Attracted by exchange-traded funds’ transparency, liquidity and low fees, more institutional investors turned to these instruments during the crisis, Barclays Global Investors said in a report based on Thomson Reuters data.

Since 1997, the number of institutions investing in ETFs has risen 1,673% at an annual compound growth rate of 30%. Last year, ETFs took in $270 billion, while long-term mutual funds lost $117 billion. Retail and institutional fund managers make up 73.5% of the ETF customer base, followed by hedge funds, which comprise 15%. However, hedge funds’ use of ETFs grew at an annual compound growth rate of 42% in that time.

Barclays predicts the use of ETFs will rise even further in the years ahead as portfolio managers look for greater diversification at low cost. “We have found that many [fund managers] are admitting that they do not have the time nor resources to add value in all markets and are embracing the use of ETFs to gain international market exposure,” the report said.

The most popular ETF last year was the SPDR S&P 500 fund, owned by 1,349 institutions, followed by the iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index, each of which was held by approximately 800 institutions.

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