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Smart, strategic, factor-based — whatever you call them, these ETFs are on course to post another windfall year, winning over institutional and retail investors alike. But that hasn’t silenced critics.

“There’s a whole class of investors that have grown increasingly fee conscious but are not willing to settle for the broader market,” says Ben Johnson, director of global ETF research at Morningstar. Strategic beta ETPs are filling the void for advisors with clients who want an active allocation without paying high fees.

The global strategic beta ETP market has skyrocketed in recent years. So far in 2017, assets have grown 18% to $818 billion, according to data from Morningstar Direct.

Competition has led to lower fees and forced strategic funds to distinguish themselves from cheaper traditional ETFs. Elisabeth Kashner, director of ETF research at FactSet, compares today’s strategic fund to “an independent bookseller trying to compete with Amazon.”

While strategic beta may be the cool new kid on the block, so-called vanilla index funds are still favored by ETF investors, with 72% of total assets. Strategic beta funds have a 22% share of the ETF market. Within strategic funds, investors favor approaches that target growth, value and dividends.

Click through the images above for more insights on the state of the strategic beta market.


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