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Vanguard adds to lineup with low-cost world bond ETF: News Scan

Our weekly roundup of industry highlights

Vanguard launches a low-cost total world bond ETF
Vanguard has launched the first U.S.-domiciled index ETF of ETFs with access to the global investment-grade bond universe, the firm said.

The Vanguard Total World Bond ETF (BNDW), which has an expense ratio of 0.09%, trades on the Nasdaq and seeks to track the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Float Adjusted Composite, according to Vanguard.

Vanguard plans to expand its application of blockchain in early 2018.

"It's a simple, convenient and low-cost way to obtain the diversification benefits offered by bonds of many countries and issuers," said Vanguard CIO Greg Davis.

Reality Shares expands into Blockforce
Reality Shares announced an expansion effort to change its name to Blockforce Capital in an effort to better reflect its focus of providing access to blockchain and cryptocurrency investments.

Blockforce will consist of three business units: Reality Shares ETFs and Indexes, the Blockforce family of hedge funds and crypto investment platform Onramp.

"Our firm has pushed the innovative envelope of the ETF business to offer investors access to some of the most dynamic areas of the market," said Blockforce CEO Eric Ervin. The firm is looking to streamline access from ETFs to cryptocurrency portfolios to hedge funds, he added.

MetLife and State Street form $2B mortgage partnership
MetLife Investment Management struck a deal with State Street to originate and service as much as $2 billion in commercial mortgages, according to Bloomberg News.

The companies will co-lend each loan under the multiyear agreement, MetLife said in a statement.

"This is an important step in growing our real estate platform," Robert Merck, global head of real estate and agriculture at MetLife's asset manager, said in the statement. The partnership "offers customers access to two highly respected, leading financial institutions."

Vanguard rolls out commission-free ETFs
Vanguard has officially launched its line of commission-free ETFs the firm announced in July. Approximately 90% (nearly 1,800) of its ETFs that trade on major exchanges will be offered online with no commission, excluding inversed and leveraged ETFs, which the firm considers to be too speculative.

The average fund posted a 12.6% annual gain compared to 7.6% for the S&P 500.
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"Our goal is to provide additional access and flexibility to our clients, not spur counter-productive, frequent trading activity," said Karin Risi, managing director of Vanguard's retail investor group.

Vanguard expects the commission-free ETFs to result in lower costs for initial ETF investments and strategies such as dollar-cost averaging, rebalancing and harvesting losses for tax purposes.

Mercer to acquire parts of Pavilion Financial
Mercer signed an agreement to purchase Pavilion Financial's investment consulting, alternatives consulting and wealth management operations.

It plans to use the Pavilion brand for investment consulting services and insurance client segments post-close, Mercer says. Clients at Pavilion will have access to Mercer's research and investment capabilities.

"Pavilion is a leading global investment services firm with great leadership talent supporting strong consulting and research capabilities, particularly for alternative investments," said Rich Nuzum, president of Mercer's global wealth business. "Together, our complementary capabilities will enhance our ability to serve our clients."

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter, given regulatory and shareholder approval.

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JPMorgan unveils low-fee trading
JPMorgan Chase announced plans for a mobile brokerage platform that includes free research and some free trading to retail clients, according to Bloomberg News.

With the new offering, JPMorgan says it aims to appeal to millennials as well as encourage existing clients to initiate more trading on their own.

The firm first told investors it was working on a way to offer free robo-investing to retail customers back in 2016.

"We were hearing from clients that they wanted to invest with us as they digitally banked with us," Kelli Keough, JPMorgan's global head of digital wealth management, told Bloomberg News. "It really came from clients and was a concerted focus across the organization to make this happen."

RESEARCH
Asset managers introduce alternative data to strategies
An asset manager's first priority is forming a new investment strategy when it comes to alternative data, research shows.

While money is moving out of actively managed investments, some hedge funds and asset managers have been introducing new data to their strategies in order to gain a competitive edge, according to a new Aite Group report.

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"Today, with the growing prevalence of quant-driven investment strategies, asset management firms are increasingly looking at alternative data and analytics as a new potential source of alpha," Gabriel Wang, analyst at Aite, said in a statement.

Managers prioritize new tools, ETFs
While ETFs are a focal point for managers in the near term, so is building out new vehicle offerings, according to a recent survey.

For 66% of asset managers, new vehicle offerings are a high priority.

However, liquid alternatives aren't seen in the same light - they have yet to prove their value in terms of return and portfolio diversity, according to the Cerulli study.

PRODUCTS
Ally Invest adds commission-free ETFs to its platform
Ally Invest put out more than 100 commission-free ETFs on its online platform, seeking to diversify and specialize its clients' investments, according to the firm.

The ETFs cover domestic, international and global equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities and alternative strategies.

Allianz launches an annuity to help meet retirement goals
Allianz Life Insurance announced the release of Allianz Index Advantage Income Variable Annuity.

The new product features include income withdrawal percentages that will increase in years that retirement income is deferred, as well as the ability to customize protection opportunities through crediting methods.

Perth Mint releases gold-backed ETF
Perth Mint is launching the Perth Mint Physical Gold ETF (AAAU), which will be backed in gold and guaranteed by the government in Western Australia. Shares will be exchangeable for gold products.

The ETF will be backed in pure gold with a purity of at least 99.5%. The Bank of New York Mellon will serve as the fund's trustee. Exchange Traded Concepts will be the administrative sponsor, according to the firm.

ARRIVALS
TA Associates hires two vice presidents
TA Associates announced that Calen Angert and Nicholas Leppla, who once served as associates for the firm, have rejoined as vice presidents in its Menlo Park, California, office.

Angert served as an analyst in Morgan Stanley's health care investment banking group. He will continue to focus on investments in health care companies.

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Leppla will focus in technology company investing, according to TA. Leppla previously served as the chief of staff at AVG Technologies and as an analyst in JPMorgan's technology, media and telecommunications investment banking group.

"As associates, both proved to be valuable contributors to TA on several fronts, particularly in our deal sourcing and due diligence efforts," said TA chairman Brian Conway. "We look forward to Calen and Nick's contributions as we continue to seek investments in profitable growth companies and partner with the management teams of our portfolio companies to create further value."

Defiance names global head of ETFs and director of research
Defiance ETFs is hiring Paul Dellaquila as the global head of ETFs and Tom Bowles as the director of research.

Dellaquila was the former leader of BlackRock's U.S. wealth advisory ETF distribution, according to the firm. In his new role, Dellaquila will be in charge of distribution and product development at Defiance ETFs.

"Paul's client-centric approach and deep knowledge of portfolio construction and the ETF industry make him ideally suited to take on this role with Defiance," said Defiance ETFs CEO Matthew Bielski.

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