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21 Apr 2020

Thematic ETFs: staying one step ahead in an ever-changing world


The first challenge any investor faces when building a portfolio is how to make sense of thousands of companies, industries and markets in an ever-changing world. There are several different ways to do so, each with its own benefits. 

The traditional ‘top down’ approach groups companies by broad area of operation - Financials or Information Technology, for instance - and analyses how macroeconomic factors such as GDP growth and inflation might drive their performance as a group. 

A ‘bottom up’ approach focuses on a company’s fundamentals, such as price-earnings ratios, return on equity, market share and sales growth – identifying promising companies within a sector without looking too hard at market conditions and economic indicators. 

And there is growing awareness nowadays of a third approach: one that future-focused retail and institutional investors are increasingly using to inform their investment strategy. This approach takes another step back, looking first at the global ‘megatrends’ that are reshaping the world before our eyes, then analysing how these will affect companies over time.

This is called thematic investing, and it’s a simple but powerful way to build long-term portfolios that could thrive in a rapidly-changing world.

What is thematic investing?

Thematic investing is a kind of top-down approach which focuses less on traditional economic indicators such as inflation and GDP growth. Instead, it looks at longer-term, structural trends in the world, ones that could drive performance in ways traditional investors may not yet realise. 

These could be geopolitical, such as growing power and wealth in emerging economies, or technological, such as the transformative impact of disruptive technology and digitalisation, or social, such as the way accelerating urbanisation will expand the world’s cities many times over in the decades to come. Climate change and resource scarcity is another such ‘megatrend’ which will cascade through the world’s companies over the next few decades – a shift which a traditional shorter-horizon investment approach may not accommodate. 

Thematic investing’s global and long-term view is unconstrained by the geographical or sector categories of traditional investment approaches. It aims to identify companies, wherever they are in the world, that may be positioned to benefit from emerging themes set to play out over years or even decades – not just the next financial quarter. 

This forward-looking investing approach analyses how tectonic shifts will bring some companies great success, and others existential struggle. Tomorrow’s leading companies may be unknown today, operating in areas which will come to revolutionise some aspect of daily life, whether that’s AI, carbon-neutral technology, fully autonomous vehicles or smart homes. 

Conversely, today’s winners – the world’s biggest companies, systematically preferred by market-cap-weighted funds – may struggle in a new millennial-led environment of green energy, digital transformation and disruptive technology.

How to capture themes in investment portfolios?

Thematic investing isn’t a new concept. Some active investors have practised this approach for decades, using human-based quality control and dynamic stock selection. This has often been accompanied by higher management fees and a lack of transparency. 

What’s new about thematic investing in recent years is the democratisation and cost reduction of the strategy – bringing advanced technologies and low-cost passive investment vehicles into a space that was once the preserve of the active manager. 

Lyxor has partnered with indexing giant and data powerhouse MSCI to create a new set of indices covering some of the biggest thematic investing trends of our world. These combine active human oversight, passive implementation, and the latest data science technologies to build portfolios that should thrive in the future – for a fraction of the price of most standard active funds. 

The five new Thematic ETFs cover what we feel are the most important emerging investment themes of our age: the growth of the Digital Economy and Disruptive Technology, urban change with Future Mobility and Smart Cities, and the buying habits of Millennials

Digital economy

The Digital Economy refers to economic activity resulting from online connections between businesses, devices and people. It includes established areas such as e-commerce, online payments and digital advertising, as well as rapidly developing fields such as cybersecurity, financial technology (fintech) and the sharing economy. 

future mobility

Transport revolutions have transformed the world over the past 300 years. The canal network, the creation of the railways, steam-powered ships, the introduction of petrol and diesel internal-combustion engines in cars, and the invention of flight were the biggest breakthroughs. Future Mobility captures the next stages of human transport, which will upend our lives once again.  

Smart Cities

Cities already house half of all people on Earth, and another 2.5 billion people are expected to join them by 20501. Ninety percent of this increase will be in Africa and Asia2. Smart Cities tackle challenges such as urbanisation and climate change with new technologies such as automation, the Internet of Things and smart grids. 

Disruptive technology

New Disruptive Technology will deliver simpler, more accessible, and often more cost-effective solutions to many of the biggest challenges faced by humankind. This is sometimes called “the fourth industrial revolution” – a revolution that will transform how we live and work. Companies embracing disruptive tech have the power to reinvent themselves and create new markets. 

Millenials

Millennials – or Generation Y as they are also known – are set to have a huge impact on the global economy. Their spending and saving decisions will mean the demise of some long-established business models and the rise of new ones. Millennials include the 2.4 billion people born in the 1980s and 1990s3. They make up almost one-third of the global population and are already taking over from the baby boomers and Generation X who drove the economy in recent decades.

Each of our Thematic ETFs combines human insight, cutting edge data science and Artificial Intelligence techniques in a unique way to identify the companies that matter most, and ensure your portfolio stays one step ahead. As a pioneering ETF provider with a history of innovation, we’ve gone the extra mile to build some truly state-of-the art funds for a new state of mind. 

We’re incredibly excited about this range and hope you can join us in preparing portfolios for change.

Read more about Lyxor’s new Thematic ETF range here. 

1 McKinsey Global Institute, Juni 2018, Smart Cities: digital solutions for a more livable future
2 Vereinte Nationen, World Urbanization Prospects, 2018 3C40 Cities, https://www.c40.org/why_cities
3 Bloomberg, basierend auf Daten aus den World Population Prospects der UN, August 2018,
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-20/gen-z-to-outnumber-millennials-within-a-year-demographic-trends

Risk Warning

This document is for the exclusive use of investors acting on their own account and categorised either as “Eligible Counterparties” or “Professional Clients” within the meaning of Markets in Financial Instruments Directive 2014/65/EU. These products comply with the UCITS Directive (2009/65/EC). Société Générale and Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM) recommend that investors read carefully the “investment risks” section of the product’s documentation (prospectus and KIID). The prospectus and KIID are available free of charge on www.lyxoretf.com, and upon request to client-services-etf@lyxor.com.

Except for the United-Kingdom, where this communication is issued in the UK by Lyxor Asset Management UK LLP, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK under Registration Number 435658, this communication is issued by Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM), a French management company authorized by the Autorité des marchés financiers and placed under the regulations of the UCITS (2014/91/EU) and AIFM (2011/61/EU) Directives. Société Générale is a French credit institution (bank) authorised by the Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution (the French Prudential Control Authority).

The products mentioned are the object of market-making contracts, the purpose of which is to ensure the liquidity of the products on the London Stock Exchange, assuming normal market conditions and normally functioning computer systems. Units of a specific UCITS ETF managed by an asset manager and purchased on the secondary market cannot usually be sold directly back to the asset manager itself. Investors must buy and sell units on a secondary market with the assistance of an intermediary (e.g. a stockbroker) and may incur fees for doing so. In addition, investors may pay more than the current net asset value when buying units and may receive less than the current net asset value when selling them. Updated composition of the product’s investment portfolio is available on www.lyxoretf.com. In addition, the indicative net asset value is published on the Reuters and Bloomberg pages of the product, and might also be mentioned on the websites of the stock exchanges where the product is listed.

Prior to investing in the product, investors should seek independent financial, tax, accounting and legal advice. It is each investor’s responsibility to ascertain that it is authorised to subscribe, or invest into this product. This document is of a commercial nature and not of a regulatory nature. This material is of a commercial nature and not a regulatory nature. This document does not constitute an offer, or an invitation to make an offer, from Société Générale, Lyxor Asset Management (together with its affiliates, Lyxor AM) or any of their respective subsidiaries to purchase or sell the product referred to herein.

Research disclaimer

Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) or its employees may have or maintain business relationships with companies covered in its research reports. As a result, investors should be aware that LIAM and its employees may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report. Investors should consider this report as only a single factor in making their investment decision. Please see appendix at the end of this report for the analyst(s) certification(s), important disclosures and disclaimers. Alternatively, visit our global research disclosure website www.lyxoretf.com/compliance.

Conflicts of interest

This research contains the views, opinions and recommendations of Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists. To the extent that this research contains trade ideas based on macro views of economic market conditions or relative value, it may differ from the fundamental Cross Asset and ETF Research opinions and recommendations contained in Cross Asset and ETF Research sector or company research reports and from the views and opinions of other departments of LIAM and its affiliates. Lyxor Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists routinely consult with LIAM sales and portfolio management personnel regarding market information including, but not limited to, pricing, spread levels and trading activity of ETFs tracking equity, fixed income and commodity indices. Trading desks may trade, or have traded, as principal on the basis of the research analyst(s) views and reports. Lyxor has mandatory research policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to (i) ensure that purported facts in research reports are based on reliable information and (ii) to prevent improper selective or tiered dissemination of research reports. In addition, research analysts receive compensation based, in part, on the quality and accuracy of their analysis, client feedback, competitive factors and LIAM’s total revenues including revenues from management fees and investment advisory fees and distribution fees.

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