Smart Beta ETFs Are on Institutional Investors' Radar

The survey revealed a 16% jump in implementation or or consideration of smart beta usage over past five years, but over 0% of asset owners in the U.S. and U.K. remain uncertain on the best approach, which reveals the ongoing need for education to cover the various strategies now available. In contrast, when the survey was first fielded back in 2014, 75% of asset owners had a smart beta allocation, evaluated or were planning to evaluate smart beta. Since first measured in 2015, the overall usage of multi-factor combination smart beta index-based investment strategies among global asset owners has more than doubled.

Survey participants also revealed multi-factor combination smart beta strategies were used by 49%, compared to 20% when the question was first posed in 2015. Additionally, 70% of those surveyed said they are currently evaluating multi-factor combination smart beta, which overtook all other strategy choices. Notably, U.S. and U.K. asset owners exhibited more interest in multi-factor smart beta index-based strategies, but the lack of education was cited as a major barrier to implementation.

Of particular note, interest in fundamentally weighted strategies has declined. In 2018, 19% of surveyed asset owners with an existing smart beta allocation are using fundamental strategies, compared to 41% when first measured in 2014.

Looking Ahead to ESG Strategies

Looking ahead, ESG or investments that are based on environmental, social and governance principles have also garnered more attention. Almost 40% of survey participants anticipated incorporating ESG to a smart beta strategy in the next 18 months, with nearly half of respondents showing interest for performance reasons and not just for socially responsible asset allocations or societal good. There was a notable increase in interest, with 44% surveyed considering ESG for performance reasons in 2018 or a 13% rise from 2017 when ESG smart beta index awareness and usage was first measured.

“Multi-factor strategies are reported as the most widely implemented smart beta strategies, particularly among asset owners who have adopted smart beta in the last two years. They are also the most commonly evaluated type of smart beta strategy, so we expect to see continued growth in multi-factor strategy adoption rates,” according to FTSE Russell.

For more information on alternative index-based strategies, visit our smart beta category.