Bank exchange-traded funds (ETFs) offer investors exposure to the banking and financial sector of the economy. Banking services can range from taking deposits, making loans, and facilitating payments to investment management, retirement planning, insurance, and brokerage services. Aside from charging fees for these services, banks earn profits by charging higher interest rates on the loans they make than the rates they pay on their customers’ deposits.

Bank ETFs offer a way for investors to share in these profits by investing in a basket of banks and other financial-services companies.

Key Takeaways

  • The banking sector outperformed the broader market over the past year.
  • The bank exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with the best one-year trailing total returns are FTXO, IAT, and KBWB.
  • The top holdings of these ETFs are New York Community Bancorp Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc., and Wells Fargo & Co., respectively.

Seven distinct bank ETFs trade in the United States, excluding inverse and leveraged funds as well as those with less than $50 million in assets under management (AUM). The banking sector, as measured by the S&P 500 Banks Select Industry Index, has outperformed the broader market with a total return of 65.9% over the past 12 months compared to the S&P 500’s total return of 34.0%, as of Aug. 10, 2021.

The best-performing bank ETF, based on performance over the past year, is the First Trust Nasdaq Bank ETF (FTXO). We examine the three best bank ETFs below. All numbers are as of Aug. 11, 2021.

First Trust Nasdaq Bank ETF (FTXO)

  • Performance Over One-Year: 74.9%
  • Expense Ratio: 0.60%
  • Annual Dividend Yield: 1.67%
  • Three-Month Average Daily Volume: 94,935
  • Assets Under Management: $220.0 million
  • Inception Date: Sept. 20, 2016
  • Issuer: First Trust

FTXO tracks the Nasdaq US Smart Banks Index, which selects the 30 most liquid U.S. bank securities from the Nasdaq US Benchmark Index and then ranks them based on volatility, value, and growth factors. The ETF is fairly concentrated in the largest names, with the 10 top holdings accounting for just over 60% of invested assets.

The top positions in the fund’s portfolio include New York Community Bancorp Inc. (NYCB), a bank with branches in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, and Arizona; PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC), a holding company that offers a range of banking and financial services; and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), an investment bank and financial services holding company.

iShares U.S. Regional Banks ETF (IAT)

  • Performance Over One-Year: 69.1%
  • Expense Ratio: 0.41%
  • Annual Dividend Yield: 2.03%
  • Three-Month Average Daily Volume: 302,094
  • Assets Under Management: $1.2 billion
  • Inception Date: May 1, 2006
  • Issuer: BlackRock Financial Management

IAT tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Select Regional Banks Index, which gauges the performance of the regional bank subsector of the U.S. equity market. The ETF adopts a value-based strategy and focuses on small- and mid-cap bank stocks. Its top three holdings account for nearly 39% of all invested assets, meaning that just a few stocks have a significant impact on the fund’s total returns.

IAT’s top three holdings are PNC Financial Services Group Inc., described above; U.S. Bancorp (USB), a Minnesota-based holding company offering banking, investment, mortgage, trust, and payment services and products; and Truist Financial Corp. (TFC), a Charlotte-based holding company that also offers a range of banking and financial services.

Invesco KBW Bank ETF (KBWB)

  • Performance Over One-Year: 68.2%
  • Expense Ratio: 0.35%
  • Annual Dividend Yield: 1.87%
  • Three-Month Average Daily Volume: 1,808,355
  • Assets Under Management: $2.9 billion
  • Inception Date: Nov. 1, 2011
  • Issuer: Invesco

KBWB tracks the KBW Bank Index, a Nasdaq index targeting companies primarily engaged in U.S. banking activities. Companies in the KBWB portfolio include large national U.S. money centers, regional banks, and thrift institutions that are publicly traded in the United States. The unique focus on thrift institutions means that KBWB tends to have a larger proportion of small-cap companies in its portfolio than other bank ETFs.

KBWB’s top 10 holdings account for more than 60% of its invested assets. Its top three holdings are Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), a multinational financial services company; Bank of America Corp. (BAC), an investment bank and financial services holding company; and JPMorgan Chase & Co., described above.

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