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Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are increasing in popularity, although investors seem to have a trading mentality toward such products
May 2019, SINGAPORE - Passive products in China scored a record performance in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. During these 18 months, ETFs—excluding money market ETFs—saw their assets surge by 84.1% to hit RMB412.6 billion (US$61.5 billion). Index funds, including index-listed open-end funds (LOFs), grew at a similar rate of 83.4% to RMB220.0 billion.
ETFs, which account for around 65% of passive assets, also attracted record-high inflows last year, at RMB189.6 billion, mostly due to inflows to equity ETFs in late 2018. At the end of March 2019, equity ETFs took 94.6% of total ETF assets, or 61.7% of total passive assets.
Traditional broad-based index ETFs, which are a subset of equity ETFs, make up most ETF assets in China, accounting for more than 60% of the total. However, many products with new themes and strategies have emerged in recent years. Among them are state-owned enterprise (SOE) reform ETFs, the main contributors to thematic ETFs’ assets. Such products are targeted mainly at SOEs and institutional investors, and are designed to support SOE reforms.
Regional integration is a newer theme, developed in 2018 along with the central government’s blueprints for several key regions. So far, two ETFs with such themes have been launched—one for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, and another for the Hangzhou Bay Area. A third—the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area ETF—is on the way, with Ping An Fund Management receiving regulatory approval for the fund last December.
Measures by the SEBI to reduce the costs of mutual fund investments for retail investors have also encouraged managers to promote AIFs, as they seek alternative sources of revenues. AIFs’ flexibility in charging fees makes these funds an attractive proposition for managers looking to boost their revenues.
Despite the positive performance seen in passive funds, ETF investing could be regarded more as a trading activity, rather than as long-term investments. For example, the outflows of RMB18.5 million from ETFs in the first quarter of 2019 could have been due to profit-taking activities. There was also a surge in ETF trading volume to RMB314.3 billion in March 2019, compared to an average monthly volume of about RMB150 billion from January 2018 to February 2019.
Nevertheless, there may be no better time than now to promote passive products in China, as investors’ awareness of such products has been raised by market movements and managers’ consistent efforts to educate investors.
“There is ample room for fund managers to explore areas such as further industry segmentation; new technology or economy themes; environmental, social, and governance; multi-factor smart beta; and overseas exposure. There is also potential to expand bond and commodity ETF offerings, which are still limited and lack diversity,” said Miao Hui, senior analyst with Cerulli Associate. “Innovation will be essential for small and mid-sized managers and new entrants to win meaningful marketshares.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
These findings and more are from: The Cerulli Edge—Asian Monthly Product Trends Edition, May 2019 Issue.
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