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Laurence D. Fink, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BlackRock, speaks at a private event on May 14 2014.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A new and welcome trend in ETFs suggests some awareness of what madness it is for companies to keep issuing ever more arcane and obscure products to attract investors.

BlackRock Canada's iShares franchise has started introducing ETFs that are designed to accomplish an investing goal, rather than peel off yet another micro-slice of the market for investors to put their money in. Want to protect against rising interest rates while trying to squeeze out a little extra yield? Then consider the new iShares Conservative Short Term Strategic Fixed Income ETF (XSC). Are you looking for higher yields and prepared to run a little more rate risk to get them? Then maybe the iShares Conservative Strategic Fixed Income ETF (XSE) will suit you.

One broadly diversified, low-cost bond ETF is all you really need for a buy-and-hold portfolio you expect to own for many years to come (for an inventory, check out the third instalment of my 2015 ETF Buyers' Guide. But investors do sometimes like to get, um, strategic. To do so, they can sift through dozens of bond ETF options, or consider a pre-fab bond portfolio like XSC, XSE or a sister fund issued earlier this year, the iShares Short Term Strategic Fixed Income ETF (XSI).

These exchange-traded funds are fund-of-fund products, which means they hold a portfolio of underlying iShares funds. XSC has a management fee of 0.4 per cent, while XSE and XSI are at 0.5 per cent. That's all in – you don't pay for the ETFs in the portfolio on top of that. It's worth noting that iShares' own Core High Quality Canadian Bond Index ETF (XQB) has a management fee of just 0.12 per cent.

The higher cost of XSC and XSE buy you diversification into areas such as high yield and emerging market bonds. Both funds have the word "conservative" in their name because high yield securities, issued by less financially strong entities, are limited to 25 per cent of the portfolio. In addition, XSC limits the duration of its portfolio to five years. XSC's after-fee yield to maturity is around 2.7 per cent, while XSE comes in around 3.7 per cent.

BlackRock may be onto something with its strategic bond ETFs. The company reports that XSI has attracted the largest inflows of any Canadian ETF introduced in 2015.