Investment Products and Services Launches

Hartford Funds expands fixed income ETF suite; Sage releases ESG Intermediate Credit Index; ICMA-RC opening investments to private sector.

Hartford Funds Expands Fixed Income ETF Suite

Hartford Funds has launched its third actively-managed fixed income exchange-traded fund (ETF): The Hartford Total Return Bond ETF.

This fund aims to provide investors with an actively managed core bond strategy that invests in U.S. government and corporate bonds, asset-backed securities, mortgage-backed securities, and foreign-issued securities. The strategy seeks to deliver a competitive total return with income as a secondary objective. HTRB has a total expense ratio of 0.39%.

“Advisers recognize that fixed-income offerings are a critical foundation of an investment portfolio,” says Vernon Meyer, chief investment officer of Hartford Funds. “We created another fixed income ETF to offer investors more options to optimize their fixed income exposure across all market sectors, which may help them to diversify their investments and reach their long-term goals.”

The fund will be sub-advised by Wellington Management Company. The HTRB joins two other actively-managed, Hartford fixed income ETFs sub-advised by Wellington. These funds are the Hartford Corporate Bond ETF, an ETF focused on investment-grade corporate bonds; and the Hartford Quality Bond ETF, a core bond ETF focused on investment grade debt including mortgage-backed securities and U.S. government securities.

Hartford Funds plans to launch two more actively-managed ETFs in the fourth quarter of 2017. These options would be the Hartford Schroders Tax-Aware Bond ETF, which would be sub-advised by Schroder Investment Management North America; and Hartford Municipal Opportunities ETF, which would be sub-advised by Wellington.

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Sage Releases ESG Intermediate Credit Index

Fixed-income investment manager Sage Advisory Services has launched The Sage ESG Intermediate Credit Index. It uses a proprietary environmental, social and governance (ESG) factor analysis framework and a rules-based selection process in order to maximize exposure to positive ESG characteristics, while maintaining a high level of liquidity.

The index uses a three-pronged approach to select between 100 to 120 investment-grade securities with a minimum tranche size of $500 million from the Barclay’s Intermediate Credit Bond Index, and an issuance date within the last three years.

Sage says selection also relies on whether securities meet a proprietary ESG score, and fall within the top third of the group to which Sage categorizes them. They must also meet a controversy rating that flags to investors the potential environmental and social risks associated with the security.

“ESG is rapidly gaining traction with both institutional and individual investors, and we’re seeing the positive impact of these conscious investments across a wide range of sectors and causes,” says Robert G. Smith, president and chief investment officer at Sage Advisory. “With the Sage ESG Intermediate Credit Index, we’ll achieve our goal of providing an institutional quality index that further accelerates the momentum gained to date.”

Wilshire Associates will be retained as index consultant and calculation agent.

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ICMA-RC Opening Investments to Private Sector

ICMA-RC, which has spent the last 45 years serving public-sector retirement plans, is now making the VT PLUS Fund and certain Vantagepoint Funds managed by ICMA-RC available to private-sector defined contribution (DC) plans on an investment only basis. 

The VT PLUS Fund and the Vantagepoint Funds are collective investment trusts (CITs).

“We expect that making the Vantagepoint Funds available to private-sector employers will benefit public-sector plan sponsors through asset growth, which is likely to produce economies of scale,” says ICMA-RC president and CEO Bob Schultze. “This is a positive step for ICMA-RC, our current public-sector clients, and private-sector plan participants who can now invest with us.”

The DCIO expansion will be managed by a team of veteran investment professionals.

Craig Lombardi, managing vice president of DCIO, will be responsible for the overall growth and development of DCIO sales to institutional investors and their advisers. Forrest Wilson, vice president, Institutional Sales, DCIO, is responsible for DCIO sales in the private-sector institutional market.

Lombardi, Wilson and several others aim to help plan sponsors improve the investments made available to their participants. ICMA-RC says, “The Vantagepoint Funds’ multi-manager approach is designed to avoid the risk of concentrated reliance on the results of a single manager. The Funds’ approach blends investments from multiple sub-advisers with complementary characteristics to broadly diversify ideas, strategies, and styles in an effort to provide attractive returns while minimizing risk.”