Even with a long-term shift to passive investing, "managed solutions" packaging exchange-traded funds should also grow rapidly, said Scott Burns, Morningstar's ETF expert.

The market plunge in 2008 was much harder to explain to investors in active-managed funds, said Burns, who directs ETF, closed-end and alternative fund research for Morningstar. As a result, many planners are switching to passive investments, especially ETFs. The move is part of an overall shift to fee-based planning practices, which, he said, involve less hand-holding.

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