BlackRock Makes Steep Fee Cuts to Socially Responsible ETFs

  • Expense ratios reduced as much as 20 basis points at ESG ETFs
  • Asset manager has also lowered fees for eight bond ETFs

BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, has made steep fee cuts to three socially responsible exchange-traded funds, a category that’s struggling to attract investors.

The company lowered fees by as much as 20 basis points at the offerings, which total about $204 million in assets, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. It also made reductions of about 2 basis points on eight bond ETFs. The 11 funds have total assets under management of about $4 billion.

“As previously outlined, we are purposefully leveraging the benefits of our global scale and investing in our business to deliver value to clients and shareholders,” said Melissa Garville, a spokeswoman at BlackRock.

The move by BlackRock is the latest in a series of fee cuts made as firms compete to win assets. Last October, the firm pared expense ratios on 15 ETFs mostly offered to price-sensitive retail customers and financial advisers. That resulted in significant inflows. Even as money managers expand socially responsible offerings, they’ve found it difficult to win over investors.

“The whole ESG space is underwhelming and mostly a dud compared to the hype it has gotten,” said Eric Balchunas, an ETF analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

Socially responsible ETFs hold the least amount of assets of any smart beta category at $1.8 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

BlackRock reduced the expense on its $123 million iShares MSCI EAFE ESG Optimized ETF to 0.20 percent from 0.40 percent, the steepest cut across the 11 offerings. The $75 million iShares MSCI EM ESG Optimized ETF and the $5.4 million iShares MSCI USA ESG Optimized ETF got reductions of 20 basis points and 13 basis points, respectively.

The following is a list of all the funds:

NameOld FeeNew Fee
iShares MSCI EM ESG Optimized ETF.45%.25%
iShares MSCI EAFE ESG Optimized ETF.40%.20%
iShares MSCI USA ESG Optimized ETF.28%.15%
iShares Fallen Angels USD Bond ETF.35%.25%
iShares 0-5 Year TIPS Bond ETF.10%.06%
iShares 0-5 Year Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core 5-10 Year USD Bond ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core 1-5 Year USD Bond ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core 10+ Year USD Bond ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF.08%.06%
iShares Core International Aggregate Bond ETF.11%.09%

Source: SEC filings. earlier reported on the reductions.

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