It looks like a bond and smells like a bond, but it's an ETF

iShares planning series of target-date exchange-traded funds that hold baskets of investment-grade bonds

Oct 25, 2012 @ 10:31 am

By Jason Kephart

BlackRock Inc.'s exchange-traded fund arm, iShares, plans to launch a series of corporate bond ETFs that look and act like individual bonds.

The proposed series of iShares Corporate Bond Funds will be a set of target-date ETFs, each holding a basket of investment-grade bonds set to expire in their given year. The San Francisco-based ETF provider already offers a similar suite of products that hold municipal bonds.

Fixed-income ETFs have been in high demand for the past two years as investors look for more targeted and liquid access to bond markets. Bond ETFs had $39 billion of inflows through the end of September, the most of any asset class, according to Morningstar Inc. That puts them on pace to beat last year's record inflows of $43 billion, which were more than double those in 2010.

Even with the sudden popularity, bond ETFs have a long way to go to catch up with their equity siblings, which hold more than $900 billion.

Mark Wiedman, global head of iShares, said he thinks target-date bond ETFs are one of the ways bond ETFs are going to catch up to equities, as they're more like what the typical bond investor is familiar with.

Mr. Wiedman explained that some traditional fixed-income investors aren't fully on board with bond ETFs because they don't know enough about them yet. Others are put off by the fact that the funds come with a ticker symbol and trade intraday, making them resemble a stock rather than a bond.

“Fixed-income people don't get ETFs,” he said at last month's Morningstar ETF Invest Conference in Chicago. “We need to make them look more like a bond.”

The idea behind the target-date ETFs is to give investors who typically buy individual bonds the same set of maturity and expected yields they're used to, but with the benefit of getting a diversified basket of bonds in a single purchase with a lower minimum investment and cheaper bid/ask spreads.

In 2010, Guggenheim Investments became the first ETF firm to offer target-date bond ETFs with the launch of its BulletShares lineup of corporate and high-yield bonds.

BulletShares ETFs recently hit $1.75 billion in assets, and the firm's research shows that investors are in fact treating them like individual bonds. Bill Belden, head of product development at Guggenheim, said there has been only one redemption since the suite was introduced.

Not surprisingly, Guggenheim is seeing the most interest in its target-date bond ETFs maturing in 2013, 2014 and 2015, which is when the Federal Reserve has said it's likely to begin raising rates again. By having bonds that come due around that time, advisers can reinvest at the higher interest rates.

Rising interest rates generally spell doom for traditional bond mutual funds. A 1% rise in rates would cause a 4% to 5% loss in the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index, for example.

The Guggenheim BulletShares Corporate Bond ETFs charge 42 basis points. The iShares products are expected to be priced competitively.

An initial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission did not list the expense ratios or specific target-dates that iShares plans to offer. Spokeswoman Christine Hudacko declined to comment while the ETFs are in registration.


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Featured video


The #MeToo movement and the financial advice industry

Attendees at the Women to Watch luncheon commend the #MeToo movement for raising awareness about the issue of sexual harassment and bringing women together.

Latest news & opinion

What to watch for next with the DOL fiduciary rule

Much hinges on whether the Labor Department appeals the 5th Circuit decision by April 30.

Social Security benefits losing buying power

Low inflation combined with rising Medicare costs threaten the adequacy of seniors' income.

Finra looks to streamline broker-dealer exams

CEO Robert Cook says three examination teams may be consolidated.

The 401(k) robo-revolution is here

Could human advisers be displaced as digital-advice firms use technology to deliver services to plan sponsors and participants?

SEC forging ahead on fiduciary rule despite DOL rule decision in 5th Circuit

Chairman Jay Clayton says 'the sooner the better' when asked when an SEC fiduciary rule will be ready.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print