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Canadian firm launches AI-powered ETF targeting AI investments

By Suzanne McGee

(Reuters) - A Canadian asset manager on Monday launched an exchange-traded fund (ETF) using artificial intelligence (AI) rather than human beings to build a portfolio dedicated specifically to AI.

"We'd been looking at the AI space for two years or so, and had investors asking us to put together an AI-themed product," said Raj Lala, president and CEO of Evolve Funds Group Inc. "This, surprisingly, seemed to be a space in the market that hadn't been filled."

AI has been a white-hot investment theme for the last year or more, and ETF issuers have eagerly rolled out new AI-focused funds to meet investor demand. Some also have used AI's large language model technology to construct portfolios, but have had less success in attracting investor interest or generating compelling returns.

None of those AI-generated portfolios target AI investments specifically, and many of the funds don't include Nvidia or other AI stalwarts among their top holdings, noted Todd Sohn, ETF analyst at Strategas.

The Evolve Artificial Intelligence Fund will end up owning megacap technology stocks like Nvidia or Microsoft, Lala said. But as much as half of the portfolio will be invested in lesser-known players like UiPath Inc., a company that makes AI software for robotics, or CorVel Corp., which develops AI solutions to address healthcare costs.

The biggest challenge, said Lala, was identifying those companies. "It was like trying to figure out who'd benefit from the Internet back in the 1990s."

Evolve uses a model developed by Boosted.ai, an AI consulting firm serving the financial industry, to winnow through publicly traded North American stocks in search of those with the right kind and amount of AI exposure.

The fund will rebalance quarterly, and Lala said he doesn't expect its largest positions will change much. That, Lala added, should help the new ETF avoid high, costly turnover that analysts say make other AI-powered ETFs less appealing.

(Reporting by Suzanne McGee; Editing by Andrea Ricci)