People talk about the changing environment. In the financial world around us, things are also changing dramatically. What use to be is no more. There are no real ticker-tape parades any more and future pits are closing opting for online trading. What is changing and why can we not see it? The internet has changed the way people shop around the world with the retail sector currently dominated by Amazon, accounting for almost 65% of online sales. Amazon past Walmart (in market cap) back in 2015 and within the past two years has grown in value to be worth twice as much. Large department stores and the more traditional malls are closing, but this is happening as retail spending continues to grow. Admittedly, online merchants have made it far easier, tap a button and our goods arrive at the doorstep the next day, but obviously at the expense of shop staff. The more comfortable we get with online retail the more intelligent we are shopping around and doing it ourselves. Is having the ease of service and renewed confidence a major influence upon why we are turning to index trackers and ETF’s rather than pay a money manager 2% to do it for us?
The ETF market has ballooned since the early 2000’s and is now worth approximately $2.5tn. With this “online” competition, the rumours are that the fees have been reduced to almost nothing, with money managers taking just 20bp on the fund in the hope that they can make additional returns on the bid/offer spread. One of the problems we could face however, is that the derivative (ETF) becomes more liquid than the underlying. The relationship will work fine in an orderly market but will be tested in extremely or volatile conditions. The concern should be when will Market-Makers widen their spreads so just ensure you are not the last one to see the problems.