Exchange-traded funds are becoming an increasingly popular investment vehicle for institutional investors around the world, but that trend is especially true among Canadian pension funds, according to a new study.
One type of ETF was particularly popular: fixed-income.
The study, which interviewed public and corporate pension funds as well as foundations and endowments, found that 57 percent of institutional asset managers are using fix-income ETFs in 2014. In 2013, that number was 45 percent.
The report, produced by Greenwich Associates, offered some reasons for the growing popularity of bond ETFs. From the Financial Post:
“Increasingly, institutional funds and asset managers are viewing ETFs not simply as useful tools for making tactical adjustments to portfolios, but rather as efficient methods for implementing new investment strategies.”
“In particular, ETFs appear to be steadily gaining traction in fixed income — a trend that could reflect investors’ search for better and more efficient approaches to the asset class in a shifting interest-rate environment.”
“Institutions’ heavy usage of passive strategies is helping to drive the growth of ETFs in fixed income,” the study said. “Virtually all the institutional funds and asset managers employ passive strategies in fixed income, and nearly a quarter invest more than half of fixed-income assets in index strategies.”
Interestingly, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Of the Canadian institutions holding fixed-income ETFs, more than 20 percent said they had started using the vehicles less than two years ago.
Even more popular than fixed-income are equity ETFs, which are employed by the vast majority of Canadian institutional investors. From FP:
Despite this growing penchant for bond funds, equity-related issues remain the most popular ETF investment among institutions, with nearly 80% using the funds in their domestic stock portfolios and 85% employing them to gain U.S. equity exposure.
ETFs are primed to continue their upward trend. According to the study, 40 percent of institutions are planning to increase their allocation to ETFs next year. Only 2 percent of respondents said they plan to reduce allocations.