bid-ask spread

4 key controls to follow as a Fund Director for a Synthetic ETF

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Dear Fund Director,

It is not very common to be a Fund Director of an ETF however, some of you may be in this position now or in the future. In this case, I would like to introduce to you 4 key elements which you should follow closely during your mandate:

1 –  Counterparty risk. The synthetic ETF’s are based on the fact that there is a Swap agreement with a counterpart which is the main driver of performance tracking with the index we intend to follow. See this explanatory document by Vanguard. In this sense, following counterparty risk is key in these funds specially in case of UCITS, where UCITS Directive states that the risk exposure to a counterparty in an OTC derivative transaction shall not exceed 5% of the assets of UCITS, or 10% when the counterparty is a credit institution. Apart from that, there is the EMIR issue that will be developed in next posts. In this sense, it may be worthwhile to pose questions to the risk managers about this issue.

2 – Tracking error. Tracking error is a measure of how closely an ETF follows the index to which it is benchmarked. As this is key for investors looking for Beta, there are public comparisons. It can be a good idea to ask the investment managers which is our historical tracking error for our ETFs.

3 – Costs. Sources of cost may vary: transaction costs, management fees, swap costs. However we must ensure that our ETFs are competitive. What about asking our business developers about the costs of our competitors? Be sure that our potential investors will check this as well.

4 – Liquidity. Investors like liquidity, specially in these days of volatility. Usually asset managers appoint market makers which ensure liquidity and a narrow bid-ask spread. Posing questions on how good our ETFs are ranked in comparison to our competitors with regards to the bid-ask spread will be a good measure to know if our market maker providers are performing well.

I hope this helps.

Yours faithfully,

The Indeep Fund Director.