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ETFs in Asia: A Nascent Sector Gains Momentum
Asset growth is outpacing that of mutual funds
November 2018, Singapore. Although still nascent, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in Asia are showing strong growth potential, with assets under management (AUM) rising gradually in key markets over the last few years, due to both market appreciation and inflows.
Almost all markets in the Asia Pacific saw growth in their ETF AUM in the first half of 2018 over 2017. In fact, when stock markets fared relatively well, such as in 2017, the growth rate of ETF AUM outpaced that of mutual funds. In 2017 and the first half of 2018, ETF AUM grew 35.7% and 12.8%, respectively, compared to that of mutual funds, at 12.8% and 8.5%, respectively.
In the first half of 2018, despite poor market performance at the start of the year, ETFs in most Asian markets have seen a healthy number of new listings and inflows. According to data from Broadridge, China, Korea, Taiwan, and India had total inflows of US$24.2 billion in the first half, compared to US$8.1 billion for the whole of 2017.
Japan has the highest marketshare for ETFs in the Asia Pacific as of December 2017 at 61% of AUM, followed by China (11%) and Hong Kong (8.9%). This can be attributed to stepped-up purchases by the Bank of Japan and the country’s prevailing negative interest rates contributing to equity ETF inflows. Taiwan had the highest growth in ETF AUM (46.2%) over the first half of 2018, contributed by institutions such as insurance companies, which are increasingly fee-conscious.
According to Cerulli’s survey of managers in the region earlier this year, the main reason for developing ETF products is to meet clients’ demand for low-cost products, followed by the need to diversify their current product offerings. On the other hand, among managers reluctant to develop ETFs, their biggest reason is their strong conviction in active management. The second reason for managers to not consider launching ETFs is the poor performance of such funds in times of volatility, as was seen during the market correction in early 2018, which resulted in negative performances in markets such as China, Korea, and Taiwan.
ETF adoption in many Asian markets is still fledgling, due to reasons ranging from less efficient markets and lack of liquidity, to limited providers and, most importantly, the commission-based distribution model. However, regulatory initiatives to deepen ETF markets, the emergence of robo-advisors using ETFs as underlying vehicles, and the gradual shift to a fee-based model are providing impetus to the market.
Cerulli believes that the story is not about active versus passive. Rather, both strategies are expected to play complementary roles, with ETFs used as supplementary tools in creating investors’ portfolios.
These findings and more are from The Cerulli Edge—Asian Monthly Product Trends Edition, November 2018 issue.
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