Financial advisors are likely to recommend that their clients increase allocations to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) by 65 percent as a result of the recent Department of Labor (DOL) Conflict of Interest Rule, according to a white paper by BNY Mellon.
The survey results indicated that advisors in the study currently have 23 percent of their assets under management in ETFs, and they plan to boost that allocation to 38 percent over the next two years as assets are transitioned to ETFs from other products. That would increase the percentage of assets allocated to ETFs by 65.2 percent. Approximately 55 percent of the 170 advisors polled by BNY Mellon said they plan to increase their investments to ETFs because of the rule, which becomes effective in April 2017.
"The rule requires financial advisers to recommend investments that are in the best interests of their clients when they offer guidance on 401(k) plan assets, individual retirement accounts or other qualified monies saved for retirement," said Frank La Salla, chief executive officer of BNY Mellon's Global Structured Products and Alternative Investment Services business. "This includes emphasizing financial services products such as ETFs that tend to have lower fees than other types of investments."
The advisors said they will increase their use of both actively managed ETFs and passively managed ETFs. They also said they expect to increase their use of separately managed accounts and decrease their use of unit investment trusts and annuities. Funding for the growing products is likely to come at least in part from the declining products, according to the survey.
La Salla noted that cost will not be the only factor determining the types of assets that advisors recommend. "The advisor and the client might be looking to fill a need in an investment portfolio, such as obtaining exposure to a particular asset class or country," he said. "The best product might be an ETF, or it might be a mutual fund or some other financial product."
While the respondents indicated they expect continuing rapid growth of ETF assets, they said that changes in three areas are needed to facilitate this growth. First, the majority of defined contribution programs will need to upgrade their technology to trade ETFs, as many do not have this capability. The DOL rule could accelerate the introduction of the necessary technology as plan sponsors and advisors will be more motivated to offer these products.
The other two areas are education and information access.
"The ETF industry will need to accelerate the educational efforts about ETFs and the DOL rule among industry participants to smooth the way for projected growth," said Steve Cook, managing director and business executive for BNY Mellon's Structured Product Services. "As to accessing information, ETF-oriented advisors tend to favor accessing research in small bites rather in long documents. They prefer to learn about new offerings via virtual webcasts rather than attending conferences or attending sales meetings."
LaSalla concludes that registered investment advisors (RIAs), like brokers, are likely to give ETFs serious consideration. "Given the fee-based nature of RIAs, their level of sophistication and willingness to adopt new strategies to help their investors to optimize their investments, it would seem natural for them to embrace ETFs even more."
The white paper, Accelerating Growth: The Department of Labor Conflict of Interest Rule and its Impact on the ETF Industry, produced by BNY Mellon in association with ETF Trends, can be read here.