BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has made steep fee cuts to three socially responsible ETFs, a category that’s struggling to attract investors.

The company lowered fees by as much as 20 basis points at the offerings, which total about $204 million in assets, according to a SEC filing. It also made reductions of about 2 basis points on eight bond ETFs. The 11 funds have total assets under management of about $4 billion.

“As previously outlined, we are purposefully leveraging the benefits of our global scale and investing in our business to deliver value to clients and shareholders,” said Melissa Garville, a spokeswoman at BlackRock.

BlackRock’s investment is expected to be completed in the third quarter.
The 11 funds have a total AUM of about $4 billion. Bloomberg News

The move by BlackRock is the latest in a series of fee cuts made as firms compete to win assets. Last October, the firm pared expense ratios on 15 ETFs mostly offered to price-sensitive retail customers and financial advisors. That resulted in significant inflows. Even as money managers expand socially responsible offerings, they’ve found it difficult to win over investors.

“The whole ESG space is underwhelming and mostly a dud compared to the hype it has gotten,” said Eric Balchunas, an ETF analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

Socially responsible ETFs hold the least amount of assets of any smart beta category at $1.8 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Top funds by 3-year returns
There wasn’t a lot of diversification among the top funds as technology has dominated the market gains in recent years.

BlackRock reduced the expense on its $123 million iShares MSCI EAFE ESG Optimized ETF (ESGD) to 0.20% from 0.40%, the steepest cut across the 11 offerings. The $75 million iShares MSCI EM ESG Optimized ETF (ESGE) and the $5.4 million iShares MSCI USA ESG Optimized ETF (ESGU) got reductions of 20 basis points and 13 basis points, respectively.

The following is a list of all the funds:

NameOld FeeNew Fee
iShares MSCI EM ESG Optimized ETF.45%.25%
iShares MSCI EAFE ESG Optimized ETF.40%.20%
iShares MSCI USA ESG Optimized ETF.28%.15%
iShares Fallen Angels USD Bond ETF.35%.25%
iShares 0-5 Year TIPS Bond ETF.10%.06%
iShares 0-5 Year Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core 5-10 Year USD Bond ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core 1-5 Year USD Bond ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core 10+ Year USD Bond ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core International Aggregate Bond ETF.11%.09%

Source: SEC earlier reported on the reductions.

Bloomberg News