Exchange traded funds (ETFs) are increasingly playing an important role in Canadians' investment portfolios, with nearly one-third (31%) of Canadian investors owning them, a survey conducted by BlackRock Canada has found.

The money managers’ first-ever ETF Pulse Survey report says that this momentum is only expected to increase as 93% ETF owners and 38% non?owners surveyed said they are interested in buying ETFs in the next 12 months.

The survey, which looked at ETF awareness and usage amongst Canadians, found that education often plays a central role in ETF adoption.

While more than half of Canadian investors are planning on learning more in the coming year, of those that don't currently own them, they are more than twice as likely to seek out more knowledge around ETFs next year, compared to the last 12 months, the survey report noted.

Warren Collier, head of iShares at BlackRock Canada, said: "After a year of record growth, we're thrilled to see the continued thirst amongst Canadians for more ETF knowledge. While the results demonstrate that Canadian's have a strong appetite to learn more about ETFs, it's clear that there continues to be an opportunity to help investors better understand their investment options."

The survey also found that investors are choosing ETFs largely to replace mutual funds (41%) and/or individual stocks (45%), to improve diversification (53%), and reduce their risk profile (43%).

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Of Canadian investors that currently own ETFs, the funds now equal the asset mix of other commonly held vehicles such as mutual funds and stocks. They currently allocate 20% of their assets to ETFs on average, compared to individual stocks (24%) and mutual funds (22%).

The survey found 71% of ETF owners see the funds as long-term investments or, as both long and short-term holdings – with the average holding period being five years.

The survey also revealed that the majority of non-ETF owners expect to begin using ETFs in the near future, with 62% of non-owners expecting they'll begin to use ETFs in the next three years.

Collier added: "ETFs have democratized investing by providing investors with a robust range of investment strategies in a solution that is cost-effective, transparent and easy to use, and it's resonating. Supported by record growth, it's encouraging to see that ETFs are coming into their own in Canada, and we believe well positioned to continue their momentum into 2017."