SOURCE: BrightScope


September 24, 2013 08:00 ET

BrightScope Announces the Top 20 Exchange-Traded Funds Held in America's 401k Plans

Analytics From BrightScope Give Investment Managers Unparalleled Insight Into Fund Allocation

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwired - Sep 24, 2013) - BrightScope (, a leading provider of independent financial information and investment research, today announced the Top 20 Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) Distribution List for the 401k and defined contribution industry. This list is part of a series of rankings BrightScope will regularly publish to provide investment managers, mutual fund companies, investors, and others with more insight into the top funds and managers in the retirement marketplace. The proliferation of this critical information will dramatically increase the efficiency of the field and lead to lower cost plans and better outcomes for the 60 million Americans who depend on their 401k plan for retirement.

"ETFs, in terms of their distribution in 401k plans, have increased in prevalence over the past couple of years as plan sponsors begin to better understand the benefits of including them on plan menus," said Brooks Herman, Head of Data and Research at BrightScope. "The presumed risks of ETFs have been moderated and they're now perceived as more transparent than many other instruments focused on long-term returns."

Since its infancy, the 401k marketplace has suffered from a lack of quality data that is comprehensive enough to be useful for most strategic functions. Historically, it has been virtually impossible to determine a specific mutual fund's total distribution in 401k plans. BrightScope's revolutionary database includes a detailed investment menu on nearly 50,000 plans, representing nearly 90 percent of all the assets in 401ks. With this dataset, BrightScope is able to provide detailed analysis of total fund distributions.

Noteworthy findings since BrightScope's last release of this list, June 2011:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market maintains the top spot
  • SPDR S&P 500 has jumped to No. 2 from No. 13
  • The following were bumped from the Top 20: Vanguard Small Cap (VB), iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM), Vanguard Growth (VUG), iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA), Vanguard Intermediate-Term Bond (BIV), Ultra QQQ ProShares (QLD), iShares Russell 2000 Growth Index (IWO), iShares Russell 2000 Value Index (IWN), iShares Barclays 7-10 Year Treasury (IEF), iShares Barclays 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY), Vanguard Mid Cap (VO) and Vanguard Small Cap Value (VBR)
  • Those with an asterisk(*) below are new to the list

The Top 20 ETFs by total distribution include:

1. Vanguard Total Bond Market (BND)

2. SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

3. iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)

4. Vanguard Total International Stock (VXUS)*

5. iShares Russell 1000 Value Index (IWD)

6. iShares Core Total US Bond Market (AGG)*

7. iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index (IWF)

8. Vanguard S&P Small-Cap 600 Index (VIOO)*

9. iShares S&P 500 Index (IVV)*

10. Vanguard Small Cap Growth (VBK)

11. iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)*

12. Vanguard Value (VTV)*

13. iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)*

14. SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)

15. Vanguard S&P 500 (VOO)*

16. iShares Russell Midcap Value Index (IWS)

17. iShares Barclays TIPS Bond (TIP)*

18. Vanguard REIT Index (VNQ)*

19. iPath Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total Return (DJP)*

20. iShares S&P MidCap 400 Index (IJH)*

BrightScope's technology uncovers audited financial data on investment funds held within real 401k plans. The BrightScope database is superior to the industry's traditional survey-based approach. When surveys are done, they usually capture no more than 10 percent of total distribution and skew heavily towards funds prominent in the survey company's client base. Through BrightScope Beacon, investment managers can access comprehensive data, giving them a transparent view into their own fund distribution, as well as the distribution of their competitors.

For more information, please visit

About BrightScope
BrightScope is a financial information company that brings transparency to opaque markets through independent research and analysis. Delivered through web-based software, BrightScope data drives better decision-making for individual investors, corporate plan sponsors, asset managers, broker-dealers, and financial advisors. The BrightScope Rating™, developed in partnership with leading independent 401k fiduciaries, reviews more than 200 unique data inputs per plan and calculates a single numerical score which defines plan quality at the company level. In April 2011, the company launched BrightScope Advisor Pages™, the first comprehensive and publicly available directory of financial advisors designed to help consumers discover information and conduct due diligence on wealth management professionals. BrightScope also markets a suite of data analytics software products to Fortune 1000 companies, asset managers, broker-dealers, financial advisors, and other market participants. Public ratings for nearly 50,000 retirement plans as well as rating definitions, criteria and methodologies, and information on nearly 600,000 financial advisors and nearly 40,000 advisory firms are available for free at