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How 'SSPY' Alternative S&P 500 ETF Accounts for Risks

As a way to better diversify equity market exposure, investors can consider a relatively new smart beta exchange traded fund strategy that re-weights the S&P 500 based on companies’ business risks instead of the usual capitalization size.

“We’ve adapted a methodology that’s used in clinical trials to define population sets. So our founder comes from the biotech pharmaceutical industry, and he kept asking himself, ‘Why is it science you can define population sets for predictable results, but no one’s ever applied it in finance?’ So, he funded a think tank and had all of these analysts go to work on figuring out a tagging method for companies that mimics, in a sense, how we do demographics,” Kathy Cuocolo, President Syntax Advisors, said at Inside ETFs 2019.

Specifically, the Syntax Stratified LargeCap ETF (SSPY n/a) follows the stratified-weight version of the widely used S&P 500 Index and holds the same constituents as the S&P 500, but so-called Stratified-weighted approach refers to the weighting methodology of the underlying index where Syntax groups and distributes the weight of constituent companies that share “Related Business Risks”.

The Related Business Risk factor occurs when two or more companies’ earnings are affected by the same fundamental drivers. The process of identifying, grouping, and diversifying across related business risk is called stratification.

Consequently, the portfolio is broken down into eight broad sectors, including consumer, energy, financials, food, health care, industrials, information and information tools. Components are then “equally allocated” across those sectors, and rebalancings of the index occur on a quarterly basis.

SSPY aims to provide exposure to the “same stocks as the S&P 500, providing access to constituents that are the leading proxy for the market,” and it is “reweighted to diversify related business risk and provide a more balanced exposure than cap-weighting,” according to Syntax.

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