Deborah Fuhr, the authority on all things ETF, has returned to the industry after leaving BlackRock in July and has launched her own ETF research consultancy. According to a press release, the new London-based firm, ETF Global Insight, will provide thought leadership; independent research on the industry, products, applications, competitor analysis; education on product comparison, asset allocation implementation; and customized research.
The move comes as no surprise to me, as I could see that Fuhr was a powerful force in the ETF research space. (While at BlackRock, her team won several awards for their work. She has also been named one of the Top 100 women in Finance three times in a row.) It was just a matter of time before she went independent. Just before she left BlackRock last summer, she stopped by our offices in New York to brief me on some of the trends she was seeing with ETFs, but also to drop off a few 100-page reports covering the ETF landscape, inside and out.
So if you’re looking at adding a mix of ETFs to your clients’ portfolios, you might want to get to know Fuhr. When I sat down with Fuhr, she said her main concern with ETFs was that investors and advisors don’t understand the structure from a performance, regulatory, and tax point of view. And despite the fact that ETFs are exploding in popularity, attracting a record $164 billion in new assets in 2011, there aren’t a lot of sources of education and tools on ETFs. This is starting to change, although slowly. Fuhr said:
While asset growth in the ETF industry has been tremendous, regulators, investors, ETF managers, brokers, index providers and all of the members of the ETF eco-system have been citing the need for more and better independent education, research and customized assistance to investors seeking to navigate the vast array of products. The need for independent research and assistance in navigating the ETF landscape is even greater today than at any time in the past ten years… We believe the industry will see significant change as investors and regulators demand greater transparency, clarity and information which will benefit investors globally.
Fuhr has been a strong advocate for the value proposition of ETFs, although the structure has been getting flack lately. Just last week, Vanguard’s John Bogle called it “speculation” and “marketing.” But I expect Fuhr’s research will help advisors and investors tell the difference between speculative ETFs and the real thing.