The Next Investing Frontier: Liquid Alternative ETFs
Think back to your desires five years ago. As you’ve changed and the world around you has shifted, chances are your desires have also evolved. Similar progressions can be seen in the investing realm.
As investors have become more sophisticated, they have sought securities that provide:
- Enhanced transparency
- Lower fees
- Increased liquidity
This changing behavior paved the way for emerging investment opportunities, including liquid alternative ETFs. In today’s infographic from IndexIQ, we explain what liquid alternative ETFs are, explore their benefits, and discuss how to use them in a portfolio.
What Are Liquid Alternative ETFs?
In order to define liquid alternative ETFs, it’s easier to break the term into two parts: liquid alternatives and ETFs.
Liquid alternatives are baskets of securities with exposure to alternative strategies. They can be accessed through ETFs, mutual funds, or closed-end funds with daily liquidity. Alternative investments are any asset that is not a stock or bond, such as commodities, real estate, or private equity.
ETFs are baskets of securities that trade on an exchange. They can contain various asset classes including stocks, bonds, commodities, or a mixture.
The benefits of ETFs have been combined with the benefits of liquid alternatives to form a relatively new investment opportunity: liquid alternative ETFs.
Liquid alternative ETFs are the subset of liquid alternatives that trade on an exchange. However, they are not widely used yet. In a recent survey, only 8% of institutional investors currently use them, or have used them in the past. Why aren’t more investors adding them to their portfolios?
Misconceptions about Liquidity
Simply put, there’s limited usage because investors lack understanding of the asset class. In fact, institutional investors view “liquidity during market stress” as the #1 disadvantage of liquid alternative ETFs.
In reality, liquid alternative ETFs are sufficiently liquid in most market conditions. ETFs benefit from two layers of liquidity: the liquidity of the ETF itself, and the liquidity of the underlying securities, known as implied liquidity.
Implied liquidity is accessed through market makers, typically large banks, that facilitate investor fund flows. If there is:
- Excess demand: Market makers buy the underlying securities, and sell ETF units.
- Excess supply: Market makers buy ETF units, and sell the underlying securities.
When investors sell ETF units for extended periods of time, market makers have many options at their disposal:
- Sell the individual underlying securities, adjusting their pricing to ensure profitability
- Hold ETF units and their underlying securities until the selling pressure dies down
- Hedge their risk by purchasing derivative instruments or ETFs from other market segments
This range of options ensures liquid alternative ETFs remain liquid, even in volatile markets.
Liquid alternative ETFs offer several key benefits for investors looking to branch out from their traditional portfolios.
The average expense ratio for all 55 U.S. alternative ETFs is just 1.04%. In comparison, hedge funds charge an average management fee of 1.3%—plus a 20-30% performance fee.
In contrast to some alternative investments, liquid alternative ETFs provide a high degree of transparency in terms of investment strategy, holdings, reporting, and fees.
Liquid alternative ETFs have exhibited low correlations with traditional asset classes. Historically, this has provided increased diversification and mitigated risk.
In addition to their many benefits, liquid alternative ETFs are quite versatile in their applications.
Liquid Alternative ETFs in Practice
Institutional investors use this asset class in three main ways.
- Core Component: Investors use liquid alternative ETFs strategically as a long-term, diversifying portfolio component.
- Transition Management: While cash and money market funds are the most common transition vehicles, alternative ETFs provide efficient market exposure at a reasonable cost.
- Fund-of-funds replacement: Many institutional investors use fund-of-funds in their alternative portfolios, but this strategy brings additional fees, a lack of transparency, and potential overdiversification. Liquid alternative ETFs are a compelling replacement.
Whether an investor has short-term or long-term needs, liquid alternative ETFs are a useful tool.
Poised for Growth
With numerous benefits and applications, liquid alternative ETFs are gaining traction. In fact, the market is expected to grow nearly 2.5x by the end of 2020, from $47 billion to $114 billion.
As more institutional investors gain an understanding of this versatile asset class, they will be poised to implement a powerful tool that helps them achieve their clients’ goals.
The 26-Year History of ETFs, in One Infographic
This graphic timeline highlights how the exchange-traded fund (ETF) came into existence, as well as the 26-year history of ETFs as an investment vehicle.
The 26-Year History of ETFs, in One Infographic
In recent decades, there have been many breakthrough technologies that have re-shaped the nature of entire industries.
In finance, perhaps the most notable disruption has come from the rise of the exchange-traded fund (ETF) — an investment vehicle that has quadrupled in size over the last decade alone. But how did the ETF originate, and how has its use evolved through to today?
Today’s infographic comes to us from iShares by BlackRock, and it shows how the ETF has gone from an obscure index tracking tool to becoming a mainstream investing vehicle that encompasses trillions of dollars of assets around the world.
The Origin and History of ETFs
ETFs emerged out of the index investing phenomenon in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and there are two early examples that can be referenced as a starting point:
- Index Participation Shares – 1989
This initial attempt to create an ETF was set to track the S&P 500, and garnered significant investor interest. However, it was ruled to work like a futures contract according to a federal court in Chicago, so it never made it to the exchange.
- Toronto 35 Index Participation Units – 1990
These were a warehouse, receipt-based instrument that tracked Canada’s major index, the TSE-35. They allowed investors to participate in the performance in the index, without owning individual shares of stocks in the index.
Since these pioneering ETF endeavors, the investment vehicle has caught on in popularity — and it is now clear that ETFs provide a range of important benefits to investors, such as: low costs, liquidity, diversification, tax efficiency, flexibility, accessibility, and transparency.
Key Milestones in U.S. ETF History:
- 1993 – The First ETF launches in the U.S., tracking the S&P 500
- 1998 – Sector ETFs debut, tracking individual S&P 500 sectors
- 2004 – The first U.S.-listed commodity ETF is formed, offering exposure to gold bullion
- 2008 – Actively-managed ETFs get the green light from the SEC
- 2010 – Term-maturity ETFs debut, holding bonds that all mature in same year
- 2015 – First factor-based bond ETFs are launched
- 2019 – U.S.-listed ETFs hit $4 trillion in AUM, and global bond ETF AUM crosses $1 trillion
How ETFs are Used Today
Today, the U.S. ETF industry has $4.04 trillion of assets under management (AUM), covering a wide spectrum of assets including equities, bonds, alternatives, and money markets.
ETFs are now the go-to index vehicle for 78% of institutional investors, according to a study by Greenwich Associates. Here are the 10 most popular applications for ETFs based on the same data:
|Tactical adjustments||72%||Over- or underweight certain styles, regions, or countries on the basis of short term views.|
|Core allocation||68%||Build a long-term strategic holding in a portfolio.|
|Rebalancing||60%||Manage portfolio risk in between rebalancing cycles.|
|Portfolio completion||57%||Fill in gaps in a strategic asset allocation.|
|International diversification||56%||Gain efficient access to foreign markets.|
|Liquidity management||54%||Maintain exposure in a liquid investment vehicle to meet cash flow needs.|
|Transition management||44%||Facilitate manager transitions with ETFs.|
|Risk management||42%||Mitigate undesired portfolio risk and hedge asset allocation decisions.|
|Interim beta||37%||Maintain market exposure while refining a long-term view.|
|Cash equitization||37%||Put long-term cash positions to work with ETFs to minimize cash drag.|
In the 26 years since the introduction of ETFs, they have grown and evolved to cover almost every aspect of the market. The next stage of growth for the ETF will be driven by investors finding even more uses for these versatile tools.
Why Telcos Must Get in the Game for the Rise of Esports
Telcos failed to capitalize on the ‘Netflix’ opportunity — however, the birth of a new multi-billion dollar industry (esports) could change the game.
Why Telcos Must Get in the Game for the Rise of Esports
Over the last century, the world’s telecommunications companies have built out the complex infrastructure that makes the information age possible.
Hundreds of billions of dollars has been invested into phone lines, submarine cables, wireless towers, and fiber optics to connect the world. And with 5G innovations in the pipeline, the world has never been able to communicate faster and more effectively.
Despite this impressive accomplishment, telcos find themselves in an awkward situation: their revenue growth is stagnating and margins continue to shrink, all while companies like Netflix are monetizing internet bandwidth around the world.
Today’s infographic is from Swarmio Media, and it highlights challenges faced by telcos — and how they can potentially capitalize on the emergence of esports and a massive gaming market.
A Missed Opportunity
Habits around content consumption can change abruptly, and fast-moving technology companies have been able to capitalize on these changes.
That’s why, in recent years, there’s been a boom in over-the-top (OTT) media services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Skype, etc.) that have found effective ways to operate on top of the telco infrastructure, streaming content or providing VoIP services to end consumers.
|Television||Voice & Messaging||Audio|
|Example OTT services||- Netflix|
- Amazon Prime
- Apple Music
- Internet Radio
|Global market size (2018)||$68.7 billion||$26.7 billion||$8.9 billion|
|Growth rate (2017-2018):||28%||15%||33%|
Although telcos arguably missed the boat on video streaming, voice, and messaging, there is now an emerging segment that could help fill the gap.
The rising popularity of esports could be the multi-billion dollar industry that provides telcos a much-needed growth area to better monetize their infrastructure.
The Esports Boom
In recent years, the growth in professional gaming has been explosive.
Already worth over $1 billion, the market is projected by experts to triple by 2025. Esports is regularly packing stadiums with avid fans, spawning new professional teams, and selling massive sponsorship deals.
This boom in esports – and in online multiplayer gaming in general — has created a commercial audience of digital natives that is both young and affluent. It’s a growing segment that sees gaming as a lifestyle, and they see professional esports gamers and personalities as their heroes.
The Need For Speed
Any multiplayer gamer will tell you that there is one surefire way to ruin the gaming experience: high latencies (or as they call it, “lag”). This is an area telecoms are uniquely positioned to help with, especially with the advent of edge computing technology and 5G.
When it comes to online gaming, a sophisticated edge computing system will be able to detect where each player is located, while creating a server in an optimal location that provides all the players with the same high bandwidth, low latency, and experience.
By leveraging technology that enables edge computing at scale, forward-looking telcos can take gamers to where they want to go – and with plenty of value-adds.
Living on the Edge
To compete against growing outside threats like Netflix and Google, telcos must make bold investments in enabling technologies that bring edge computing to their customers at scale.
Beyond acting as the gatekeeper to lightning fast connections, telcos can take advantage of esports and gaming by building internal online communities, delivering tailored esports content, and enabling and promoting esports tournaments.
If done right, this can help telcos engage with digital natives, create meaningful experiences, win lifelong customers and advocates, and maximize average revenue per user (ARPU).
For many of the 2.5 billion gamers globally, there is little reason to be loyal to a telco – until now.
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