Active Management Not Dead Yet as Investments Surged in August

The imminent death of active asset management may have been greatly exaggerated.

Two new studies from the London research firm ETFGI LLP found a surge of investments in actively managed exchange-traded funds and smart-beta equity funds, both of which reached record highs.

Global actively managed exchange-traded funds have increased their assets by 41 percent this year to $61 billion at the end of August, ETFGI wrote in a report published Friday. The biggest share — $39.6 billion — was invested in U.S. funds, the report noted. Assets invested in smart-beta equity ETFs surged 18 percent to $630 billion, according to a separate report from the firm.

The data are a further sign that there’s still a place for active management in a world where investors are increasingly seeking out passive products that offer better performance for a fraction of the cost. Smart-beta strategies combine some of the attributes of passive investing with some of the advantages of active management.

One major benefit of active management is the ability to quickly respond to risk events, something that markets have consistently dealt with over the past few months.

“Storms and political risks remain a focus for investors,” Deborah Fuhr, a managing partner at ETFGI, said in the research note, “the ability of the Trump administration to move forward on policy goals and hearings on Capitol Hill, Brexit negotiations, and North Korea is still an area of concern.”

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