Among the most interesting failures is the "Boston brahmins" teaming up, SSgA's SPDR ETF family with MFS, a representative of the active manager mutual fund "old guard." How old guard? MFS can even claim to have invented the U.S. mutual fund—its Massachusetts Investor Trust launched in 1924.
"The failure of SSgA Risk Aware fascinates me," said Robert Goldsborough, Morningstar ETF analyst. "They have a great sales force and distribution, and they shouldn't be failing on any launch," he said. "It's just gotten harder for new launches to break through."
Paul Britt, ETF.com analyst, said the risk-on, risk-off approach of SSgA Risk Aware is something investors do every single day. "The concept is not crazy, but for whatever reason, there was no interest."
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Goldsborough noted that the SSgA-MFS ETF family—which seemed poised to get in on the popular "smart beta" equity ETF space—was not the first high-profile teaming to fall flat on its face in ETFs. EG Shares recently teamed with TCW for three funds based on JPMorgan indexes, and all three ETFs have already been liquidated, Goldsborough said.
"It's surprising to me that the SSgA-MFS products have gone nowhere," said Todd Rosenbluth, S&P Capital IQ's head of ETF research. "That's two very strong brands." And he noted that SSgA has had success working with a big-name partner in the ETF space, Blackstone Group, with which it launched a senior loan ETF (SRLN) that has more than $560 million in assets.
Granted, there has been a lot more interest in senior loans as investors search for income than in active managers clawing their way into the ETF arena. But Rosenbluth said, "I would have thought two strong brands would have resonated with investors trying to sort through the active/passive debate."