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.
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Operational Health Tech: A New Billion Dollar Market
Operational health tech is poised to be a multi-billion dollar industry. This graphic breaks down how its disrupting healthcare as we know it.
Operational Health Tech: A New Billion Dollar Market
Many lessons were learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but what has become most apparent is the need to invest in healthcare on all fronts. In fact in just a few short years, businesses, governments, and consumers have had to entirely reassess healthcare in ways not quite seen before.
What’s more, this elevated importance placed on health could be here to stay, and one area in particular is poised for significant growth: operational health tech.
The graphic above from our sponsor Bloom Health Partners dives into the burgeoning market that is operational health tech, and reveals the key driving forces behind it.
What is Operational Health?
To start, operational health is an industry that provides health services to employees to help keep companies running smoothly.
A critical piece of operational health is workplace health, which is expected to soar in value. From 2021 to 2025, the market for workplace health is expected to grow 200% from $6.5 billion to $19.5 billion.
The industry is undergoing a tremendous amount of innovation, specifically in relation to technological advances.
Operational Health Tech: Disrupting Healthcare
The operational health tech industry is disrupting traditional healthcare by providing direct services to employees in the workplace.
For decades now, the U.S. has increasingly become a statistical outlier for healthcare spending relative to health outcomes. For instance, the average American incurs $9,000 in healthcare spending per year, nearly twice that of OECD countries, yet life expectancy is flatlining while other countries see rises.
A worsening and increasingly expensive health dynamic makes the environment ripe for disruption and is allowing for new ideas to be brought to the table.
In addition, people are already responding to these inefficient practices by shifting greater emphasis on health within the job market. For example, studies show that workers care more about healthcare benefits over the salaries when choosing an employer.
Going forward, employees will gravitate towards employers that provide standout health benefits like workplace healthcare options offered by operational health. Here are some additional factors that act as catalysts for this space.
1. Healthcare as Smart Business
What do companies that rank as some of the best to work for have in common? First, they all tend to outperform relative to the S&P 500 on a cumulative stock performance basis. Second, many offer superior healthcare benefits.
Moreover, from 2012 to 2022, companies that were the best to work for saw shares appreciate nearly 500%, compared to around 300% for the broader market. Data like this suggests investing in healthcare and keeping employees happy is smart business that pays dividends.
2. Healthcare as a Differentiator
Since 2020, labor markets have changed dramatically. As a result, employees now have more options and are much more selective about where they work. This is evident from the difference between job openings and hires which has risen to unrecognizable levels. For example, the data shows that there are nearly 12 million job openings, but only around 6-7 million hires in 2022.
Altogether, with an oversupply of jobs relative to workers, employers will have to find new ways to differentiate. One way to stand out is through healthcare and initiatives around operational health tech.
3. The Looming Mental Health Epidemic
Today some 700 million people suffer from some form of a mental health condition and COVID-19 has continued to exacerbate the problem.
Moreover, the cost of mental health for the global economy is estimated to be a whopping $6 trillion by 2030, over double compared to the $2.5 trillion figure in 2010.
Under the umbrella of services operational health tech covers, mental health will stand to benefit. Especially in the years to come as we look for new ways to combat its mounting costs.
Investing in Operational Health Tech
Bloom Health Partners is an operational health tech company looking to revolutionize workplace health by supplying employers with data to better understand their employee base and business.
One way Bloom stands out is with Bloom Shield—its flagship cloud-based big data platform for employee health data management. With Bloom Shield, new health insights become available to make better decisions. Employers can get insight into demographic data and age trends within the workplace, pre-screening detection for cancer and diabetes, and testing for management to tackle the spread of disease.
Click here to learn more about investing in operational health tech with Bloom Health Partners.
How Environmental Markets Advance Net Zero
The global price of carbon increased 91% in 2021. Below, we show how environmental markets are supporting a greener future.
How Environmental Markets Advance Net Zero
In 2021, roughly 20% of global carbon emissions were covered by carbon pricing mechanisms.
Meanwhile, the global price of carbon increased 91%, bolstered by government, corporate, and investor demand. This puts traditional fuel sources at a disadvantage, instead building the investment case for renewables.
This infographic from ICE, the first in a three part series on the ESG toolkit, explores how environmental markets work and their role in the fight against climate change.
What are Environmental Markets?
First, meeting a goal of net zero carbon emissions involves limiting the use of the world’s finite carbon budget to meet a 1.5°C pathway.
Achieving net zero requires us to:
- Change how we utilize energy and transition to less carbon-intensive fuels
- Put a value on the conservation of nature or “natural capital” and carbon sinks, which accumulate and store carbon
Environmental markets facilitate the pathway to net zero by valuing externalities, such as placing a cost on pollution and placing a price on carbon storage. This helps balance the carbon cycle to manage the carbon budget in the most cost-effective manner.
What Is the Carbon Budget?
To keep temperatures 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we have just 420 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO₂ remaining in the global carbon budget. At current rates, this remaining carbon budget is projected to be consumed by 2030 if no reductions are made.
Each scenario based on a 50% chance of success
Source: IPCC AR6 WG; Friedlingstein et al 2021; Global Carbon Budget 2021
Across three different scenarios, the above table indicates the amount of carbon emissions humanity can emit to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
What are Negative and Positive Externalities?
Second, when companies compensate for CO₂ emissions, they can fall across two categories: negative and positive externalities.
- Negative externalities include pollution. Carbon cap and trade programs, using carbon allowances, put a cost on pollution.
- Positive externalities include renewables, such as wind and solar power that generate carbon-free electricity. The value of renewable energy can be expressed with a renewable energy certificate.
Natural capital is another example of a positive externality, which involves the capturing and storing of carbon. The value of this type of natural capital can be expressed using a carbon credit.
Environmental Markets and the Energy Transition
Next, environmental markets can drive the transition to cleaner energy sources by ascribing a cost to pollution and putting a premium on renewables, to change how we use energy.
As one example, in 2013 the UK government introduced the Carbon Price Support mechanism to complement the emissions cap and trade program and weaken the investment case for coal. Between 2013 and 2020, Britain’s overall CO₂ emissions fell by 31%.
Here’s how coal was phased out of the UK’s energy mix, while renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and bioenergy played a greater role.
|Date||Coal||Gas||Wind and Solar||Bioenergy|
|Q1 2000||31 TWh||40 TWh||0 TWh||1 TWh|
|Q1 2005||41 TWh||36 TWh||1 TWh||2 TWh|
|Q1 2010||31 TWh||47 TWh||2 TWh||3 TWh|
|Q1 2015||28 TWh||23 TWh||13 TWh||6 TWh|
|Q1 2020||3 TWh||27 TWh||28 TWh||9 TWh|
Source: Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES); BP; EMBER via Our World in Data (2021)
Today, less than 5% of the UK’s electricity is coal-generated, with remaining plants expected to be decommissioned by 2024.
How Environmental Markets are Advancing Net Zero
Finally, as governments increase their commitments to net zero, carbon prices are rising towards a level that requires industries to decarbonize and meet those goals.
In fact, between 2014 and 2021, the global price of carbon has increased over sixfold.
|Date||Global Carbon Price (Year End)||Annual % Change|
As indicated by the ICECRBN Global Carbon Price (CPW Weighted)
Source: ICE (Apr 2022)
As companies begin to treat their carbon footprints as liabilities, there will be increasing demand for environmental attributes, such as carbon allowances and carbon credits.
Managing Risk and Opportunity
Quoted markets like ICE Futures Exchanges and NYSE allow stakeholders to precisely value positive and negative externalities to:
- Manage emissions cost effectively
- Hedge climate transition risk
- Allocate capital to facilitate the energy transition and build carbon sinks
- Create an asset class for Natural Capital
- Invest in assets to meet climate obligations
Everyone is exposed to climate risk which means it needs to be measured and managed.
That’s why balancing the carbon cycle will be critical to managing the world’s carbon budget. Markets are providing greater access, liquidity and opportunity in supporting net zero ambitions.
In part two of the series sponsored by ICE, we’ll look at four motivations for using ESG data.
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