The market for socially responsible investing continues to grow for exchange-traded funds investors. Now, a group based in Oklahoma City, Okla., is proposing a set of faith-specific ETFs to launch in the near future.
FaithShares Inc., which is advised by FaithShares Advisors, is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission for approval to offer five new SRI-themed ETFs. Those would be:
- The FaithShares Baptist Values Fund
- The FaithShares Catholic Values Fund
- The FaithShares Christian Values Fund
- The FaithShares Lutheran Values Fund
- The FaithShares Methodist Values Fund
So far, just two SRI ETFs are available on the market, both sponsored by Barclays Global Investors. Those are the iShares KLD 400 Social Index (NYSE: DSI) and the iShares KLD Select Social Index (NYSE: KLD). The first came out in 2005, and the second at the end of 2006. Combined, both have more than $150 million in assets under management.
However, SRI investing has been a growing area for mutual fund managers. At last count, Morningstar Inc. tracked more than 125 different SRI mutual funds. But almost all of those are actively managed. For index-minded investors, only three companies have been very active in the field—Vanguard, TIAA-CREF and Dimensional Fund Advisors.
And, according to Morningstar analysts, the biggest growth area for SRI mutual funds has been so-called "faith-based" portfolios that focus on a particular type of investment for specific religions.
That's something the FaithShares portfolios hope to bring to ETF investors. Each will be based on an index methodology of KLD Research & Analytics. It created the indexes for the existing iShares, DSI and KLD funds. It also is expected to supply the benchmarks for a pair being proposed by Pax World, which filed in December to launch three SRI ETFs tracking global markets. (See related story here.)
The FaithShares will be screened for social values of each faith through KLD indexes. FTSE Group, the well-known international index provider, will calculate the indexes. Various broad FTSE indexes will also be used as benchmarks against the KLD indexes.
The FaithShares funds will focus on large-cap U.S. stocks. KLD will rank those companies by various SRI-themed screens and pick the top 100 for each fund. The funds themselves will then be equal-weighted.
More specifics about the screening processes and criteria KLD will use for each different ETF is discussed in detail as part of FaithShares' filing. It can be found here.