The frequency of ETF usage breakdown among client portfolios include equity index ETF 43%, fixed-income index ETFs 21%, real estate ETFs 12%, low-volatility ETFs 9% and commodities ETFs 7%.

Along with the ability to provide broad market exposure, ETFs have also attracted a lot of attention for their specialized strategies. For example, the rapidly developing smart beta or customized, factor-based index ETFs could help investors generate improved risk-adjusted returns over the long haul – for example, the low-volatility strategy has been a popular way for investors to limit drawdowns during sell-offs while still participating in any upside potential. Furthermore, ETFs have helped traders easily access the commodities market, without having to deal with a commodities brokerage account.

While the quality of an index remains the top reason for RIAs in choosing an ETF, other factors that influence RIAs’ decision to buy a specific ETF includes performance 20%, total costs 15%, liquidity of ETFs 14%, expense ratio 8% and tracking error 6%.

The survey reveals that RIAs understand that there are direct and indirect fees when investing in ETFs since the investment vehicle trades like a stock on a stock exchange. Specifically, direct costs include things like expense ratios and commissions on trades, but investors can reduces these costs by targeting cheap index-based ETFs and utilizing brokerage platforms that offer commission-free trades. Indirect costs may include things like tracking error, true liquidity and bid-ask spread on trades.

The TD Ameritrade Institutional Survey reveals that RIAs expecting stronger growth in 2017. Financial advisors will also be able to learn more about opportunities and changes in the financial world at TD Ameritrade’s upcoming National LINC 2017 conference – the annual Learn. Inspire. Network. Collaborate. conference. TD Ameritrade Institutional is hosting its annual conference this week, with 3200 attendees (including 2000 RIAs). There will be some sessions where ETFs are sure to play a big role, including a panel that looks at the DOL rule and its impact on the investment process.

For more information on ETFs, visit our ETF performance reports category.