The Evolution of the Computer-Built ETF

The Evolution of the Computer-Built ETF

3 Min.


Recent adjustments to the Global Industry Classification System (GICS) are prompting a worldwide reassessment of investment strategies. Amidst these changes, consumer discretionary, technology, and telecommunications sectors are consolidating into the newly formed Communication Services sector. This restructuring introduces additional complexities for everyday investors, complicating asset allocation decisions with a fresh set of considerations. Factors like operations, clientele, products, revenues, and earnings now join the list of crucial research points for potential investments.

The GICS, a standardized equity classification system, is a collaborative effort by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) and Standard & Poor's. Employed by MSCI indexes covering both domestic and international stocks, the GICS methodology is widely embraced within the professional investment management community.

Whether embracing or resisting reclassification, the GICS offers valuable categorization while, for some investors, imposing limitations. Despite real-world complexities where companies may span multiple sectors, GICS assigns each company to a single classification. Responding to this, some investors and firms have initiated efforts to reclassify companies using more intricate frameworks to enhance risk management and trading cohort classification. Notably, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have recently adopted similar approaches, leveraging computer-assisted management for seamless implementation.

BlackRock's Innovative Approach: iShares Evolved Sector ETFs

BlackRock, Inc. (BLK) introduces a revolutionary suite of ETFs known as the iShares Evolved Sector ETFs. These funds employ advanced natural language-processing technology for scrutinizing company business models and public filings. The algorithm assesses a company's business distribution, assigning it to relevant sectors and permitting multiple classifications if warranted., Inc. (AMZN) is a dynamic and diverse entity illustrating this novel sector system. Despite its multifaceted operations, including e-commerce and cloud computing, GICS categorizes Amazon under Consumer Discretionary. Within BlackRock's iShares Evolved U.S. Technology ETF (IETC) and iShares Evolved U.S. Discretionary Spending ETF (IEDI), where Amazon is featured, it assumes roles as both a technology and consumer discretionary company, showcasing the adaptability of BlackRock's sophisticated classification approach.

Automated Trend Identification in the Financial Landscape

Shifting from historical reflections to forward-looking predictions, algorithms play a pivotal role in sector classifications. The Evolving Sector ETFs leverage these algorithms to scrutinize regulatory filings for indicators of upcoming trends, strategically positioning themselves in emerging spheres of influence.

For ETF investors, the transition to computer-driven analysis signifies a paradigm shift, with machines assuming more significant roles in material analysis, data preparation, and even decision-making regarding sector classification and portfolio rebalancing. While BlackRock's system offers distinct advantages, some investors may still prefer the conventional GICS classifications, and those valuing transparency might be surprised by unconventional inclusions, such as a consumer discretionary stock in a purportedly tech-focused fund. Despite varying preferences, computer-driven ETFs, with their established presence, are unlikely to fade away anytime soon.


GICS adjustments are transforming global investment strategies, introducing complexities, and spurring a search for more nuanced frameworks. BlackRock's iShares Evolved Sector ETFs, exemplified by Amazon's dual classification, showcase innovative technology driving a paradigm shift. Despite debates over transparency, computer-driven ETFs are set to remain a significant force in the evolving financial landscape.

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)