As Eaton Vance aims to bring next- shares to market in the third quarter, the firm has busied itself with outreach to broker-dealers and licensees. Having gained SEC approval in November to offer this new class of investment product, the firm's biggest challenge now, observers say, is selling the concept of exchange-traded managed funds.

The product seeks to blend the alpha of managed mutual funds with the efficiencies and cost savings that have helped grow ETFs into an industry that last year topped $2 trillion for the first time. For actively managed mutual funds, it's a space that some market participants view as an enormous opportunity. Others view it as a necessity for competing with the growth that index funds and ETFs have achieved. Still others may view it as a threat.

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