Markets

Michael P. Regan is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering equities and financial services. He has covered stocks for Bloomberg News as a columnist and editor since 2007. He previously worked for the Associated Press.

Like a fat kid doing a cannonball at the swim club, Janus Capital is trying to make a big splash in the world of exchange-traded funds with a product aimed to profit from one of America's most popular pastimes: being obese.

Another ETF is aimed at another pastime that's growing in popularity whether we like it or not: getting old. And yet another targets some other perennial favorite pastimes: trying to get fit and eat healthy.

It's easy to imagine the slapping sounds of high-fives when Janus executives conjured up these ticker symbols: SLIM, for the Obesity ETF; OLD, for the Long-Term Care ETF;  FITS, for the Health and Fitness ETF; and ORG, for the Organics ETF. Each started trading on Thursday, representing the fund manager's second set of original equity ETF offerings after entering the space in 2014 with the purchase of VelocityShares.  

Janus has made it clear it has no plans to compete with the Vanguards and BlackRocks of the world by offering regular market-cap weighted index funds. And that makes sense because those ships sailed long ago, and there's no point trying to chase them in a dinghy. Even the smart-beta space is crowded for those seeking a better mousetrap, so that leaves thematic ETFs like these latest ones as a logical spot to try to carve out a niche. Do they sound gimmicky? Perhaps. But...

"Thematic ETFs are all gimicky by name, but the fact is there are large amounts of investors who like to invest in things they understand or trends they are participating in as consumers," said Eric Balchunas, senior ETF analyst for Bloomberg.  

That certainly makes sense if you're like me and participating in these particular trends by getting fatter and older by the day. 

Yet if you're thinking of going overweight on obesity -- or maybe a seasonal fitness trade around New Year's perhaps? -- it's worth noting that these funds do fall short when it comes to one of the key attributes that make ETFs attractive: diversification. Some concentration risk is understandable in an ETF focused on a single theme like this. However, the top holdings in these particular ETFs appear, well, downright obese. 

Insulin maker Novo Nordisk and dialysis-systems company Fresenius make up about 39 percent of the Obesity ETF: 

Bullish on Obesity
Janus Capital's new Obesity ETF is heavily concentrated in two companies with products that treat diabetes, Novo Nordisk and Fresenius Medical
Source: Janus Capital
Note: Shows weightings for top 10 holdings in ETF.

About 41 percent of the Long-Term Care ETF is made up of Ventas and Welltower, two real-estate investment trusts that focus on senior housing:

Senior Moment
Janus' Long-Term Care ETF gives a heavy weighting to senior-housing REITs Ventas and Welltower
Source: Janus Capital

Less heavy, but still noticable, concentrations exist in the top holdings of the Health and Fitness ETF ...

Sweat Equity
Janus's Health and Fitness ETF gives a heavy weight to Nike
Source: Janus Capital

... and the Organics ETF: 

Hold the Hormones
Whole Foods makes up almost a quarter of Janus's new Organics ETF
Source: Janus Capital

Concentration risks aside, you have to hand it to Janus for creating some ETFs that are, at the very least, interesting conversation pieces that won't make the layman's eyes glaze over like they do during a zesty discussion of smart beta. It's just worth noting that when putting your eggs in baskets like these, be aware that some eggs are a lot bigger than others. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Michael P. Regan in New York at mregan12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.net