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Disagreement Over ETF Fee Future

Exchange-traded fund industry officials disagree over the future of ETF fees. While some believe that better performance and sophisticated strategies will justify higher expenses, others want to see ETFs maintain their lost-cost position.

Ben Fulton, head of global product development at Invesco PowerShares, said future expenses will depend on performance and complexity. “If a product can deliver excess performance it won’t surprise me, especially if you get ones looking like hedge funds, to see ETFs with expenses at 100 basis points,” said Fulton. “It has to be based on performance and managerial skills.” But Jill Iacono, v.p. at State Street Global Advisors, cautioned that ETF sponsors must keep expenses lower than mutual funds as they develop more complex offerings because lower expenses have been key to the success of ETFs.

Paul Drakeley, wholesaler at Vanguard Group, said that ETFs must retain their low expenses to remain competitive. He said investors are attracted to ETFs because of their low expenses and that Vanguard “will continue to lower expenses as our assets continue to grow.” Jeffrey Margolin, v.p. at First Trust Advisors, said that he believes what matters most is performance and that there will be customers willing to pay for outsized returns.

Fulton, Margolin, Iacono and Drakeley spoke at a panel discussion at the Capital Link Closed-End Fund and Global ETF Forum.

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