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Elston Consulting plans to lead the way for ETF research in the UK

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Elston Consulting has launched a series of free-to-market “Access Portfolios” of ETFs, published on justETF.com, designed to help investors ‘find the right needles in haystacks’ according to Elston founder Henry Cobbe.

Cobbe (pictured) founded the firm in 2012, focused on researching and developing multi-asset investment solutions for asset managers, and now aims to become the leading UK’s ETF Strategist.

“According to Morningstar data, at the end of 2017 there were 182 ETF Strategists in the US consulting on USD123 billion of assets from almost nothing a decade or so ago.  In the UK, there’s just a handful.  It’s a green field,’ says Cobbe.

Elston still does fund and index design in addition to its growing ETF focus.  Projects have included Target Date Funds with Architas and AllianceBernstein, indices with FTSE Russell and multi-asset model portfolios for both Copia Capital Management and Interactive Investor, one of the largest UK online stockbrokers.

Cobbe became personally interested in ETFs in 2008 during the financial crisis. “It became clear ETFs offered a neat way to put on and take off risk in a transparent way,” he says.

The firm believes that its index offering is different to mainstream providers as they focus on multi-asset strategies.  Elston launched its first index – a Minimum Variance index  in 2014 and last year launched a Risk Parity index in conjunction with Milliman. Earlier last year Elston also worked as a consultant for Queens’ College, Cambridge developing an ex-carbon global equity portfolio constructed with ETFs.

“We don’t manage money,” Cobbe explains. “We help asset managers build products that gather assets and solve an end-client need.”

Cobbe describes the new Access Portfolios’ initiative as a series of research ideas incorporated within basic portfolios, socialising them on justETF.com which is an established ETF research website for self-directed investors.

“In my view justETF.com offers the best research facility to the non-professional investor,” Cobbe says. These building block portfolios are free to use, although justETF.com has its own charging structure, while Elston continues to offer fee-based research and consultancy services to institutional asset owners and managers. “We are aiming to lead the field in providing ETF research to buy-side decision makers, both directly and via our Bloomberg page,” Cobbe says.

The five Access Portfolios are 60/40 Global Reference Portfolio, described as a classic reference of global equities and global aggregate bonds built with just two ETFs with a TER of 0.19 per cent; 40/60 Portfolio GBP, a lower-medium risk multi-asset portfolio for GBP based investors with a TER of 0.19 per cent;    60/40 Portfolio GBP, a medium-higher risk multi-asset portfolio for GBP based investors with a TER of 0.20 per cent; Monthly 60/40 Portfolio GBP, constructed using ETFs available for monthly dealing on major platforms with a TER of 0.19 per cent and finally Ethical 50/50 Portfolio GBP, constructed using ethically screened ETFs with a TER of 0.31 per cent.

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