It earns an Average Parent rating.
This is a team-oriented organization that eschews star managers. While exchange-traded funds represent the bulk of the firm's assets, First Trust bypasses the competitive market for low-cost beta funds, instead opting for complex strategies with higher management fees. However, the firm's focus on ETFs for future product development underpins its commitment to tax efficiency and transparency. Some of its thematic strategies appear trendy, but it stands behind them and rarely liquidates funds.
The firm is a private partnership, controlled by Jim Bowen, the CEO. Many senior managers are limited partners. This ownership structure helps the firm stay focused on the long term and promotes retention, which has been strong for the investment team. The firm has grown considerably over the past decade and is among the largest providers of actively managed ETFs, as well as unit investment trusts. As it has grown, the firm has expanded its investment team and beefed up its technology infrastructure.
First Trust's focus is on educating advisors and providing them solutions. This may benefit investors indirectly, but First Trust could do more to directly align with investors by cutting fees and limiting trendy strategies.