Skip to Content
  1. Podcasts
  2. The Long View

Ben Johnson: Index Funds Are Not 'Zombie Investors'

Morningstar's director of global ETF research on fee wars, performance-chasing investors, and whether passive funds are doing their fair share for corporate governance.

The Long View cover art

Listen Now

Listen and subscribe to Morningstar’s The Long View from your mobile device.

Our guest on this week’s episode of The Long View podcast is Ben Johnson. Ben is Morningstar's director of global passive research. In that role, Ben leads a team of analysts who conduct research on index mutual funds and exchange-traded funds and publish research on the global passive investing industry.

Before assuming his current role, Ben was director of ETF research for Europe and Asia and served as the editor of the Morningstar ETFInvestor newsletter. Prior to that, Ben served as a senior equity analyst at Morningstar covering the agriculture and chemicals industry. Before joining Morningstar in 2006, Ben worked as a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin, as well as the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. In 2015, Fund Directions and Fund Action named Ben among the 2015 Rising Stars of Mutual Funds.

Background
Ben Johnson articles and videos on Morningstar.com

Growth of Indexing
Investors Still Pouring Money Into Passive Funds,” by Christine Benz and Kevin McDevitt, Morningstar.com, July 29, 2019.

Have Fee-Based Models Won the Battle ... or the War?,” by Ginger Szala, ThinkAdvisor, Feb. 21, 2019.

End of Era: Passive Equity Funds Surpass Active in Epic Shift,” by John Gittelsohn, Bloomberg.com, Sept. 11, 2019.

Retail Distribution Review: Effects on Fund Fees in the UK,” by Jackie Beard, Morningstar blog, Nov. 9, 2018.

Passive Investing Hasn’t Taken Over the World,” by Barry Ritholtz, Investment News, Oct. 1, 2019.

Risks in the Growth of Indexing
The Big Short’s Michael Burry Explains Why Index Funds Are Like CDOs,” by Reed Stevenson, Bloomberg.com, Sept. 4, 2019.

Market-Cap-Weighted Index Funds Not Broken,” by Ben Johnson and Jeremy Glaser, Morningstar.com, Oct. 3, 2018.

Bogle Sounds a Warning on Index Funds,” by John C. Bogle, The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 29, 2018.

Passive Fund Providers Take an Active Approach to Fund Stewardship,” by Hortense Bioy, Morningstar.com, Dec. 6, 2017.

Indexing Impact Fears Overblown,” by Ben Johnson and Jeremy Glaser, Morningstar.com, Sept. 8. 2016.

Retirement Plans
Use of Index Funds in 401(k)s Increasing,” by Rebecca Moore, PlanSponsor, June 21, 2019.

Here’s the Real Reason Why Your 401(k) Fees Are Falling,” by Darla Mercado, CNBC.com, May 9, 2018.

Using ETFs in a Retirement Plan,” by Susan Dziubinski, Morningstar.com, Sept. 9, 2016.

Commissions and Fees
Fidelity’s Free Funds and the Changing Brokerage Business,” by John Rekenthaler, Morningstar.com, Aug. 8, 2018.

Looking Past the Fidelity Zero Headlines,” Christine Benz and Ben Johnson, Morningstar.com, Aug. 9, 2018.

"Schwab to Drop Commissions on U.S. Stock, ETF and Options Trades, Slamming Online Broker Stocks," by Ciara Linnane, Marketwatch, Oct. 1, 2019.

"E-Trade Drops Commissions on Trades, Joining Schwab, TD Ameritrade in Brokerage Fee War," by Maggie Fitzgerald, CNBC.com, Oct. 2, 2019.

Are No-Commission Trades Good for Investors?” by Christine Benz and Ben Johnson, Morningstar.com, Oct. 2, 2019, Morningstar.com.

Indexing Market Segments
Everything You Need to Know About Strategic-Beta ETFs,” by Ben Johnson, Morningstar.com, April 8, 2016.

Are High-Yield ETFs Junk?” by Alex Bryan, Morningstar.com, April 26, 2017.

Indexing in Less-Efficient Markets,” by Alex Bryan, Morningstar.com, Oct. 5, 2016.

An Overview of the Passive Bond Funds Landscape,” by Christine Benz and Alex Bryan, Morningstar.com, March 22, 2018.

Better Bond ETFs?” by Alex Bryan, Morningstar.com, Aug. 3, 2016.

Are There Viable Alternatives to Traditional Bond ETFs?” by Christine Benz and Alex Bryan, Morningstar.com, June 29, 2016.

Introducing Two New Morningstar Bond Categories,” by Sarah Bush, Morningstar.com, May 2, 2019.

Morningstar Analyst Report for iShares 20+ Year Treasury Fund TLT
Morningstar Analyst Report for iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF HYG
Morningstar Analyst Report for SPDR Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond ETF JNK

6 Questions about Low-Vol Investing,” by Susan Dziubinski, Morningstar.com, Sept. 8, 2017.

Morningstar Analyst Report for iShares Edge MSCI Min Vol USA ETF USMV

A Checklist for Assessing Dividend ETFs,” by Ben Johnson, Morningstar.com, June 29, 2016.

Not All Dividend ETFs Are Created Equal,” by Ben Johnson, Morningstar.com, Aug. 25, 2017.

Morningstar Analyst Report for Schwab U.S. Dividend Equity ETF SCHD
Morningstar Analyst Report for Vanguard Dividend Appreciation VIG