BlackRock Announces Option to Include Annuities in Target-Date Strategies
BlackRock says it will soon begin offering its LifePath Paycheck solution as a default investment option in employees’ retirement plans, which will allow plan participants to have the option to obtain a guaranteed income stream in retirement.
BlackRock says its solution embeds annuity contracts issued by Equitable and Brighthouse Financial directly into a target-date strategy. When a participant reaches age 59.5, the LifePath Paycheck solution offers the participant the option to purchase fixed individual retirement annuities from the insurers that will provide a guaranteed stream of income for life.
“People are more reliant on their defined contribution [DC] savings than ever before,” says Greg Fox, head of U.S. DC retirement income solutions at Aon. “In response to this, many employers are looking for ways to transform their plans to not only help employees save and invest for retirement, but also help them thoughtfully and effectively spend down their savings as they transition into retirement.”
BlackRock notes that research from Voya finds 90% of individuals think having a guaranteed source of income in retirement so they don’t outlive their savings is important or extremely important.
Vanguard Expands Active Roster With Core-Plus Bond Fund
Vanguard has launched the actively managed Vanguard Core-Plus Bond Fund, which seeks to offer clients a diversified, single-fund, core fixed-income portfolio invested primarily in U.S. Treasury, mortgage-backed and other U.S. investment-grade securities. The firm says the fund may also invest beyond the U.S. investment-grade bond market in areas such as high-yield corporate securities and emerging markets debt of all credit quality ratings.
Vanguard says the Core-Plus Bond Fund’s mandate enables portfolio managers to pursue opportunities across various fixed-income sectors and credit qualities. The fund is managed by Vanguard’s fixed income group.
“Vanguard continues to invest in active management talent and capabilities, building upon four decades of expertise in running bond portfolios,” says Sara Devereux, global head of the Vanguard fixed income group. “This initiative represents our ongoing efforts to improve long-term investor outcomes by offering higher-potential return fixed-income strategies with enduring investment merit at a low cost.”
With the addition of Core-Plus Bond, Vanguard now has three core bond offers: Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund, Vanguard Core Bond Fund and Vanguard Core-Plus Bond Fund. The Total Bond Market Index Fund is the most conservative option for investors favoring index management. While still conservative, the firm says its Core Bond Fund offers the potential to outperform through active management.
With greater exposure to high-yield and emerging markets investments, the new Core-Plus Bond Fund is designed for investors who are more comfortable with higher risk in their fixed-income allocations and the potential to outperform through active management. However, Vanguard notes that the fund’s greater exposure to high-yield investments may not be suitable for certain investors.
The Core-Plus Bond Fund is accepting investments during a 10-day subscription period and will begin trading on October 25. The fund will have an estimated expense ratio of 0.3% for investor shares and 0.2% for admiral shares.
Willis Towers Watson, Qontigo Launch Climate Transition Indexes
Qontigo and Willis Towers Watson have launched a family of climate transition indexes.
The firms say the STOXX Willis Towers Watson Climate Transition Indices (CTI) will help investors, governments and companies to manage risk, capture opportunities in their portfolios, align with goals of the Paris agreement and work toward net-zero targets.
“While current climate metrics can help to identify outliers, many current approaches to factoring climate risk into investments tend to be simplistic and fall short of accurately identifying their impact on company valuations,” says David Nelson, Willis Towers Watson Climate Transition Analytics senior director.
The firms say the CTI enables a more sophisticated way of managing climate risk that looks beyond carbon emissions, by evaluating the transition risk and opportunity for each company. A proprietary Climate Transition Value at Risk (CTVaR) measure analyzes the impact on projected company cash flows of moving from a business-as-usual scenario to a world where emissions pathways are fully aligned to the goals of the Paris agreement.
“Investors need a robust framework that can quantify and incorporate the financial impact of climate risk, but this is something that just hasn’t been widely available until now,” says Craig Baker, Willis Towers Watson’s global chief investment officer (CIO). “We believe understanding this transition, through our Climate Transition Value at Risk methodology, should be one of the biggest sources of alpha across all asset classes over the next few years. Climate change is a systemic, urgent global challenge and will significantly disrupt capital allocations and returns.”
BlackRock Launches ETF That Aims to Outperform Fixed-Income Market
BlackRock has announced that it has launched a new exchange-traded fund (ETF): the iShares USD Bond Factor ETF (NASDAQ: USBF). It offers investors a chance to outperform the broader U.S. fixed income market by selecting bonds based on macro and quality and value style factor insights.
USBF, which seeks to track the BlackRock USD Bond Factor Index, has an expense ratio of 0.18%, or $1.80 for every $1,000 invested—which BlackRock says is lower than 86% of mutual funds and ETFs in the Morningstar Core Bond category.
BlackRock says many debt market participants are seeking to navigate credit risk—i.e., the ability to be repaid in full and on time—and interest rate risk, given how yields could rise after not only recent all-time lows, but also four consecutive decades of declines. By applying a rules-based, transparent factor, or “smart beta,” investing lens to bonds, USBF pursues a strategy that seeks to provide a diversified selection of U.S. dollar-denominated bonds while enhancing total return relative to the broader U.S. fixed-income market and retaining similar risk characteristics.
“Historically low yields heighten the importance of broadening potential sources of fixed-income returns,” says Karen Schenone, head of iShares U.S. fixed income strategy within BlackRock’s global fixed income group. “USBF follows an index that systematically looks at all types of bonds—investment-grade corporate debt, Treasurys, high-yield bonds and mortgage-backed securities—to adjust its holdings based on various risk-on and risk-off macroeconomic environments, offering an opportunity to place a dynamic bond allocation at the core of your portfolio.”
“Using macro and style factors for U.S. core fixed-income assets can provide distinct and complementary sources of returns,” adds Andrew Ang, head of factor investing strategies at BlackRock. “USBF’s investment strategy harvests the value factor to identify underpriced securities, while using the quality factor to uncover the investment-grade and high-yield corporate bonds that exhibit lower probabilities of default. We believe this can be a possible winning alternative to broad-based debt market exposures.”
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