Investment Products and Service Launches

Hartford Funds Launches U.S. Real Estate ETF; BlackRock Reducing iShares ETF Costs; Zephyrus Partners Adopts RiskFirst PFaroe System; and more.
Hartford Funds Launches U.S. Real Estate ETF

Hartford Funds has released an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that focuses on the performance of publicly traded U.S. real estate investment trusts (REIT).

The REIT ETF aims to provide investment results that, before fees and expenses, correspond to the total return performance of the Lattice Risk-Optimized Real Estate Strategy Index. It is designed to apply risk-first investment design with a multi-factor approach, the firm says. The fund’s ticker is “RORE.”

“The launch of RORE is a natural extension of Hartford Funds’ strategic beta ETF platform,” says Darek Wojnar, head of ETFs at Hartford Funds. “The strategy focuses exclusively on REITs and may be a compelling solution for investors interested in taking advantage of the growing opportunities in the real estate sector.”

Hartford Funds says the strategy selects equity securities of REITs exhibiting a favorable combination of factor characteristics including quality, momentum, and value. RORE is the first ETF launched by the firm since Hartford Funds acquired Lattice Strategies, a global investment manager earlier this year.

“Hartford Funds’ latest strategic beta ETF allows us to offer even broader options for building investment portfolios that reflects clients’ needs, risk tolerances and life goals,” says Vern Meyer, CIO of Hartford Funds. “Our expanded capabilities cater to investors interested in a mix of high-active share mutual funds and complementary strategic beta ETFs.”

As a strategic beta fund, this ETF will emphasize the use of alternative weighting schemes to traditional market capitalization-based indexes.

NEXT: BlackRock Reducing iShares ETF Costs

BlackRock Reducing iShares ETF Costs

BlackRock is reducing prices across its U.S. iShares Core exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Listed net expense ratios range from 4 bps on the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF to 11 bps on the iShares Core International Aggregate Bond ETF.

“Institutions, individuals, and financial advisers are increasingly putting low-cost ETFs at the center of their long-term investments,” the company says. “Now, with the Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule coming into force, financial advisers are sharpening their focus on the quality and cost-efficiency of funds. BlackRock expects these advisers will use ETFs more and more as active tools and alongside high-conviction active funds to build better portfolios for clients. We also expect financial advisers will increasingly turn to core ETFs for long-term holdings, where value matters most.”

Mark Wiedman, global head of iShares, adds: “A new era is dawning for advisers and long-term investors of all kinds. To meet this historic shift, we aim to set a new market convention for core investing and long-term investors. We brought ETFs and active management together in 2009. In 2012, we launched the iShares Core to serve long-term investors looking for great value at the center of their portfolios. Since then, individual and institutional investors have adopted iShares Core ETFs faster than we imagined. We expect this trend only to quicken.”

More information about these funds can be found at

NEXT: Zephyrus Partners Adopts RiskFirst PFaroe System 

Zephyrus Partners Adopts RiskFirst PFaroe System

Zephyrus Partners, a corporate pension adviser, will utilize the PFaroe system by RiskFirst as its preferred valuation tool. The company says the move would allow it to introduce efficiency and robustness into its liability valuation and scenario-testing process, with the goal of proactively engaging with trustees in funding and investment-strategy negotiations.

“We are steadily expanding our client base and breadth of advisery and reporting services so we need additional resources to support our growth trajectory,” says Amédée Levillain, founding partner and director at Zephyrus Partners. “PFaroe offers an ideal solution as it allows us to leverage technology to address client queries quickly and efficiently, including accurately exploring outcomes under varying assumptions. Adopting the capability of PFaroe should free up capacity within our focused team and allow us to concentrate on adding maximum value for our clients.”

Zephyrus Partners is an independent, corporate pension adviser servicing companies that are looking to actively manage the risk attached to their UK pension exposures.

NEXT: Franklin Templeton Investments Rolls Out Actively Managed ETF Suite

Franklin Templeton Investments Rolls Out Actively Managed ETF Suite

Franklin Templeton Investments has introduced a new suite of actively managed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to its Franklin LibertyShares platform. The suite includes two new products which are the Franklin Liberty U.S. Low Volatility ETF (FLLV) and the Franklin Liberty Investment Grade Corporate ETF (FLCO). It also features the Franklin Liberty Short Duration U.S. Government ETF (FTSD), an active ETF launched in 2013.

“Investors have embraced the ETF wrapper for its benefits, which may include liquidity, tax efficiency and transparency,” says Patrick O’Connor, global head of ETFs for Franklin Templeton Investments. “Now they want the opportunity to seek better risk-adjusted returns over the long term. Through Franklin LibertyShares, we are providing investors with simple and efficient options to help them address their desired outcomes. Our actively managed ETFs can help investors meet their investment needs by serving as a core or complementary portfolio holding.”

The FLLV seeks capital appreciation with an emphasis on lower volatility than the broader U.S. equity market, as measured by the Russell 1000 Index, the firm explains. The fund applies a “bottom up” research process to identify stocks that exhibit strong fundamental characteristics, and screens for stocks with the lowest realized volatility scores, based on a proprietary quantitative model, relative to their corresponding sectors. Risk considerations are incorporated into the final stock selection process. The ETF is managed by Todd Brighton, CFA, vice president and portfolio manager for Franklin Equity Group.

The FLCO aims to provide a high level of current income while seeking preservation of capital by investing at least 80% of its net assets in investment-grade corporate debt securities and investments. The fund may invest up to 40% of its net assets in foreign securities, including those in developed markets, and up to 15% of its net assets in non-U.S. dollar denominated securities. The ETF is managed by Marc Kremer and Shawn Lyons. Both CFAs are research analysts and portfolio managers for Franklin Templeton Fixed Income Group.

The FTSD seeks to preserve shareholders’ capital by investing at least 80% of its net assets in securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, its agencies or instrumentalities. The fund targets an estimated average portfolio duration of three years or less. The ETF is managed by Roger Bayston, CFA, senior vice president and portfolio manager for Franklin Templeton Fixed Income Group. Launched in 2013, the ETF has assets under management of approximately $169 million, the firm says.  

With the introduction of this new suite of actively managed ETFs, Franklin Templeton expands its Franklin LibertyShares fund offerings to seven ETFs. For more information about these ETFs, visit

NEXT: AXA Launches Collective Investment Trust

AXA Launches Collective Investment Trust

AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM), a global multi-asset manager, has announced the formation of the AXA Investment Managers Collective Investment Trust as part of its efforts to expand its offerings for U.S. clients. The firm says this new offering will serve as a major function of its regional strategy to provide innovative, low-cost investment solutions for defined contribution (DC) and defined benefit (DB) plans.

The firm is also offering three other collective investment trusts: the AXA IM U.S. High Yield Collective Investment Fund; the AXA IM International Small Cap Equity Collective Investment Fund; and the AXA IM U.S. Small/Mid Cap Equity Collective Investment Fund.

AXA IM will serve as investment adviser for all three funds. Global Trust Company, a Maine chartered bank with more than $29 billion in assets under management (AUM), will serve as the trustee. State Street Corporation will be the trust’s custodian, administrator and transfer agent.

"As part of AXA IM's efforts to offer customized solutions that address our clients' evolving needs in the U.S., we are pleased to launch these three initial investment strategies in asset classes where we have a proven track record of success,” says Steve Sexeny, head of North America Client Group. “We have seen increased investor demand for CITs as a low-cost investment alternative for 401(k) and 457 plans, and therefore, we believe this is an opportune time for AXA IM to launch these new vehicles.

He adds, "The launch of the AXA IM CIT highlights our commitment to the U.S. market and our ambition to continue growing AXA IM's presence in the region."