The financial services sector is the second-largest sector weight in the S&P 500, and that sector's importance to the U.S. economy and equity markets is reflected in the world of exchange traded funds (ETFs).
Dozens of ETFs offer exposure to financial services stocks. These offerings range from the basic, such as the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF), to more nuanced funds that focus on isolated segments of the financial services sector. XLF, the largest financial services ETF, is primarily ruled by big money center banks, capital markets firms and insurance providers.
XLF and rival financial services ETFs are usually capitalization-weighted, meaning the largest stocks in the sector take on the biggest weights in these funds. Investors looking for something beyond the traditional with the potential for superior returns have some compelling options to mull in the financial services space, including some new ETFs.
As its name implies, the Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight Financials ETF, is an equal-weight spin on the financial services sector. The equal-weight methodology has some advantages, namely the reduction of potential risk via large allocations to one stock or a small number of stocks.
Equally weighting stocks in sector ETFs also leads to some noticeable differences relative to cap-weighted equivalents. For example, bank stocks are almost 46% of XLF's weight, but just over 27.2% of RYF's lineup. Conversely, the equal-weight financials ETF features a larger allocation to insurance stocks as that industry accounts for over one third of RYF's weight and just 18.4% of XLF.
Usually, there are significant performance differentials between equal-weight and cap-weighted ETFs over longer holding periods, but RYF and XLF have each returned 49.5% over the past three years, though RYF has been slightly less volatile.
At just six months old, the John Hancock Multifactor Financials ETF is one of the new entrants to the financial services ETF fray. JHMF is also one of the newest smart beta choices in this genre of ETF. Factors emphasized by JHMF include smaller market value, lower relative price and profitability, according to issuer data.
JHMF allocates a combined 60.6% of its lineup to banks and insurance providers. The ETF holds 143 stocks, which is a deeper bench relative to cap-weighted financial services ETFs and the fund's top 10 holdings combine for just about a quarter of the ETF's weight, also low compared to cap-weighted rivals.
JHMF is still a new ETF so its track record should not be judged too harshly, but the ETF has slightly lagged some major cap-weighted rivals since coming to market. Still, JHMF is up more than 24% since its debut.