ETF Trends
ETF Trends

The Securities and Exchange Commission could approve an application by American Funds, one of the largest issuers of mutual funds, to enter the exchange traded funds industry.

Capital Group Cos., the parent company of American Funds, submitted an application for ETFs to the SEC a year ago. A notice from the SEC indicates approval of American Funds’ ETF foray appears likely though there is still time for opponents to request an SEC hearing, though such a hearing is unlikely, reports Trevor Hunnicutt for InvestmentNews.

California-based American Funds has $1.2 trillion in assets under management, or more than half the current AUM tally for the U.S. ETF industry. However, ETFs are the fastest-growing corner of the asset management industry, underscoring the desire of mutual fund companies to become involved with products that institutional investors and advisors are increasingly adopting. [Institutions Boost ETF Usage]

While it took nearly two decades for the ETF industry to reach $2 trillion in assets, it will not need nearly as long to get to $5 trillion, according to a new report by PwC. The PwC repots says the global ETF industry will reach $5 trillion in combined AUM by 2020. [ETFs not Stopping at $2 Trillion]

News of American Funds potentially entering the ETF business represents a reversal from the company’s previous stance on ETFs. The company has been a strident supporter of active management at a time when data indicate many active managers consistently fail to beat their benchmarks.

In September 2013, Capital Group published a study that “argued that its stock-picking mutual funds outperformed their benchmark indexes in the majority of almost 30,000 periods examined over the past 80 years. That included 57 percent of one-year stretches, 67 percent of 5-year periods and 83 percent of 20-year ranges. The Capital Group study examined 17 of the company’s mutual funds that invest in equities or both equities and bonds. It measured their performance over every one-, three-, five-, 10-, 20- and 30-year period, on a rolling monthly basis, from Dec. 31, 1933, through Dec. 31, 2012.”

Still, “only about 13% of actively managed, large-company stock funds posted returns above that of the S&P 500 for 2014,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Although the SEC notice did not specify whether American Funds will issue active or passive ETFs, the firm’s reputation for active management implies the company would favor actively managed ETFs, a still small, but fast-growing segment of the ETF business. Some industry observers also see actively managed ETFs being a key driver of ETF industry growth in the coming years. For the week ending Jan. 16, U.S.-listed actively managed ETFs had a combined $17.24 billion in AUM with nearly half that total allocated to PIMCO and First Trust ETFs, according to AdvisorShares data.

While that is just a fraction of the overall U.S. ETF industry, increased demand for active ETFs and the potential for a more favorable regulatory environment could make actively managed ETFs a $500 billion asset class by 2020, according to a report by published SEI Investments last year. [Big Growth Seen for Active ETFs]

ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.