The last year has seen a steady and encouraging rise of alternative fee structures in mutual funds. In particular, a number of managers have adopted so-called fulcrum structures to their mutual funds. All of these funds charge a low or zero base fee, and then a performance fee for outperformance of their relevant benchmark. The idea is that customers only have to pay up for services that actually outperform benchmarks. Some providers that now offer these funds include AllianceBernstein, Fidelity, Allianz, and Fred Alger. The main criticism of the funds that is that they can skew incentives and push managers to take outsized risk in order to produce upside.
FINSUM: These funds are not without their imperfections, but they are a useful and thoughtful response by mutual fund managers who are realizing they need to do more to justify their raison d’etre versus ETFs. We think they are a good deal for investors because if the results aren’t good, you pay very little, if they are great, you pay for it. Compare that to an ETF, where you are never going to outperform, but will likely pay more than 10 bp.
The Wall Street Journal has published an interesting article giving advice to investors on how to assess, and when to dump, losing mutual funds. The article makes the point that investors should not automatically clear out their losing funds, just like they shouldn’t always buy winning ones. Funds have their own reasons for poor performance and those reasons can have a big impact on whether they should stay in a portfolio. Here are four questions to ask in assessing funds, “Does the fund have a good process in place?”, “Is the manager sticking to his or her own guns?”, “Is there a new manager, and do I trust him or her?”, “Is this negative performance coming in a segment of the market in which it is tough to beat index funds?”.
FINSUM: Good funds can have significant down periods, so it is important to have a methodology for deciding if and when to dump them.
Well, it has finally happened, but not as anyone expected. The whole industry has been watching for the first zero fee ETF, which just happened with SoFi, but now they are getting the first negative fee ETF. While zero fee index mutual funds debuted last year, ETFs only just got there, until the debut of the SALT Financial Low TruBeta US Market ETF. For every $10,000 invested in the new fund, the issuer will pay you $5. However, as you may have expected, there is a catch. The catch is that once the fund gets over $100m in AUM, its regular fee of 0.29% kicks in.
FINSUM: This is nothing more than a sales gimmick (and they haven’t even structured it well). However, it is indicative of the trend things are heading in.
Goldman Sachs is launching an interesting suite of new ETFs to help investors gain exposure to emerging areas of technology. The bank’s new offerings include ETFs for human genome research and robotic surgery. In total, the firm launched five new ETFs driven by a strategic partner specializing in calculating companies’ thematic beta. The other ETFs cover innovative financial, data, and manufacturing companies.
FINSUM: This could be an interesting small allocation to portfolios. Some clients are very hot on these new technologies and this might be a nice liquid way to access them. Fees are 50 basis points.
JP Morgan has plunged headlong into the ETF business since launching its first fund a few years ago. Now the asset manager has debuted a new broad equity tracker than undercuts the market on fees. JP Morgan’s new BetaBuilders US Equity ETF will track mid and large cap US stocks and will seek to track the results of the Morningstar US Target Market Exposure index. The fund costs just 0.02%, or $0.20 for every $1,000 invested per year, one basis point lower than its nearest competitor.
FINSUM: This is a good broad index tracker that costs next to nothing. We expect it will gobble up AUM nicely, but it remains to be seen how well its tracks the index versus competitors, as 1 bp is a tiny margin that could easily be eaten up by performance differences.