For all the criticism of alternative indexing and smart beta exchange traded funds, most of which revolves around semantics, one thing is impossible to deny: Whether the critics like it or not, these ETFs are fostering massive asset growth for the issuers behind these products.
Just look at Illinois-based First Trust. First Trust, which is one of the largest issuers of smart beta ETFs through its AlphaDEX series of products, “received a net $6.5 billion from investors in the year to June 14,” reports Mike Foster for eFinancial News.
Along with the intense criticism of smart beta has come a reluctance by some to acknowledge the rapid growth of some of the issuers of those products. When it comes to the growth of individual ETF issuers, many industry observers choose to focus exclusively on Vanguard. Doing so ignores impressive growth by other issuers, including First Trust. [The Truth Behind the ETF Race]
At the end of 2012, First Trust was the eleventh-largest U.S. ETF issuer with almost $8.2 billion in assets under management, according to ETF.com data. At the end of last year, the firm jumped to the ninth spot overall with $19.7 billion in AUM.
“Robust inflows for First Trust lifted its total assets in the first half of 2014 by 23% to $27.8 billion, a significant growth for a firm that only launched its first ETF in 2005,” according to eFinancial News.
AlphaDEX ETFs, such as the $1.3 billion First Trust Consumer Staples AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FXG) and the $2 billion First Trust Health Care AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FXH), based “on growth factors including three, six and 12-month price appreciation, sales to price and one year sales growth, and, separately, on value factors including book value to price, cash flow to price and return on assets,” according to First Trust.
The AlphaDEX methodology has proven attractive to advisors and investors evaluating global ETFs, too. For example, the First Trust Emerging Markets AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FEM) has brought in $141 million of its almost $485 million in AUM this year while the First Trust Europe AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FEP) has hauled in $491.7 million of its $879.3 million in assets this year. [Alternative Europe ETF Grows Up]
Signs point to continued growth for issuers of smart beta ETFs. There were 335 such ETFs with nearly $300 billion in combined assets under management at the end of 2013. Smart beta ETFs “contributed a record $65.1bn of inflows in 2013 led by dividend-weighted funds, and nearly doubled the $34.2bn from last year,” said BlackRock.