It's not uncommon for issuers of exchange traded funds to change a product's index or objective in an effort to gain traction with investors. Sometimes, an issuer will employ wholesale changes for several ETFs in a single day.
That's what Deutsche Bank's DWS did on Wednesday, essentially burning down three interest rate hedged ETFs — perhaps wise in a low interest rate environment — and rebuilding those funds as fixed income environmental, social and governance (ESG) products.
DWS is already a force in the equity-based ESG ETF arena, but the Wednesday product launches affirm what many market observers already knew: asset managers view the fixed income space as a major growth frontier for ESG investing.
Here's a look at the newest ESG bond ETFs.
Xtrackers Bloomberg Barclays US Investment Grade Corporate ESG ETF (ESCR)
Once upon a time, this was an interest rate hedged investment-grade corporate bond fund, but those days are gone and now investors have another ESG corporate bond ETF to consider.
The Xtrackers Bloomberg Barclays US Investment Grade Corporate ESG ETF (CBOE: ESCR) follows the Bloomberg Barclays MSCI US Corporate Sustainability SRI Sector/Credit/Maturity Neutral Index and holds nearly 440 bonds.
Over half the issues are from the financial services, health care and technology sectors. ESCR charges 0.15% per year, of $15 on a $10,000 investment, which is low in this category.
Xtrackers J.P. Morgan ESG Emerging Markets Sovereign ETF (ESEB)
It will be interesting to see how the market treats the Xtrackers J.P. Morgan ESG Emerging Markets Sovereign ETF (CBOE: ESHY) because emerging markets bonds are under duress this year due to the strong dollar and plunging oil prices, among other factors.
However, historical data and research confirm that adding the ESG overlay to emerging markets assets, be they bonds or equities, is a winning idea. In the case of ESEB, it's possible, if not likely that some of the new ETF's 84 holdings are higher quality fare than are found in basic emerging markets bond funds.
Xtrackers J.P. Morgan ESG USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (ESHY)
ESG is already being applied to the domestic junk bond universe and this year, the results are a decent as one of the established funds in this category is performing 50 basis points less poorly than the largest, traditional high-yield bond fund.
The Xtrackers J.P. Morgan ESG USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (CBOE: ESHY) holds 250 bonds and is the largest of the three ETFs with $18 million in assets under management. Its annual fee is 0.20%, which is favorable in this fund category.