BLACKROCK’S NEW BREED OF E.T.F. Exchange-traded fund have been a hit with passive investors for years. Now, BlackRock is introducing a new type of bond E.T.F. that aims to “blend the best of active investing (security selection) with index investing (cost and consistency),” Landon Thomas Jr. writes in DealBook. Of the financial inventions in the history of Wall Street, few have been as successful as E.T.F.s, which hardly existed 15 years ago and now, at $2 trillion, make up close to 15 percent of the mutual fund industry.
BlackRock’s iShares division has become a crucial profit driver for the fund company, accounting for close to a quarter of its $4.6 trillion assets under management. “The rush into E.T.F.s has come at a time when the performance records of mutual fund portfolio managers, especially on the equity side, have been poor,” Mr. Thomas writes. According to Morningstar, 74 percent of equity mutual funds trailed their benchmark index last year. For that reason, the bulk of E.T.F. flows have been into large fundsthat track stock indexes. Bond E.T.F.s have also grown in size in recent years, though the numbers have been smaller.
BlackRock’s new fund, called United States Fixed Income Balanced Risk, will invest in an equal split of corporate bonds, which will benefit if rates spike upward, and Treasury securities, which will protect the fund if rates fall. “Because these funds target a specific area of demand in the market but follow an index, they are seen by their champions as joining the best aspects of active and passive fund management,” Mr. Thomas writes. “Yet because the cult of the bond manager still holds sway, there have been few if any quasi-active bond funds that have thrived.”