State Street Corp. has introduced 15 exchange-traded funds this year and says it will start more in 2009 despite a large, industrywide decline in ETF assets through the first 11 months of this year.
Jim Ross, the senior managing director at State Street Global Advisors, said the Boston company's ETF portfolios have had one of their best years in terms of net cash inflows. The funds attracted $48.9 billion of net cash inflows through Nov. 30, and he said they are having a "strong December."
"We launched 15 funds this year, and frankly, we would've launched more if the market environment didn't shift," he said in an interview last week. "Assets under management in the industry are down 21% overall. I'd take these [net cash] flows in any year."
Last year, State Street's ETFs had $50.79 billion in net cash inflows. Its ETF assets under management declined to $153 billion, from $158 billion at the end of last year.
Analysts said the ETF business is going through growing pains. State Street says 735 U.S. exchange-traded funds, managed by 23 companies, had $477.4 billion of assets at Nov. 30. The National Stock Exchange says Barclays Global Investors, State Street, and Vanguard dominate the ETF industry. Collectively, the three companies managed 85% of ETF assets. Barclays had $229.2 billion of ETF assets under management, and Vanguard had $40 billion.
State Street generated 36.1% of the industry's $135.6 billion of net cash inflows through the first 11 months of this year. The industry's net cash inflows rose 29.5% from a year earlier, the National Stock Exchange said. "The flows we have seen are real positive," Mr. Ross said, "and under different circumstances, the assets under management would reflect that. I think it shows that in this environment people are still interested in ETFs because they offer a low-cost, index-based alternative."
State Street introduced 15 international and fixed-income ETFs this year. "Three year ago, we were very U.S. domestic-centric, and we wanted to be[come] more global and more diversified," he said.
Next year, State Street plans to introduce more international and fixed-income ETFs. State Street said 52 of the industry's 735 portfolios are fixed-income funds.
Mr. Ross said there has been contraction in the industry and he expects more. "With assets under management declining, it is going to be harder for new players to survive," he said. "I don't mean that in a negative way. I think a lot of people rushed in a few years ago and now they are finding it is a difficult business to gain traction."
State Street will continue to consider buying ETFs, Mr. Ross said. In 2003, it bought two European ETFs from UBS AG. He said State Street will continue to distribute its ETFs to institutional investors and advisers. When the company began selling ETFs in 1993, it targeted institutions, but Mr. Ross said, "The main channel for growth of ETFs now is the advisory channel. As more advisers move to a fee-based environment, they want cost-effective products like ETFs for diversification."
He said State Street could get 30% growth in assets under management next year "but a lot depends on market conditions."
"We don't generally set targets because it is hard to control AUM growth," he said. "We like to focus on net cash inflows because that is what we can control.."
There is no plan for State Street to reduce ETF marketing or its ETF work force, Mr. Ross said. "These are tough times, but we continue to focus on this business and are interested in expanding domestically and globally," he said. "We continue to think the future is bright. It is not without its challenges, but we think we have the right products. We are working to educate advisers, and that will lead to strong growth."