Pacific Investment Management Co. is the latest company to jump into the municipal bond exchange-traded fund business.
The Newport Beach, Calif., asset manager has just launched its first muni ETF, the PIMCO Intermediate Municipal Bond Strategy Fund. While it is at least the 20th muni ETF, this one is a little different from the others.
Most muni ETF portfolios try to mimic the returns on a target index, but PIMCO’s latest fund doesn’t hope to achieve correlation. As the first actively managed muni ETF, it aims to deliver higher returns.
The fund does have a benchmark index—the Barclays Capital 1 to 15 Year Municipal Bond Index—but the principal concern is the generation of returns with the appropriate amount of risk, not mimicry of the index. In this sense, it is sort of like a publicly traded mutual fund that publishes its holdings every day.
“One should not expect that in an actively managed ETF all you’re going to see is an attempt to replicate that index,” said Bob Fields, muni product manager at PIMCO. “We made the decision that an actively managed muni ETF is an efficient vehicle for accessing PIMCO’s expertise, market depth and transaction capabilities.”
PIMCO will try to deliver returns by ferreting out bad credits and by minimizing tax events, according to Fields. The fund’s primary concern is credit analysis, Fields said.
Managing the fund is John Cummings, who manages about 20 other municipal funds at PIMCO as head of the muni desk.