What Is Mean Reversion and How Can You Trade It?

What Is Mean Reversion and How Can You Trade It?

Mean reversion mathematical concept which holds that over time statistical measurements return to a long-run normal. In investing, mean reversion holds that while a market or an asset may go up and down in the short-term, over time, it returns to its long-term trend. If traders expect a market to revert to the mean, they can use that expectation to inform their strategy going forward.

What Is Mean Reversion?

When stocks revert to the mean, their returns or other characteristics match what they’ve been over a longer period of time than the recent past. This can mean that a stock that becomes highly volatile may revert back to being less volatile; a stock that becomes quite expensive (meaning its price far outpaces its earnings) can become cheap; and, quite importantly, the other way around. Mean reversion can work in both directions.

The mean reversion concept not only applies to individual shares, but also to whole sectors of the economy or of the stock market, like, say, consumer product companies or pharmaceutical companies or any other chunk of the market that shares enough with each other to be classed together. Alternative assets, such as commodities or foreign currencies can also revert to the mean.

The theory applies to more than just prices, the volatility of a given asset can mean revert, which can matter for trading and pricing more exotic financial products like options and other derivatives.

Mean Reversion Strategies

With any generality or principle of the market comes the obvious question: Is there a strategy here? Can this be traded? Mean reversion trading is a strategy based on reversion to the mean happening, basically that stocks or some asset will return to its typical, long-run historical behavior.

Actually working out a mean reversion strategy is not as simple as thinking a certain stock is out of whack and waiting for things to get back to normal, it requires the ability to flag patterns to make an educated guess about when mean reversion will happen. After all, if you just know that a stock is going to revert to the mean, you can still pile up large losses or miss out on big gains if you can’t time the reversion correctly — go too early and you’ll have to eat the stock being the “wrong” price before reversion to the mean happens, go too late and the gains have already evaporated as the change in price or returns has already occurred.

The Risks of Mean Reversion Strategy

Mean reversion strategies depend on statistical and historical regularites staying, well, regular. There are some that are pretty well validated, although with sharp and scary exceptions, like that stocks tend to go up over time and outperform other asset classes. But mean reversion involves certain relationships between stocks and assets staying true over time.

In some cases, mean reversion never occurs. Companies or sectors can have continually growing returns over a long period of time if there’s some kind of structural shift in the economy or market in which they operate. This can mean that returns increase over time or stay quite high.

This can happen for a few reasons. A company could gain or lose a dominant position in a given market, technological changes can advantage certain firms and disadvantage others, such that returns move permanently (or at least close enough to permanently for a given investment strategy) to a higher level and lower to another. Or there could be a global pandemic that permanently changes the way that companies do business, or long-run inflation that impacts profitability.

How to Implement a Mean Reversion Strategy

There are some basic statistical and financial tools to help create mean reversion strategy. As always, active trading and trying to time the market is risky and sometimes the whole market moves up and down and that can swamp whatever strategy you might have for an individual stock or sector.

Part of implementing a mean reversion strategy is getting a sense of stock trends or a trend trading strategy, whether past movement in a stock up or down is indicative of continuing in that direction.

This can involve trying to discern bullish indicators for stocks, giving you a sense of when stock returns are likely to go up. Often traders combine this strategy with forms of technical analysis, including the use of candlestick patterns.

Recommended: Important Candlestick Patterns to Know

Alternatively, you will need to have a sense of when a stock is underperforming in order to profit from buying it before it reverts to the mean upwards.

Factors in Creating a Mean Reversion Strategy

There are many factors that institutional and retail investors need to consider when devising a mean reversion strategy.

Determining the Mean

In this case, you’ll need to think about what period of time you are using to determine a stock or sector’s “normal” or “average” behavior. This matters because it will determine how long you decide to hold a stock or when you plan to sell it before or after the reversion to the mean occurs.

Timing

To execute a mean reversion strategy, you have to know when a stock’s price movement is sufficient to execute the trade. It helps to determine this point in advance.

Recommended: Understanding Pivot Points for New Investors

Determine the Bounds

What is the “normal” behavior, whether it’s price-to-equity ratio, volatility, or some other metric you’re looking at. To determine whether something is far beyond it’s mean, either high or low, you need a good sense of it’s normal range.

Recommended: Support and Resistance: A Beginner’s Guide

Qualitative Factors

Mean reversion and trading reversion to the mean is, of course, a quantitative endeavor. You need to compile statistics and make projections going forward in order to implement the strategy. But you also need to know what’s going on in the “real world” beyond the statistics. If something is driving prices or volatility or some other metric higher or lower that’s likely to persist over time, mean reversion may not be a great bet. If, however, there’s something truly transient that’s the catalyst for large moves up and down that will then revert to the mean, then maybe the strategy is more likely to work.

Exit Strategy

As with most investments, it’s helpful to have an exit strategy determined ahead of time. This can help you limit your losses in the case that the asset ultimately does not revert to the mean.

The Takeaway

Traders who follow mean reversion strategies assume that a specific stock or sector will return to its long-term characteristics. The strategy can be helpful when determining an investing strategy for either individual assets or for a market, overall.

In order to pursue any investment strategy, you have to be in the market in the first place. A SoFi Invest® online brokerage account allows you to build your own portfolio or choose a ready made customized portfolio, according to your goals, life situation and risk tolerance.

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SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
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What Does It Mean If the Fed Is Hawkish or Dovish?

What Does It Mean If the Fed Is Hawkish or Dovish?

What Does It Mean If the Fed Is Hawkish or Dovish?

The Federal Reserve has two primary long-range goals: controlling inflation (hawkish) and maximizing employment (dovish). But these two aims can be at odds, and thus the Fed is often called hawkish or dovish.

In reality, the Fed is striving to balance what can seem like opposing scenarios. For example:

• A monetary hawk is someone for whom keeping inflation low is the top concern. So if the Federal Reserve seems to be embracing a hawkish monetary policy, it might be because it’s considering raising interest rates to control pricing and fight inflation.

• A dove is someone who prioritizes other issues—especially low unemployment—over low inflation. If the Fed seems to tilt toward a dovish monetary policy, it could signify that it plans to keep rates where they are—at least for the time being—because growth and employment are doing fine. Or it may plan to lower rates to stimulate the economy and add jobs.

Recommended: What Is the Federal Reserve? The Fed Explained

Who Decides Monetary Policy?

It’s important to note that the Federal Reserve’s decisions on monetary policy aren’t left to just one person.

People often blame the sitting president or the chairman of the Federal Reserve if they don’t like the way interest rates are going—whether that’s up or down. But the Fed’s direction is determined by a group of central bankers, not by the Fed chair alone.

The 12 members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), who typically meet eight times a year to review economic conditions and vote on the federal funds rate, are responsible for deciding the country’s monetary policy. And they may have varying opinions about what the economy needs. So you might hear that the Fed is hawkish or dovish, or you may hear that an individual policymaker—or policy influencer—is a hawk while another is a dove.

Recommended: What Exactly is Monetary Policy?

Why Would the Fed Take a Hawkish Stance?

When fiscal policy advisors in the government or banking industry are described as favoring a hawkish or “contractionary” monetary policy, it’s usually because they want to tighten the money supply to protect the economy from inflation and promote price stability.

If the price of goods and services rises due to inflation, consumers can lose their purchasing power. A moderate inflation rate is considered healthy for the economy. It encourages people to spend or invest their money today, rather than sock it away in a low-interest savings account where it could slowly lose value. The FOMC has determined that an inflation rate of around 2% is optimal for employment and price stability.

If inflation rises above that level for a prolonged period of time, the Fed may decide to pump the brakes to control inflation and keep the US economy on track.

The Fed has several tools for controlling inflation, including raising its federal funds rate and discount rate, selling government bonds, and increasing the reserve requirements for banks. When access to money gets more expensive, consumers and businesses typically borrow less and save more, economic activity slows, and inflation stays at a more comfortable level.

Recommended: Is Inflation Good? Who Benefits from Inflation?

Why Would the Fed Take a Dovish Stance?

A dovish or expansionary monetary policy is the opposite of hawkish monetary policy.

If the Fed is worried about the economy’s growth, it may decide to give it a boost by lowering interest rates, purchasing government securities by central banks, and lowering the reserve requirements for banks. Or, if it thinks employment and growth are on track, it might keep interest rates the same.

With lower interest rates, businesses can borrow more money to expand and potentially hire more workers or raise wages. And when consumers are in a low-interest rate environment created by a dovish monetary policy, they may be more likely to borrow money for big-ticket items like cars, homes, home improvements, and vacations. That increased consumption can also create more jobs. And doves tend to prefer low unemployment over low inflation.

Is It Possible to Be Both Hawkish and Dovish?

Yes. Some economists (and FOMC members) don’t take a completely hawkish or dovish attitude toward monetary policy. They are sometimes referred to as neutral or “centrists,” because they don’t appear to prioritize one economic goal over another. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, for example, has been called a hawk, a dove, a “cautious hawk,” a “cautious dove,” neutral, and centrist in various media reports.

And the media frequently pondered where Powell’s predecessor, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, stood on the hawk-dove continuum. (“Is Yellen A Hawk in Dove’s Feathers?” a Bloomberg headline asked in 2013.)

The current FOMC includes members who have been identified as hawkish, dovish, and neutral. That mix of viewpoints can make it difficult to guess the group’s next move—so anxious investors are keeping a close eye out for clues as to what could happen next.

How Do Hawkish vs. Dovish Policies Affect Savers, Spenders, and Investors?

Interest rates frequently rise and fall as the economy cycles through periods of growth and stagnation, and those fluctuations impact everyone. Whether you’re a saver, spender, or investor—or, like most people, all three—you can expect those rate changes to eventually impact your bottom line.

For Savers

Savings account rates are loosely connected to the interest rates the Fed sets, so you might not see a difference right away if there’s a cut or a hike.

When the Fed lowers the federal funds rate, however, financial institutions may move to protect their profits by lowering the interest paid on high-yield savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs). That can be frustrating, and it may be tempting to give up on saving or move money to riskier investments. But specialists generally recommend keeping an emergency fund with at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses stashed in a low-risk account that’s easy to access and isn’t tied to the markets.

Savers may want to check out the more competitive rates offered by online accounts, like SoFi Checking and Savings. Because online-only financial institutions have a lower overhead, they typically out-yield brick-and-mortar banks’ savings accounts, regardless of what the Fed is doing with its rates.

For Spenders

An increase or decrease in the federal funds rate can indirectly affect the prime rate banks offer their most credit-worthy customers. And it is often used as a reference rate, or base rate, for other financial products, including car loans, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, personal loans, and credit cards.

If interest rates go down, and borrowing gets cheaper, it can encourage consumers to go out and make those purchases—both big and small—that they’ve been wanting to make.

If those interest rates go up, on the other hand, consumers tend to be deterred from borrowing and spending. They might decide to wait for rates to drop before financing a house, a car, or an expensive purchase like an appliance or home renovation.

Impulse spending also can be affected. Spenders might choose to save their money instead—especially if the interest rate goes up on CDs, money market accounts, and other savings vehicles. Or consumers may focus on paying down credit card debt and other loans to avoid paying high interest on big balances, especially if those obligations carry a variable interest rate.

For Investors

There are no guarantees as to how any investment will react to changes in interest rates made by the Fed. Some assets (like bonds) can be more directly impacted than others. But nearly every type of investment you might have could be affected.

One way to reduce your risk exposure is to create a diversified portfolio, with a mix of assets—from stocks and bonds to real estate and commodities, and so on—that won’t necessarily react in the same way to changes in the interest rate (or other economic factors). If your investments all trend up or down together, your portfolio isn’t properly diversified.

The Takeaway

The Federal Reserve has two primary goals: overseeing US monetary policy in order to stabilize prices and control inflation—a stance that’s considered hawkish or contractionary—and maximizing employment, which is considered dovish. While these two aims can seem at odds, the Fed has been striving to take a mostly dovish or neutral stance in recent years.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has indicated that there will be no interest rate increases through 2023. But if inflation becomes a concern down the road, the Fed could move to a more hawkish position: raising interest rates to rein in spending. Either way, consumers should think through the potential impact on their plans to save, make big purchases, or invest.

With SoFi Invest, investors can put their portfolio in the hands of professional money managers with automated investing, or they can handle it themselves with SoFi’s active investing platform. Either way, there’s always help available—and access to up-to-date financial news on the SoFi app. And there are plenty of investment options to choose from for those who want to create a diversified portfolio, including exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and fractional and whole stock shares.

Download the SoFi app to stay up to date with financial news and to build a portfolio that meets your needs using SoFi Invest’s innovative tools.

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SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
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Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
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Introduction To Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)

Introduction to Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)

Understanding the weighted average cost of capital, or the cost of capital, is both a business calculus and an economic term. It’s a term to describe the relationship between two key economic components – equity and debt, as a financial ratio.

Properly formulated, the weighted average cost of capital, or WACC, merges a business’s cost of capital across financial components. Once weighted for proportional balance, WACC bundles all company financial sources (with an emphasis on equity and debt) and adds them together.

The final figures represent the current value of a company, or a project or initiative undertaken by a company.

What Is WACC?

The WACC is the rate that a company must pay, on average, to finance its operations. It’s a figure that business leaders use to make strategic decisions, and a data point used by investors as part of their fundamental analysis of a company.

In general, a low weighted average cost of capital shows that a business is in good financial health and can more efficiently and economically pay for company operations, either through debt financing or equity financing. Earnings are robust enough to curb company debt loads and offer solid investment returns to market investors, which should increase capital to the company.

A higher weighted average cost of capital suggests the opposite outcome. The firm is likely paying more to handle their debt and paying more to raise capital for company projects. That scenario can lead to a business with a lower valuation with less demand from investors to buy company stock or invest in its bond issues, as returns on those investments would likely be lower.

Recommended: How to Know When to Sell a Stock

What is the WACC Formula?

The calculation used for WACC includes cost of equity and cost of debt, along with additional economic components commonly used by businesses.

Here is how those components are broken down in a WACC formula.

• E = Market value of the business’s equity

• V = Total value of capital (equity + debt)

• Re = Cost of equity

• D = Market value of the business’s debt

• Rd = Cost of debt

• T = Tax rate

Once you have those numbers, here’s how to calculate WACC:

WACC = (E/V x Re) + ((D/V x Rd) x (1-T))

To use the WACC formula, you need to first multiply the costs of each financial component and include that component’s proportional rate. Once you’ve arrived at those figures, multiply them by the company’s corporate tax rate. The resulting figure gives you the company’s weighted average cost of capital.

There’s one caveat on calculating the weighted average cost of capital. The formula heavily relies on the cost of equity in its equation, which is largely unknown, since that value can vary. A company’s share capital depends on what the market (i.e., investors) are willing to pay to invest in the company, as exhibited by the company’s stock price.

Given that unknown scenario, companies must evaluate the expected return of their stock, through an investor’s eyes. That represents the value of the company’s equity and any effort to hide or diminish that value could put a damper on a company’s share price.

That’s why companies factor the estimated cost of equity into the WACC equation – they view the cost of equity as the amount of capital a company needs to spend to maintain a stock price that’s largely acceptable to market investors.

An Example of the WACC at Work

For a good look at a company’s weighted average cost of capital, let’s say ABC Company has an annual return of 15% and an average cost of 5% annually to pay for operations. That dynamic represents a 10% profit on its investment in the company.

From an investor’s viewpoint, that same profit scenario represents 10 cents of every dollar invested in the company. That’s 10 cents of capital a business can use to either invest back into the company or can be used to pay down company debt.

On the other end of the equation, if XYZ Company generates an annual investment return of 10% yet owns an average annual cost of capital of 15%, that company is down 5 cents on each dollar invested in the company.

In that scenario, XYZ Co. is in a bind no company wants to be in – its costs of doing business exceed its investment returns. That translates into fewer investors until the firm realigns its financing picture, cuts debt, and gives investors a good reason to buy its stocks and bonds.

Recommended: How to Start Investing in Stocks

Why the Need for Weighted Average Cost of Capital?

The weighted average cost of capital breaks down a firm’s cost of doing business by weighing the debt (including bonds and other long-term debt) and equity structure (including the cost of both common and preferred stock) of the company.

Primarily, companies need to finance their operations in three ways:

1. Debt financing

2. Equity financing

3. A combination of debt and equity

No matter which option a company chooses, sources of capital come with a financial cost.

The WACC seeks to find the “true cost of money” in operating a business by comparing the cost of borrowing of capital to run a company versus raising capital through equity to pay for common business needs like property and equipment, research and development, human capital (i.e., employees), and business expansion, among other costs.

When company executives know the WACC, they can leverage that financial ratio to decide on funding the firm through debt or equity financing. The cost of equity will depend on the value of the company’s stock, while the cost of debt will reflect interest rates.

Basically, companies require an accurate weighted cost of capital to properly weigh expenses and provide fair cost of analysis on projects in the pipeline. Additionally, companies can leverage their WACC to evaluate their capital structure and weigh the myriad financial sources needed to fund operations, proportioned accurately.

Using one form of capital to fund a company’s operations makes the cost of capital formula fairly simple. However, when companies use multiple forms of capital the formula becomes more complicated and requires financial modeling.

The Takeaway

The weighted average cost of capital is not exactly a precise measurement of a company’s financial health, but it can be a highly useful one, especially for investors.

The data is easily found in a publicly-traded company’s balance sheets, which are made available to investors on a regular basis. Just visit the company’s web site, locate its financial information page, and look for the relevant data.

If you’re ready to use this data and other information to start building a stock portfolio, a great way to get started is by opening a brokerage account with the SoFi Invest® stock app. If you’d prefer not to take a hands-on approach to investing, you can also use the automated investing option for the account, an algorithm will suggest an appropriate mix of investments based on your age and retirement goals.

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SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
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What Are Non-Transparent ETFs?

What Are Non-Transparent ETFs?

Unlike ordinary exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which disclose their underlying assets daily, non-transparent ETFs are only required to reveal their holdings on a quarterly or monthly cadence.

This ability to conceal their assets can help active non-transparent ETF managers to cloak their strategies for longer periods, with the aim of maximizing performance.

To understand some of the advantages these funds may offer investors, it helps to compare them with standard ETFs.

Recommended: ETF Trading 101: Learning about Exchange Traded Funds

Why Would You Invest in Non-Transparent ETFs?

For nearly 30 years, ETFs have been a mainstay for big institutional investors as well as individuals, thanks to their transparency, tax efficiency, and low cost. Today, the ETF industry in the US has over $6.5 trillion in assets under management.

Traditionally, investors have found ETFs an attractive option because of their liquidity, which has made ETFs more transparent than mutual funds. Unlike mutual funds, you can trade ETF shares throughout the day on an exchange, similar to stocks. And the way shares are created and redeemed gives investors more visibility into the funds’ underlying assets, compared with mutual funds. This ‘transparency’ has been true of both actively managed ETFs as well as passive ETFs, which track an index such as the S&P 500.

But the fundamental transparency of the ETF “wrapper” or fund structure has been a thorn in the side of some active ETF managers, who may prefer less visibility around their holdings for strategic reasons. Hence the appeal of non-transparent ETFs to active managers.

Active non-transparent ETFs — also called ANT ETFs — aren’t required to reveal their assets daily, as noted above; rather they report a snapshot of what they hold on a monthly or quarterly basis, similar to a mutual fund. In some cases they report the assets they hold, but not how much they hold.

Recommended: ETFs vs. Index Funds: What’s the Difference?

How Passive vs. Active Strategies Can Impact Transparency

If you think about it, the evolution of active non-transparent ETFs makes sense in the larger context of the ETF universe, where passively managed ETFs comprise more than 90 percent of that market.

Passively managed ETFs offer some of the lowest fees in today’s market, which is one reason they’re typically cheaper to own than mutual funds. The overall tax efficiency of index ETFs also helps to lower investing costs, and has contributed to their overall popularity with investors.

ETFs, of course, are also valued for their role in adding diversification to investors’ portfolios, with many ETFs invested in specific sectors (e.g. electric vehicles, pharmaceuticals) or securities (e.g. US Treasuries, corporate bonds).

No matter whether an ETF is invested in a broader equity market or a niche sector, passive ETFs are designed to mirror or track the stocks in a certain index. Thus the transparency of these funds is part of how they work.

That’s not true of active ETFs, which rely on the oversight of a fund manager to choose the underlying assets (just like an active mutual fund). But because ordinary ETFs require a daily disclosure of the fund’s holdings, this can hamper an active manager’s ability to execute their investment strategies.

When a fund’s assets are disclosed on a daily basis, the market can bid up the price for their holdings. And while in the short term this might be good (the assets could go up), in the long term it could disrupt the fund manager’s strategies. And, if other investors try to anticipate the trades that active managers might make, sometimes called front running, that could cause asset prices to fluctuate and potentially impact the ETF’s performance.

The Use of Proxies in Non-Transparent ETFs

How might a non-transparent ETF solve this problem?

The way ETFs keep their price in line with their assets is that the sponsor of the ETF trades throughout the day with an “authorized participant.” These authorized participants will create and redeem “baskets” of securities, i.e. the stocks or bonds that the ETF holds, and then trade them to the ETF for shares of the fund, which allows the ETF to stay in line with the price of its underlying stocks.

This process obviously requires a great degree of transparency across the board. So, how does a non-transparent ETF obscure its holdings?

The answer is, by the use of “proxies”: These are baskets of stock that are similar to but not identical to the underlying holdings of the ETF.

Thus, non-transparent ETFs are able to occupy a happy middle ground in the ETF world: they enable fund managers to conceal their strategies while keeping the liquidity of pricing that is core to trading ETFs overall.

The History of Non-Transparent ETFs

For years, the ETF industry was comprised mostly of index ETFs, which helps to explain why the universe of ETFs is primarily passive. But over time, some investment companies began seeking regulatory approval for non-transparent ETFs, also sometimes called semi-transparent ETFs, in order to pursue more active strategies. The approval for these funds, and the technology underlying the non-transparent strategy, began rolling out in late 2019, and ANT ETFs have seen steady inflows since then.

Though non-transparent ETFs are still a relatively small part of the overall ETF market, this sector is gaining traction and is now approaching $2 billion AUM. This reflects a similar trend among active ETFs, which have also seen more inflows this year.

The Takeaway

Non-transparent ETFs may be a relative newcomer in the multi-trillion-dollar world of ETFs, but they offer an attractive new opportunity for investors who are interested in active investment styles — but still want the cost efficiency and liquidity of an ETF. Non-transparent ETFs also give active fund managers the ability to cloak their strategies, which may aid potential outcomes.

SoFi Invest is one way for investors to start building a portfolio including ETFs and non-transparent ETFs. SoFi offers customized portfolios based on what investors themselves want and need, just provide some basic information about what your goals and risk tolerance and SoFi can do the rest for you.

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SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected] Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing. Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
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SegWit: Definition & How it Works

SegWit: Definition & How it Works

SegWit is an update to Bitcoin’s protocol that changed the way that the blockchain transfers information. Protocols are the rules that govern the way that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies work.

What Is SegWit?

SegWit is an example of the Bitcoin development community being able to solve a problem while still maintaining the integrity of the Bitcoin protocol and blockchain.

SegWit stands for “segregated witness,” and it’s a key turning point in the history of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, and represents a fork in the road, or at least a fork in Bitcoin. The SegWit fork changed the rules, allowing for larger blocks and removing signature data from Bitcoin transactions.

How Does SegWit Work?

SegWit removes (or segregates) the signature (or witness) from the block, moving it instead to the back of the transaction. This frees up more space for the transaction itself.

What Problems Does SegWit Solve?

SegWit solves several issues with earlier versions of the Bitcoin protocol.

The Transactions Problem

The original Bitcoin protocol limits the size of “blocks” to a single megabyte. The whole Bitcoin network “confirms” a new block every ten minutes, with a few transactions taking place every second. These blocks and the confirmation process comprise the foundation of Bitcoin.

As Bitcoin scaled and got bigger and more miners, developers, and users became part of the Bitcoin community, a debate arose around the size of blocks. Should it increase beyond founder Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision or stay the same?

If the community decided to make an increase, it would have to receive approval by consensus, or perhaps risk splitting Bitcoin apart into separate protocols.

The Malleability Problem

The Blockchain also had some security and efficiency issues, known as “malleability.” Prior to Segwit, every Bitcoin transaction included a “signature” that became part of the transaction confirmation. The signature, with the use of a private key, would become part of the block transfer, taking up space that could have been more Bitcoin transactions. Another word for these signatures is “witness,” and so was born the idea of Segregated Witness, or SegWit.

The theory behind SegWit held that Bitcoin transactions could be more efficient, more secure, and better recorded on the Blockchain itself. This would also allow for developers to build transfer improvements on top of the original Bitcoin protocol, leading to the development of the Lightning Network.

The Scalability Problem

One of the major issues addressed by SegWit was the so-called “scalability problem,” which refers to the issue with block sizes that can limit the speed and scale of transactions on a Blockchain network.

When Was SegWit Created?

The Bitcoin Segwit update took place on August 23, 2017 and changed the way information was transferred on the blockchain.

Prominent Bitcoin developer Pieter Wuille originally proposed the update in 2015 as a way to address a problem in the less-than-a-decade-old protocol that governed the cryptocurrency. He and others believed that transactions took too long to process and that they had some security issues.

There were two ways, known as forks, to address the problem.

A hard fork

A hard fork creates a new system all together. Bitcoin Cash is an example of a hard fork, which enabled large block sizes, but ultimately created a new network.

A soft fork

With a soft fork, the new system works with the old one. This is the option that developers used for SegWit, which became one of the most prominent and important Bitcoin forks. In the dispute between soft fork vs hard fork, SegWit’s successful adoption is a victory for the soft forks.

Recommended: Differences Between Bitcoin Soft Forks and Hard Forks

What Was Segwit2x?

Some prominent Bitcoin miners supported several approaches to the scale issue inherent in the original Bitcoin protocol. To move forward, they came to what’s known as the “New York Agreement,” a plan to implement SegWit and do a hard fork of Bitcoin to increase the block size limit. This was “SegWit2X.”

However, Bitcoin’s developers didn’t endorse the plan and it never reached the consensus necessary for a successful hard fork. These developers have huge sway over the greater Bitcoin community and without their support, a fork wouldn’t have enough takers to challenge Bitcoin in its present set-up. By late 2017, SegWit2X had collapsed and early the next year, SegWit was fully operational on consumer cryptocurrency platforms like Coinbase. And major crypto wallets, the hardware and software products that allow for safe crypto storage, had signed on to the SegWit update.

The failure of SegWit2x shows that even large Bitcoin mining pools, groups of miners that run the hardware that creates new Bitcoin, don’t have total sway over the Bitcoin community and can’t singlehandedly dictate its direction – or its forks. Bitcoin miners have tended to prefer Bitcoin changes that would increase the block size as opposed to segregating out signatures, since that would bolster the fees they get from the network for processing blocks. But the Bitcoin community is more than just its miners, and so their opinion only means so much.

Should You Use SegWit?

While the Bitcoin scalability debate is hardly over, for the time being, Bitcoin itself remains in the driver’s seat in terms of usage and developer activity compared to its rivals and hard forks.

By early last year, at least two thirds of transactions used SegWit, indicating that the soft fork “works” for many in the Bitcoin community. By the end of 2020, one of the last exchanges to hold out, Binance, announced that it would support SegWit.

There are several benefits to using Segwit for crypto transactions, including lower transaction fees and faster transactions.

The Takeaway

SegWit was a major upgrade to the Bitcoin protocol, and one that has helped accelerate widespread adoption of the cryptocurrency in recent years.

You don’t need to be an expert in the details of Bitcoin protocol to start investing in cryptocurrency, however. You can get started by opening an account with the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform.

Photo credit: iStock/BartekSzewczyk


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.
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