investor daily logo

Index ETFs deemed the ‘building blocks’ of Aussie market outperformance

By Jessica Penny
3 minute read

A global investment manager expects Australian exchange traded funds (ETF) to outperform global counterparts this year, with index-tracking funds leading the charge.

While the global ETF market’s assets under management (AUM) could grow by as much as 25 per cent in 2024, new State Street analysis has indicated that Australia’s market could surpass this rate of growth.

“We expect the assets under management of Australian ETFs to grow around 30 per cent this year,” State Street’s Australian head, Tim Helyar, highlighted.

Based on discussion with local ETF issuers, the firm forecasts that most local growth will stem from equity and fixed income passive ETFs - the core strategies in adviser, retail and institutional investor portfolios.

But it was index-tracking ETFs that have been deemed the “building blocks” for Australian investor accounts.

“The low expense ratios enable cost effective asset allocation based on the wide range of asset classes, size, factors and sectors or themes,” Helyar said.

Nonetheless, State Street didn’t rule out future growth for active ETFs in Australia, which reeled in US$6.3 billion in flows in 2023, four times the sum in 2022.

Looking ahead, this segment of the market is expected to continue its growth streak, with the entry of 10 new issuers leveraging the dual registry/share class model.

Helyar explained: “The emergence of active ETFs through the dual registry model will enable investors to select funds, managers and strategies which they believe will create alpha.”

“This creates additional choice in the marketplace, but in order for these strategies to gain traction the issuers will need to develop ETF expertise.”

He added that this will require building capital markets and sales teams that understand liquidity and the suitability of particular ETF products for individual investors.

“Additionally, fee rationalization is needed,” he added, noting that investors who purchase ETFs are generally fee-sensitive and are only willing to pay more if there is value.

Active ETFs gain traction around the globe

Looking at the global ETF market, 2023 was a “banner year”, according to State Street.

Namely, last year ended with US$11.6 trillion in assets, recording the second largest flows on record and exceeding 2022 by almost 15 percent.

As was the key theme in 2022, active ETFs continued to punch above their weight, setting a new record with US$183 billion in flows.

However, State Street pointed out that much of the new flows to active ETFs did not come solely at the expense of active mutual funds, but also from smart beta ETFs, which made up
only 6 percent of 2023 flows.

“This makes sense considering many active managers launched their first ETF using a rule-based approach in leveraging investment factors (value, quality, momentum, size, low volatility, etc.),” the firm wrote in its latest ETF outlook.

“Many of these active managers have now launched ‘full active’ as the regulatory environment improved and managers have grown more comfortable with the daily transparency requirement for certain strategies.”

Meanwhile, Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) was the regional winner for 2023, with record ETF flows of US$169 billion, more than a 35 per cent increase year-on-year.

New highs for net inflows also occurred in China, South Korea and Taiwan.