An emerging trend over the past year in the exchange traded products industry has been an increased number of so-called quality, factor-based ETFs.

In fact, some of 2013’s most successful new ETFs were fund emphasizing a quality approach to stock selection, including the iShares MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF (NYSEArca: QUAL), iShares MSCI USA Size Factor ETF (NYSEArca: SIZE), iShares MSCI USA Value Factor ETF (NYSEArca: VLUE) and iShares MSCI USA Momentum Factor ETF (NYSEArca: MTUM). [Winning New ETFs]

Unbeknownst to some investors, the quality approach is not new as highlighted by the PowerShares S&P 500 High Quality Portfolio (NYSEArca: SPHQ). The $331.2 million SPHQ debuted in late 2005 as a high-quality spin on the S&P 500. To be precise, the ETF tracks the S&P 500 High Quality Rankings Index.

“The Index is designed to provide exposure to the constituents of the S&P 500 Index that are identified as stocks reflecting long-term growth and stability of a company’s earnings and dividends. The Fund and the Index are rebalanced and reconstituted quarterly,” according to PowerShares.

SPHQ offers solid returns with reduced volatility, traits prized by scores of ETF investors as evidenced by the popularity of low volatility ETFs. [Low Vol ETFs Rise Again]

SPHQ “has generated relatively strong performance, with below average volatility. In the three-year period ended February 28, SPHQ rose 15.7%, ahead of the 14.2% achieved by SPDR S&P 500 (SPY 187 Overweight), but through January 2014 SPHQ incurred a beta of 0.87 and a standard deviation of 10.9 compared to 1.0 and 12.2 for SPY, respectively,” said S&P Capital IQ in a new research note.