The Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca:VWO) and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca:EEM) have been the darlings of emerging market investors for years. Together, the two funds have over $80 billion in assets under management.
Investor demand has been so strong that emerging markets funds now come in different sizes and styles. Besides broad-based funds, we now have large-cap, midcap, small-cap, growth, value and various emerging market sector ETFs.
Despite the variety, these funds share one thing in common:Almost all are market-cap selected, meaning investors end up heavily exposed to the same emerging markets giantsâChina, Brazil, Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Russia, Mexico, India and Malaysia.
Together, those nine countries account for 88 percent of the exposure in a fund like EEM. That leaves just 12 percent of the portfolio to cover the remaining 11 countries, including fast-growing economies like Indonesia, Thailand and Chile. With all the niche ETFs being launched these days, itâs stunning that thereâs no fund tracking a broad-based index of smaller emerging market countries. Whereâs the love?
To be fair, some single-country smaller emerging markets ETFs exist, such as the Market Vectors Indonesia Fund (NYSEArca:IDX) and the iShares MSCI Chile Investable Market Fund (NYSEArca:ECH). But with IDX and ECH both having over $800 million in AUM, doesnât that just prove the point?
Investors are eager to get their hands on the ânextâ emerging markets. Currently, theyâre usually redirected to âfrontierâ markets like Vietnam, Qatar, Kuwait, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates. Both Van Eck and Global X Funds currently have broad-based frontier market ETFs in registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Smaller emerging markets are too developed to be classified as frontier; theyâre just small. But theyâre so small that theyâre rendered irrelevant in broad-based emerging market portfolios. Theyâre the neglected middle child of risk-tolerant investors.
I think a smaller emerging markets ETF could be attractive. If you exclude the top nine countries from EEM and re-weight the remaining 11, you end up with a portfolio like this:
The âSmaller Emerging Marketsâ
Pretty nice, eh?
Doesnât that look like a unique fund offering diversified exposure to high growth markets without pushing investors into âthe frontier?â
Hereâs hoping some issuer is paying attention.
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