors to find strategies that would deliver “smarter” risk management and “smarter” outcomes. The major difference between then and now is that investors can access risk management strategies with “defined” risk management and “defined” outcomes previously only available in less liquid vehicles with high minimums – strategies that are now available in the liquid and low cost ETF wrapper.

These types of ETFs generally provide market exposure to an index like the S&P 500 up to a cap, and a defined buffer that absorbs a certain amount of losses over a defined outcome period. The beauty of these products is that as an investor, you know what you can expect before you invest, regardless of what the market does. These types of products allow you to manage risk and invest with confidence. While this segment of the ETF market has grown by USD5 billion in just over two years, there is good reason to believe that it will continue an upward trend as investors will always look for ways to make risk/return tradeoffs. In particular, to help solve long-term asset allocation dilemmas in a world where equity markets are arguably stretched and rates in the bond market are reaching the end (perhaps?) of a several decades long cycle.

Allan Lane, founding partner, Algo-Chain
A view of the world that once was the preserve of science fiction movies is now within touching distance, but not far behind are the four horsemen as they gallop towards the global crisis that comes with climate change. Somewhat neatly, this does suggest that thematic investing will all be about knowing one’s ABCs, where AI, Blockchain & Climate Change will dominate the ETF column inches.

Bob Smith, President and CIO, Sage Advisory
Fixed income will continue to blossom despite the current low-rate environment. Fixed-income ETFs reached the USD1 trillion milestones this year through big gains in corporate bond and ESG oriented fund flows. We expect this growth to continue by focusing on further developing sustainably oriented strategies, which took in nearly USD25 billion in fund flows so far this year, and the expansion of strategies focused on various sub-sectors and credit quality categories currently not available to more decerning institutional and private clients. Indeed, the market will continue to see a move away from the blunt, broad index focused strategies that dominate the market by default to one where more scalpel-like and risk precise strategies can be designed and offered on demand. The continued expansion of the green bond and taxable muni markets will also bring the need for further offerings in the ETF market to reflect these trends in the cash markets. Lastly, inflation-sensitive and non-dollar fixed income investor interest are expected to increase, and the ETF market will need to expand its range of offerings regarding these concerns to meet growing market demand.

James McManus, chief investment officer, Nutmeg
Products focused on delivering stronger ESG outcomes for investors will continue to witness growth in the year ahead. A core aspect of this is products that focus on climate and environment related issues, where we are already seeing increased product development. Linked to this, one theme that will continue to gather interest is the clean energy sector, particularly as the incoming US administration looks to shift the approach to climate policy domestically. Thematic strategies will also remain popular for long-term investors.

Mark Northway, Investment Manager, Sparrows Capital
2020 saw underperformance by factor strategies, and we have already seen fallout from that with the closure of certain factor ETFs by Vanguard. This feels short-sighted given the strong academic underpinning enjoyed by factor disciplines, but is a reflection that the market is driven largely by investor trends – and investors tend to unload strategies at or close to the point of maximum underperformance.

Undoubtedly the key focus by investors going into 2021 remains ESG / SRI, and we should expect to see more providers and advisers belatedly gaining religion in this area. The ESG theme has benefited from substantial outperformance through the Covid-19 crisis, but we urge investors to treat responsible investing as a filter, not a factor, regardless of the hype.

Expect Covid-19 to be a driver for new strategies in 2021 as the dust settles in the longer-term implications for sectors, industries and business models. These strategies will all class as the new Smart Beta and will look to lure investors into major sectoral concentrations, ignoring the fact that the horse has already bolted. Investors need to be very cautious.

Oliver Smith, Investment Director, Sandaire
As the global economy recovers, the bull market in global equities should broaden to other sectors that were left behind in 2020. With both fiscal and monetary stimulus likely to play a key role in accelerating global growth, infrastructure, clean energy and commodity producers should all have a chance to perform well. A weakening USD may also finally wake some of those ignored emerging markets from their slumber, with South Africa, Brazil and Mexico all looking interesting.

Matt Brennan, head of passive portfolios, AJ Bell

ESG/Sustainable and the emergence of alternative strategies given yet another fall in bond yields.


Will there be continued pressure on fees?

Rusty Vanneman, CIO, Orion Advisor Solutions
I’m guessing yes – and no. First, the secular trend toward lower manufacturing costs is still in place. While we won’t quite see the same reduction in fees we have seen in the recent past, the trend is indeed toward lower fees.

That said, my guess is that as the stock market leadership changes – it has to eventually, right? – smaller companies will perform better, more cyclical sectors will perform better, and thus good active management should shine again. Investors will pay more for performance, and it’s likely will we eventually return to such an environment where the search for alpha dominates over saving an additional basis point or two in lower expenses.

Allan Lane, founding partner, Algo-Chain
If the pandemic of 2020 has taught us anything, it is that successful ETFs don’t always come with rock bottom fees. Apart from some skirmishes among the top 3 providers as they jostle for market share, the boutique firms will pursue corners of the investment world where price isn’t everything.

Bob Smith, President and CIO, Sage Advisory
The ‘Vanguard Effect’ will continue to weigh upon the markets, particularly in the market's passive index-focused sectors. Anything above the 20-basis point fee mark will need a very good story behind it with attractive performance and great marketing to keep clients coming. With the introduction of zero-fee ETFs by BNY this year, we will see further attempts by the large dominant firms to reduce fees and build market share. Smaller providers will suffer the consequences, and the market will run the risk of becoming more monopolised. This year the Big three ETF providers (Vanguard, BlackRock & State Street) took in an estimated 70 per cent plus of all ETF market fund flows and nearly 80 per cent of the asset value reflected in the ETF market today. When one considers the top 10 ETF providers, we find that this small group comprises about 95 per cent of the ETF markets asset value and over 85 per cent of all fund flow thus far in 2020. This trend may eventually lead to the stagnation of growth and innovation in the industry and pose a significant systemic risk situation that regulators may notice under the new Biden Administration.

James McManus, chief investment officer, Nutmeg

Yes, but fee compression can only go so far. Core equity fee reduction is reaching its limit. There is still room for fee compression in many core fixed income products, such as high yield corporate bonds and emerging market bonds. ESG/Sustainable focused funds will be at the forefront of cost competitiveness as they increasingly become mainstream. Yet, we expect to see further pressure on the fee component associated to the index provider across asset classes.

Mark Northway, Investment Manager, Sparrows Capital

Sparrows Capital co-sponsored a study into fee development by the lang cat in November which suggested these is room for further fee compression throughout the value chain. The ETF sector is already highly competitive with the index funds and presents a much greater range of specialist index strategies than are available as traditional funds. It is difficult to see how much cheaper ETFs themselves can get without creating insurmountable barriers to new entrants.

Oliver Smith, Investment Director, Sandaire
Fees undoubtedly will continue to be looked at, and within the ETF space being the market leader on fees invites the largest inflows. However, after a year of huge dispersion in returns between managers and strategies, asset allocators are just as concerned about total returns and the extent to which they are rewarded for taking active risk.

Matt Brennan, head of passive portfolios, AJ Bell
Not for vanilla ETFs, but yes in thematic, ESG, fixed income ETFs.


Will the US see continued uptake of ETFs by institutions and will Europe see greater involvement from financial advisers and wealth managers?

Rusty Vanneman, CIO, Orion Advisor Solutions
The benefits of a low-cost, dependable market exposure that is liquid with low transaction costs has many use cases for institutional investors. I expect that will continue to be case around the world.

Allan Lane, founding partner, Algo-Chain
Going, going, gone. 2020 was the year when the ‘Anti-Vaxxers’ and the ‘Anti-ETF’ crowd lost the argument, which in turn has seen an increase in the adoption of ETFs from New York to London. This trend will persist into 2021.

Bob Smith, President and CIO, Sage Advisory
Yes, and yes. As was clearly the case this year and will likely be so going forward, the institutional investor is and will become a bigger participant in the ETF markets, particularly in fixed income, ESG and specialty areas such as commodity and various risk-based strategies focused on volatility monetisation, income harvesting, inflation hedging and interest rate risk mitigation. The European wealth management and adviser community will continue to become more involved with the innovations introduced in the US ETF markets as it related to retirement income solutions and greater non-US dollar-denominated choices offering ample market liquidity and marketability.

James McManus, chief investment officer, Nutmeg
Of course, the structural drivers for institutions on both sides of the Atlantic remain in place. Investors are seeking greater diversification, transparency, liquidity and lower costs. ETFs remain an attractive alternative for many investors.

Mark Northway, Investment Manager, Sparrows Capital
Demand from institutions is driven partly by the operational and cost advantages of ETFs relative to mutual funds and segregated portfolios, and partly by the trend towards separation of core beta investments from high conviction specialised alpha plays. Expect both drivers to continue in 2021, tempered perhaps by the hugely increased institutional focus on ESG considerations. For some, these will be addressed by the stewardship policies of ETF managers, for others by the use of ESG filtered ETFs, but for many institutions ESG will result in a continued preference for directly held segregated portfolios.

Financial advisers in Europe have become more accustomed to the use of ETFs in client portfolios and we are now seeing very little pushback. There Is still an issue with some of the legacy platforms which can restrict take-up, but advisers are now showing less reluctance to divert new business and indeed entire books of business to the more flexible platforms.

Sparrows Capital launched capped-fee financial adviser targeted MPS ranges in 2020. These are available in either fund only or hybrid (fund and ETF) versions, and we have seen the take-up to date focus heavily on the hybrids.

Matt Brennan, head of passive portfolios, AJ Bell
No comment on the US, however in Europe I think we still need to see further work on listings, settlements, trading, fractional dealing before we see greater uptake.


The rise of the semi-transparent ETF in 2020. Will these new products continue to find approval with investors in the US in 2021 or begin to appear in Europe?

Rusty Vanneman, CIO, Orion Advisor Solutions
I think so. While some traditional ETF investors are not fans due to lack of complete transparency, I’m not one of them. In short, there will be a lot more talent and resources dedicated to semi-transparent ETFs, in an upcoming market environment which I believe should favour good active management. These ETFs will have lower over-all costs and be more liquid than comparable mutual funds. This sounds like an incredible opportunity to take more market share from mutual funds, never mind attracting organic growth from new investors.

Allan Lane, founding partner, Algo-Chain
The ETF story has quite a way to run in Europe, so there are not quite the same drivers to adopt semi-transparent ETFs. Now with the US market, that is an entirely different story, so I would expect that sector of the ETF market to continue to grow.

Bob Smith, President and CIO, Sage Advisory
The semi-transparent ETF market is still trying to find its sea legs in this turbulent market environment. Transparency has a value to some and not necessarily to others, particularly if the instrument can be easily traded throughout the day on major market exchanges at a tight bid-offer-spread. The semi-transparent ETFs need to show that this is additive to the ETF's underlying value and its relative performance on an ongoing basis in all market environments. We are not sure that has yet occurred, so the jury is still out on this form of ETF for us.

James McManus, chief investment officer, Nutmeg
One of the core aspects of ETFs attractiveness is their transparency. While we believe that many stock selection strategies could be deployed within the ETF wrapper, allowing investors to potentially benefit from many of the core features of ETFs, we do not believe that transparency should be the trade-off. ETFs using active security selection already exist in the European marketplace. They have launched without the need to sacrifice transparency and this would always be our preferred approach.

Mark Northway, Investment Manager, Sparrows Capital
The growth of active ETF product is limited not by investor demand but by the willingness of many managers to provide live or even delayed transparency over portfolio constituents. Many regard the detail of the portfolio as their intellectual property and are keen to prevent observers from replicating, counter-trading or arbitraging their active bets. Indeed, historically many US managers have also avoided replicating their core strategies in Europe because of the required level of portfolio disclosure under UCITs rules.

The development of semi-transparent ETFs addresses these concerns for some, but not all managers. We expect take up to continue in the US as competitive pressure increases and for a parallel development in Europe.

Matt Brennan, head of passive portfolios, AJ Bell
I do not believe there is a need for semi-transparent ETFs, and I do not see them gaining penetration in Europe. There may be greater success in the US, where the tax advantage of ETFs over mutual funds remains.


2020 was the year of the active fund: will active ETFs continue to dominate investor selections

Rusty Vanneman, CIO, Orion Advisor Solutions
Yes! See above.

Allan Lane, founding partner, Algo-Chain
If you can’t beat them, join them! It will not be too long when we will all look back and smile at an era where the active vs. passive debate took up too many debates. Many active managers have already figured out that those three little letters, e, t and f can mean much more than index tracker funds. If we think of ETFs as a type of legal wrapper, which is exactly what it is, then there is no holding back those 100s of active fund managers that want to take advantage of that slip stream.

Bob Smith, President and CIO, Sage Advisory
The ARK management team clearly proved there is room for actively managed ETFs. Their approach was quite bold in that they communicated very clearly all their investment decisions and shared this information with all that wanted it. That is transparency in the highest order and perhaps the secret sauce of their success aside from being smart stock pickers. We believe well run, actively managed ETFs will take hold in other categories such as domestic and international fixed income, emerging markets commodities, ESG, multi-asset income sectors of the market, to name a few. However, what will be required for success in this evolution will be many communication and superior performance attributes like those of Ark’s. In this, many have failed, and few have found lasting success.

James McManus, chief investment officer, Nutmeg
At Nutmeg, we believe that 2020 was, in fact, the year of the ETF! ETFs continued to grow in popularity, while the ETF market emerged from the worst market volatility with a stronger reputation. It’s clear to see the role that the ETF market has played in wider market liquidity dynamics, and as a result gained praise from national monetary policymakers.

Mark Northway, Investment Manager, Sparrows Capital
Active ETFs certainly gained ground in 2020 but annualised growth rates of around 12% were not stratospheric. The use of ETF wrappers for active strategies is a logical development, particularly for those strategies and managers which can live with semi-transparency, and the concept was used several years back by Source ETF to wrap a share class of Ashmore’s active EM fund.

The process of allocating to traditional funds and of withdrawing from those funds is arcane, and the prices achieved are based on end of day valuations which can be unrepresentative at times. As investors realise the benefits of intraday liquidity, pricing certainty and simplicity of execution and settlement it makes sense for them to gravitate towards the ETF wrapper for both active and index products.

Oliver Smith, Investment Director, Sandaire
ETFs are still the best way to get low cost beta, but increasingly they offer attractions in getting niche exposure to parts of the market that actively managed funds may not offer. If the rally in value continues, you can be sure that the ETF space will be first to market with new products.

Matt Keenan, head of passive portfolios, AJ Bell
I disagree that 2020 was the year of the active fund, or that active ETFs were particularly used, so I do not think they will dominate selections!

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