Huntington ETF Plans Hit SEC Bumps In Road
June 25, 2012
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Huntington Asset Advisors, a unit of Columbus, Ohio-based regional bank Huntington Bancshares, has had to make peace with the glacial pace of U.S. securities regulators, shelving plans, for now, to roll assets of an existing equities mutual fund into a virtually identical ETF. But crucially, the concept isn’t dead at Huntington.
It also shelved plans, for now, to bring to market a separate equities-focused ETF that would put options use at the center of the portfolio. The Securities and Exchange Commission never weighed in on the feasibility of either ETF, so the company stopped waiting for answers from the commission and decided to pursue its fund-marketing plans through different means.
For example, as a follow-on to last week’s launch of the actively managed Ecological Strategy Fund (NYSEArca: HECO), the company still plans to launch the Huntington US Equity Rotation Strategy (NYSEArca: HUSE), probably sometime next month. That will bring to two the total number of ETFs at a firm that has 26 mutual funds with a total of $3.4 billion in assets.
But instead of seeding the new ETF with capital from a similar mutual fund with almost $47 million in assets as it said it planned to do two years ago, it will roll out the sector rotation fund separately. That will make the two funds similar to Bill Gross’s $260 billion Pimco Total Return Fund and the Pimco Total Return ETF (NYSEArca: BOND), which are similar but separate.
Also, instead of bringing out the options-focused ETF it had in the works, it launched the idea in September 2011 in a mutual fund wrapper called the Disciplined Equity Fund—a decision that appears to be related to the SEC’s ongoing and as-yet-unresolved inquiry into derivatives use in active ETFs.
Fund industry sources stress Huntington hasn’t necessarily shelved plans for an option-focused ETF or, for that matter, creating an ETF out of a pre-existing mutual fund. Both concepts may yet see the light of day. Again, Huntington made a decision that getting into ETFs couldn’t be dependent on waiting for answers to questions the SEC wasn’t answering in a timely manner.
And that’s crucial to grasp, because that means that, in theory at least, the door may still be open for fund firms to turn existing active mutual funds into ETFs, and, that while active ETFs currently aren't allowed to operate with derivatives, firms like Huntington appear to believe that won't always be the case.
In other words, two potentially huge vectors of development of development for active ETFs remain on the table.
Such business development opportunities are important, because after all, active ETFs make up less than 1 percent of the $1.158 trillion in U.S.-listed ETF assets, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse.