Zero-Fee ETFs Are Here

April 12, 2019 12:10 pm
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After years of speculation that recently intensified, exchange traded funds with zero fees arrived Thursday with the debuts of the SoFi Select 500 ETF (NYSE:SFY) and the SoFi Next 500 ETF (NYSE:SFYX).

Both new ETFs from SoFi have fee waivers in place to keep the funds' expense ratios at zero through at least June 30, 2020.

What Happened

While the arrival of zero-fee ETFs was widely anticipated, the surprise is not that zero-fee ETFs are finally here, but rather their sponsor.

Many industry experts speculated that the first no-fee ETFs would arrive courtesy of a growing issuer looking to take market share from other sponsors or an entrenched ETF issuer with a reputation for low costs.

The new SFY and SFYX represent SoFi's debut on the sponsorship side of the ETF business. The other surprise is that SoFi's zero-fee ETFs are not cap-weighted funds. SFY and SFYX are smart beta products, and alternatively weighted ETFs usually carry higher fees than their cap-weighted rivals.

Why It's Important

SFY, which provides exposure to the 500 largest U.S. companies, “uses a composite growth score to adjust companies’ weightings in the ETF,” according to SoFi. “The score takes into account sales growth, revenue growth, and forward-looking revenue estimates. Companies with stronger growth characteristics receive a higher weight." 

That new ETF tracks the Solactive SoFi US 500 Growth Index, while SFYX, the mid-cap offering, targets the Solactive SoFi US Next 500 Growth Index. Home to the 501st though 1,000th-largest U.S. companies, SFYX uses the same methodology and criteria as the large-cap SFY.

“SoFi’s entry into the ETF space comes shortly after the general availability of SoFi Invest, an investing platform that offers both Active (brokerage) and Automated (robo-advisor) investing with no commissions or management fees,” according to the California-based company. “SoFi’s new ETFs will be available through SoFi Invest, as well as through any other brokerage account.”

What's Next

Over the past several years, many of the top asset-gathering ETFs have had fees of 0.2 percent per year or less, and many of those funds had expense ratios of 0.1 percent or less. Zero-fee ETFs could alter the ETF landscape, assuming advisers and investors flock to the funds. 

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