In This List

The VIX Index and Volatility-Based Global Indexes and Trading Instruments

ETF Transactions by U.S. Insurers in Q1 2020

How Smart Beta Strategies Work in the Australian Market

ETFs nos Investimentos das Companhias de Seguros - 2020

ETFs en las Inversiones de Compañías de Seguros – 2020

The VIX Index and Volatility-Based Global Indexes and Trading Instruments

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Berlinda Liu

Director, Global Research & Design

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Matt Moran

Vice President of Business Development, Chicago Board Options Exchange (Cboe)

The Cboe Volatility Index® (VIX® Index) measures the market’s expectation of future volatility conveyed by S&P 500 Index option prices. The VIX is recognized as a premier gauge of expected US equity market volatility. The 2000–09 decade experienced two deep bear markets for equities that saw numerous short-term periods of high levels of investor uncertainty. Most investors recall how during the financial crisis of 2008–2009, the correlations between equities rose globally and traditional diversification goals became difficult to achieve. Exchange-listed VIX futures were launched in 2004, and VIX options were launched in 2006. During the 2008–09 financial crisis, VIX futures and VIX options experienced tremendous growth, as interest in and use of such index-based products as exchange-traded notes and exchange-traded funds grew. These products have become widely used in investors’ strategies ranging from trading tactical views on volatility to incorporating volatility trades and hedges in risk management and multiasset strategies.

This study addresses several questions investors have asked related to the VIX Index, volatility-based trading products, and the use of VIX futures in portfolio construction. These questions include the following:

  1. What does the VIX Index measure, and what does a VIX level signify?
  2. What are some indexes that measure expected volatility of European or Asian stock indexes?
  3. How do features such as convexity and negative correlation make the VIX an intriguing investment gauge?
  4. Is the VIX Index tradable, and if not, why?
  5. What tradable volatility-based futures and options products are available?
  6. How do contango and backwardation affect the returns of VIX futures-based strategies?
  7. What volatility benchmark indexes are available, and what is their impact when added to S&P 500 portfolios?


ETF Transactions by U.S. Insurers in Q1 2020

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Raghu Ramachandran

Head of Insurance Asset Channel


In May 2020, we published our annual study of ETF usage by U.S. insurance companies. The data for that analysis is only available annually. However, because of the market volatility in the first quarter of 2020, we wanted to analyze the use of ETFs by U.S. insurance companies prior to the next annual analysis. While holdings data is not available on a quarterly basis, we were able to analyze ETF transactions. In Q1 2020, U.S. insurance companies increased their ETF usage by USD 4.1 billion, as well as the number of transactions.


In the first quarter of 2020, insurance companies traded USD 24.6 billion in ETFs (see Exhibit 1).  This amount is roughly on scale with the total holdings of USD 31.2 billion as of year-end 2019.   

Exhibit 1


How Smart Beta Strategies Work in the Australian Market

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Priscilla Luk

Managing Director, Global Research & Design, APAC

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Liyu Zeng

Director, Global Research & Design


With increasing interest in smart beta strategies in the Australian equity market, we examined the effectiveness of six well-known risk factors, size, value, low volatility, momentum, quality, and dividends, in the Australian equity market from Dec. 31, 2004, to May 29, 2020.

  • Quintile analysis showed that low volatility, high momentum, and high quality delivered the most persistent absolute and risk-adjusted return spreads, but small cap and value did not generate incremental return in the Australian market.
  • Among the Australian factor indices offered by S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI), the quality and momentum indices delivered the highest excess returns, while the low volatility and dividend indices had lower volatility than the S&P/ASX 200.
  • Our macro regime analysis showed that most factor portfolios in Australia were sensitive to local market cycles and investor sentiment regimes.
  • The distinct cyclicality of factor performance in Australia indicated its potential for implementation of active views on the local equity market.


Smart beta strategies have gained significant attention in the asset management industry, and the exchange-traded products (ETPs) tracking factor indices have experienced significant asset growth since the end of 2008. Factor-based strategies are a category of smart beta strategies that target specific risk factors.  They share some common characteristics with passive investing, such as rules-based construction, transparency, and cost-efficiency, and they also share features of active investing in that they aim to enhance return and reduce risk compared to market-cap-weighted indices.

Single-factor indices are constructed explicitly to capture a specific risk factor and exhibit distinct cyclicality in response to a changing market environment, which also makes them ideal tools for implementation of active views. 

In Australia, although the adoption of factor-based investing by local market participants is behind the U.S. and some Asian markets (like Japan), the growth of factor-based ETPs has accelerated in recent years, achieving 46% growth in net assets in the past 18 months in local currency terms as of Dec. 31, 2018, and accounting for 10.5% of the Australian ETF market. Dividend products still dominate the Australian factor-based ETP market, but we observed the proliferation in categories and the increasing demand for factor-based index-linked products within the Australian equity market.

Based on the performance contribution analysis for the S&P/ASX 200 portfolio, the Financials and Materials sectors contributed about 63.6% of the total performance of the portfolio for more than 15 years.  At a stock level, the top five large-cap contributors (BHP Group Ltd, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corporation, CSL Limited, and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited) together contributed approximately 49% of the total portfolio performance over the same period.  This suggests that sector or size bias might have  a significant impact on the excess return of factor portfolios in the Australian market.

In this paper, we examined the effectiveness of six well-known risk factors (size, value, low volatility, momentum, quality, and dividend) in the Australian equity market and the behavior of these factors under different market regimes.


ETFs nos Investimentos das Companhias de Seguros - 2020


No nosso primeiro relatório em 2015, utilizamos tendências históricas para projetar que, em cinco anos, as seguradoras duplicariam o seu uso de ETFs. Hoje, cinco anos depois, o uso de ETFs nos investimentos das companhias de seguros é, de fato, o dobro comparado com 2015. No período de um ano encerrado em 31 de dezembro de 2019, as seguradoras aumentaram 16% os ativos sob administração (AUM) em ETFs até atingir US$ 31,2 bilhões. As companhias incrementaram o uso de ETFs de renda variável e renda fixa. Embora o uso geral de ETFs tenha subido, algumas partes da indústria que tinham sido ativas no uso destes instrumentos se afastaram. Mesmo que o uso de ETFs de renda fixa tenha crescido, o uso da valorização sistemática (VS) caiu.


No final de 2019, as seguradoras americanas tinham US$ 31,2 bilhões investidos em ETFs. Esta cifra representa uma pequena fração dos US$ 4,4 trilhões de AUM em ETFs e uma porção ainda menor dos US$ 6,7 trilhões em ativos líquidos destas companhias. O quadro 1 mostra o uso de ETFs por parte das seguradoras americanas durante os últimos 16 anos.


ETFs en las Inversiones de Compañías de Seguros – 2020


En nuestro primer informe de 2015, utilizamos tendencias históricas para proyectar que las compañías de seguros duplicarían su uso de ETFs en los cinco años siguientes. Cinco años más tarde, el uso de estos fondos en las inversiones de aseguradoras efectivamente se duplicó desde 2015. En el período de un año finalizado el 31 de diciembre de 2019, las compañías de seguros aumentaron sus activos en administración (AUM) de ETFs en 16%, llegando a US$ 31.2 mil millones. Observamos un alza en el uso de ETFs de renta variable y renta fija. Si bien el uso general de ETFs aumentó, algunas partes de la industria que habían sido activas en el uso de estos fondos se alejaron. Aunque el uso de ETFs de renta fija se incrementó, el uso de valuación sistemática (VS) disminuyó.


Al cierre de 2019, las compañías de seguros de EE. UU. habían invertido US$ 31.2 mil millones en ETFs. Esto representa una pequeña fracción de los US$ 4.4 billones en AUM de ETFs y una parte todavía más pequeña de los US$ 6.7 billones en activos admitidos de las aseguradoras de EE. UU. La figura 1 muestra el uso de ETFs por parte de compañías de seguros estadounidenses durante los últimos dieciséis años.


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