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First Trust
Exchange-Traded Fund VIII
Prospectus
FUND NAME
TICKER SYMBOL
EXCHANGE
First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF
FIXD
Nasdaq
First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF
UCON
NYSE Arca
Each of the funds listed above (each a “Fund, and collectively, the “Funds”) lists and principally trades its shares on either The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC (“Nasdaq”) or NYSE Arca, Inc. (“NYSE Arca”) (each an “Exchange,” and collectively, the “Exchanges”). Market prices may differ to some degree from the net asset value of the shares. Unlike mutual funds, each Fund issues and redeems shares at net asset value, only in large blocks of shares called "Creation Units".
Each Fund is a series of First Trust Exchange-Traded Fund VIII (the “Trust”) and an actively-managed exchange-traded fund organized as a separate series of a registered management investment company.
Except when aggregated in Creation Units, the shares are not redeemable securities of the Funds.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has not approved or disapproved of these securities or passed upon the adequacy or accuracy of this prospectus. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.
NOT FDIC INSURED MAY LOSE VALUE NO BANK GUARANTEE
January 3, 2022

 
Table of Contents

Summary Information

First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
Investment Objective
The investment objective of the First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (the “Fund”) is to seek to maximize long-term total return.
Fees and Expenses of the Fund
The following table describes the fees and expenses you may pay if you buy, hold and sell shares of the Fund. Investors may pay other fees, such as brokerage commissions and other fees to financial intermediaries, which are not reflected in the table and example below.
Shareholder Fees
(fees paid directly from your investment)
Maximum Sales Charge (Load) Imposed on Purchases (as a percentage of offering price)
None
Annual Fund Operating Expenses
(expenses that you pay each year as a percentage of the value of your investment)
Management Fees
0.65%
Distribution and Service (12b-1) Fees
0.00%
Other Expenses
0.00%
Acquired Fund Fees and Expenses
0.01%
Total Annual Fund Operating Expenses
0.66%
Fee Waiver(1)
0.10%
Total Annual Fund Operating Expenses After Fee Waiver
0.56%
(1)
Pursuant to a contractual agreement, First Trust Advisors L.P., the Fund's investment advisor, has agreed to waive management fees of 0.10% of average daily net assets until December 31, 2022. The waiver agreement may be terminated by action of the Trust's Board of Trustees at any time upon 60 days' written notice by the Trust, on behalf of the Fund, or by the Fund's investment advisor only after December 31, 2022.
Example
The example below is intended to help you compare the cost of investing in the Fund with the cost of investing in other funds. This example does not take into account customary brokerage commissions that you pay when purchasing or selling shares of the Fund in the secondary market.
The example assumes that you invest $10,000 in the Fund for the time periods indicated and then hold or sell all of your shares at the end of those periods. The example also assumes that your investment has a 5% return each year and that the Fund’s operating expenses remain at current levels. The example assumes First Trust's agreement to waive management fees of 0.10% of average daily net assets will be terminated following December 31, 2022. Although your actual costs may be higher or lower, based on these assumptions your costs would be:
1 Year
3 Years
5 Years
10 Years
$57
$201
$358
$813
Portfolio Turnover
The Fund pays transaction costs, such as commissions, when it buys and sells securities (or “turns over” its portfolio). A higher portfolio turnover rate may indicate higher transaction costs and may result in higher taxes when Fund shares are held in a taxable account. These costs, which are not reflected in annual fund operating expenses or in the example, affect the Fund’s performance. During the most recent fiscal year, the Fund’s portfolio turnover rate was 497% of the average value of its portfolio.
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First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
Principal Investment Strategies
Under normal market conditions, the Fund pursues its objective by investing at least 80% of its net assets (including investment borrowings) in fixed income securities. The Fund’s investments principally include securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government or its agencies, instrumentalities or U.S. government-sponsored entities; Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (“TIPS”); residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities; asset-backed securities; U.S. corporate bonds; fixed income securities issued by non-U.S. corporations and governments, including issuers with significant ties to emerging market countries; bank loans, including first lien senior secured floating rate bank loans; municipal bonds; collateralized loan obligations ("CLOs"); Rule 144A securities; and other debt securities bearing fixed, floating or variable interest rates of any maturity. The Fund may also invest in preferred stock and common stock.
The Fund’s sub-advisor, TCW Investment Management Company LLC (“TCW” or the “Sub-Advisor”), attempts to focus the Fund’s portfolio holdings in areas of the fixed income market (based on quality, sector, coupon or maturity) that the Sub-Advisor believes to be relatively undervalued. Under normal conditions, the Fund’s average portfolio duration varies within one year (plus or minus) of the portfolio duration of the securities comprising the Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Index. As a separate measure, there is no limit on the weighted average maturity of the Fund’s portfolio. While maturity refers to the expected life of a security, duration is a measure of the expected price volatility of a debt security as a result of changes in market rates of interest.
The Fund may invest in mortgage-backed securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, its agencies or instrumentalities (such as Ginnie Mae), and U.S. government-sponsored entities (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). Government agency or instrumentality securities have different levels of credit support. The Fund may invest in such government supported mortgage-backed securities by investing in to-be-announced transactions (“TBA Transactions”). The Fund may invest in the following non-agency, non-government-sponsored entity securities and privately-issued mortgage-related and other asset-backed securities: residential mortgage-backed securities, commercial mortgage-backed securities, asset-backed securities and CLOs (collectively, “Private MBS/ABS”). The Fund’s investments in Private MBS/ABS are subject to the following restrictions: (1) the Fund may not invest more than 50% of its total assets in Private MBS/ABS; (2) the Fund may not invest more than 25% of its total assets in non-agency residential mortgage-backed securities; (3) the Fund may not invest more than 25% of its total assets in non-agency commercial mortgage-backed securities and CLOs; and (4) the Fund may not invest more than 25% of its total assets in non-agency asset-backed securities.
The Fund may also utilize listed and over-the-counter traded derivatives instruments including, but not limited to, futures, options, swap agreements (including credit default swaps) and forward contracts for duration/yield curve management and/or hedging purposes. The Fund may invest up to 25% of its total assets in derivatives instruments that are traded “over-the-counter” and not through an exchange (“OTC Derivatives”) to reduce currency, interest rate or credit risk arising from the Fund’s investments (that is, “hedge”). The Fund’s investments in OTC Derivatives not used to hedge the Fund’s portfolio against currency, interest rate or credit risk will be limited to 20% of the Fund’s total assets. For purposes of these percentage limitations, the weight of these positions will be calculated as the aggregate gross notional value of the OTC Derivatives.
Under normal market conditions, the Fund may invest up to 35% of its net assets in corporate, non-U.S. and non-agency debt and other securities rated below investment grade by one or more nationally recognized statistical rating organization (“NRSRO”), or, if unrated, judged to be of comparable quality by the Sub-Advisor (commonly referred to as “high yield” or “junk” bonds). The Fund may also invest in distressed securities, which are securities that are in default and are not expected to pay the current coupon. The Fund may also invest up to 20% of its net assets in securities denominated in non-U.S. currencies and securities of issuers with significant ties to emerging market countries, as determined by the Sub-Advisor. The Sub-Advisor considers emerging market countries to be countries that are characterized by developing commercial and financial infrastructure with significant potential for economic growth and increased capital market participation by non-U.S. investors.
Principal Risks
You could lose money by investing in the Fund. An investment in the Fund is not a deposit of a bank and is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other governmental agency. There can be no assurance that the Fund’s investment objective will be achieved. The order of the below risk factors does not indicate the significance of any particular risk factor.
ASSET-BACKED SECURITIES RISK. Asset-backed securities are debt securities typically created by buying and pooling loans or other receivables other than mortgage loans and creating securities backed by those similar type assets. As with other debt securities, asset-backed securities are subject to credit risk, extension risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. These securities are generally not backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government and are subject to the risk of default on the underlying asset or loan, particularly during periods of economic downturn. The impairment of the value of
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First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
collateral or other assets underlying an asset-backed security, such as a result of non-payment of loans or non-performance of underlying assets, may result in a reduction in the value of such asset-backed securities and losses to the Fund.
AUTHORIZED PARTICIPANT CONCENTRATION RISK. Only an authorized participant may engage in creation or redemption transactions directly with the Fund. A limited number of institutions act as authorized participants for the Fund. To the extent that these institutions exit the business or are unable to proceed with creation and/or redemption orders and no other authorized participant steps forward to create or redeem, the Fund’s shares may trade at a premium or discount to the Fund’s net asset value and possibly face delisting.
BANK LOANS RISK. Investments in bank loans are subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk that may be heightened because of the limited public information available regarding bank loans and because loan borrowers may be leveraged and tend to be more adversely affected by changes in market or economic conditions. If the Fund holds a bank loan through another financial institution or relies on a financial institution to administer the loan, its receipt of principal and interest on the loan may be subject to the credit risk of that financial institution. It is possible that any collateral securing a loan may be insufficient or unavailable to the Fund, and that the Fund’s rights to collateral may be limited by bankruptcy or insolvency laws. Additionally, there is no central clearinghouse for loan trades and the loan market has not established enforceable settlement standards or remedies for failure to settle. As such, the secondary market for bank loans may be subject to irregular trading activity, wide bid/ask spreads and extended trade settlement periods (in some cases longer than 7 days) which may cause the Fund to be unable to realize the full value of its investment. In addition, bank loans are generally not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and may not be considered “securities,” and the Fund may not be entitled to rely on the anti-fraud protections of the federal securities laws.
CALL RISK. Some debt securities may be redeemed, or “called,” at the option of the issuer before their stated maturity date. In general, an issuer will call its debt securities if they can be refinanced by issuing new debt securities which bear a lower interest rate. The Fund is subject to the possibility that during periods of falling interest rates an issuer will call its high yielding debt securities. The Fund would then be forced to invest the proceeds at lower interest rates, likely resulting in a decline in the Fund’s income.
CASH TRANSACTIONS RISK. The Fund will effect some or all of its creations and redemptions for cash rather than in-kind. As a result, an investment in the Fund may be less tax-efficient than an investment in an ETF that effects all of its creations and redemptions in-kind. Because the Fund may effect redemptions for cash, it may be required to sell portfolio securities in order to obtain the cash needed to distribute redemption proceeds. A sale of portfolio securities may result in capital gains or losses and may also result in higher brokerage costs.
CLO RISK. The Fund may invest in CLOs. CLOs bear many of the same risks as other forms of asset-backed securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. As they are backed by pools of loans, CLOs also bear similar risks to investing in loans directly. CLOs issue classes or “tranches” that vary in risk, expected maturity, priority of payment and yield. CLOs may experience substantial losses attributable to loan defaults. Losses caused by defaults on underlying loans are typically borne first by the holders of subordinate tranches. Investment in CLOs may decrease in market value when the CLO experiences loan defaults or credit impairment, the disappearance of one or more subordinate classes, or market anticipation of defaults and investor aversion to CLO securities as a class.
COUNTERPARTY RISK. Fund transactions involving a counterparty are subject to the risk that the counterparty will not fulfill its obligation to the Fund. Counterparty risk may arise because of the counterparty’s financial condition (i.e., financial difficulties, bankruptcy, or insolvency), market activities and developments, or other reasons, whether foreseen or not. A counterparty’s inability to fulfill its obligation may result in significant financial loss to the Fund. The Fund may be unable to recover its investment from the counterparty or may obtain a limited recovery, and/or recovery may be delayed.
COVENANT-LITE LOANS RISK. There may be instances in which the Fund invests in covenant-lite loans. Covenant-lite loans contain fewer maintenance covenants, or no maintenance covenants at all, than traditional loans and may not include terms that allow the lender to monitor the financial performance of the borrower and declare a default if certain criteria are breached. This may hinder the Fund’s ability to reprice credit risk associated with the borrower and reduce the Fund’s ability to restructure a problematic loan and mitigate potential loss. As a result, the Fund’s exposure to losses on such investments is increased, especially during a downturn in the credit cycle.
CREDIT DEFAULT SWAPS RISK. Credit default swap transactions involve greater risks than if the Fund had invested in the reference obligation directly. In addition to general market risks, credit default swaps are subject to liquidity risk, counterparty
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First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
risk and credit risks. With respect to a reference obligation, a buyer will lose its investment and recover nothing should no event of default occur. For a seller, if an event of default were to occur, the value of the reference obligation received by the seller, coupled with the periodic payments previously received, may be less than the full notional value it pays to the buyer, resulting in a loss of value. When the Fund acts as a seller of a credit default swap agreement, it is exposed to the risks of leverage since if an event of default occurs with respect to a reference obligation, the seller must pay the buyer the full notional value of the reference obligation.
CREDIT RISK. An issuer or other obligated party of a debt security held by the Fund may be unable or unwilling to make dividend, interest and/or principal payments when due. In addition, the value of a debt security may decline because of concerns about the issuer’s ability or unwillingness to make such payments.
CYBER SECURITY RISK. The Fund is susceptible to operational risks through breaches in cyber security. A breach in cyber security refers to both intentional and unintentional events that may cause the Fund to lose proprietary information, suffer data corruption or lose operational capacity. Such events could cause the Fund to incur regulatory penalties, reputational damage, additional compliance costs associated with corrective measures and/or financial loss. Cyber security breaches may involve unauthorized access to the Fund’s digital information systems through “hacking” or malicious software coding but may also result from outside attacks such as denial-of-service attacks through efforts to make network services unavailable to intended users. In addition, cyber security breaches of the issuers of securities in which the Fund invests or the Fund’s third-party service providers, such as its administrator, transfer agent, custodian, or sub-advisor, as applicable, can also subject the Fund to many of the same risks associated with direct cyber security breaches. Although the Fund has established risk management systems designed to reduce the risks associated with cyber security, there is no guarantee that such efforts will succeed, especially because the Fund does not directly control the cyber security systems of issuers or third-party service providers.
DEBT SECURITIES RISK. Investments in debt securities subject the holder to the credit risk of the issuer. Credit risk refers to the possibility that the issuer or other obligor of a security will not be able or willing to make payments of interest and principal when due. Generally, the value of debt securities will change inversely with changes in interest rates. To the extent that interest rates rise, certain underlying obligations may be paid off substantially slower than originally anticipated and the value of those securities may fall sharply. During periods of falling interest rates, the income received by the Fund may decline. If the principal on a debt security is prepaid before expected, the prepayments of principal may have to be reinvested in obligations paying interest at lower rates. Debt securities generally do not trade on a securities exchange making them generally less liquid and more difficult to value than common stock.
DERIVATIVES RISK. The use of derivative instruments involves risks different from, or possibly greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in securities and other traditional investments. These risks include: (i) the risk that the counterparty to a derivative transaction may not fulfill its contractual obligations; (ii) risk of mispricing or improper valuation; and (iii) the risk that changes in the value of the derivative may not correlate perfectly with the underlying asset. Derivative prices are highly volatile and may fluctuate substantially during a short period of time. Such prices are influenced by numerous factors that affect the markets, including, but not limited to: changing supply and demand relationships; government programs and policies; national and international political and economic events, changes in interest rates, inflation and deflation and changes in supply and demand relationships. Trading derivative instruments involves risks different from, or possibly greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in securities. Derivative contracts ordinarily have leverage inherent in their terms. The low margin deposits normally required in trading derivatives, including futures contracts, permit a high degree of leverage. Accordingly, a relatively small price movement may result in an immediate and substantial loss. The use of leverage may also cause the Fund to liquidate portfolio positions when it would not be advantageous to do so in order to satisfy its obligations or to meet collateral segregation requirements. The use of leveraged derivatives can magnify potential for gain or loss and, therefore, amplify the effects of market volatility on share price.
DISTRESSED SECURITIES RISK. Distressed debt securities are speculative and involve substantial risks in addition to the risks of investing in high-yield securities that are not in default. In some instances, the Fund will not receive interest payments from the distressed securities it holds, and there is a substantial risk that the principal will not be repaid. In any reorganization or liquidation proceeding related to a distressed debt security, the Fund may lose its entire investment in the security.
EQUITY SECURITIES RISK. The value of the Fund’s shares will fluctuate with changes in the value of the equity securities in which it invests. Equity securities prices fluctuate for several reasons, including changes in investors’ perceptions of the financial condition of an issuer or the general condition of the relevant equity market, such as market volatility, or when political or economic events affecting an issuer occur. Common stock prices may be particularly sensitive to rising interest rates, as the cost of capital rises and borrowing costs increase. Equity securities may decline significantly in price over short or extended
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First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
periods of time, and such declines may occur in the equity market as a whole, or they may occur in only a particular country, company, industry or sector of the market.
EXTENSION RISK. Extension risk is the risk that, when interest rates rise, certain obligations will be paid off by the issuer (or other obligated party) more slowly than anticipated, causing the value of these debt securities to fall. Rising interest rates tend to extend the duration of debt securities, making their market value more sensitive to changes in interest rates. The value of longer-term debt securities generally changes more in response to changes in interest rates than shorter-term debt securities. As a result, in a period of rising interest rates, securities may exhibit additional volatility and may lose value.
FLOATING RATE DEBT INSTRUMENTS RISK. Investments in floating rate debt instruments are subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. Floating rate debt instruments include debt securities issued by corporate and governmental entities, as well as bank loans, mortgage-backed securities and asset-backed securities. Floating rate debt instruments are structured so that the security’s coupon rate fluctuates based upon the level of a reference rate. Most commonly, the coupon rate of a floating rate debt instrument is set at the level of a widely followed interest rate, plus a fixed spread. As a result, the coupon on floating rate debt instrument will generally decline in a falling interest rate environment, causing the Fund to experience a reduction in the income it receives from the instrument. A floating rate debt instrument’s coupon rate resets periodically according to its terms. Consequently, in a rising interest rate environment, floating rate debt instruments with coupon rates that reset infrequently may lag behind the changes in market interest rates. Floating rate debt instruments may also contain terms that impose a maximum coupon rate the issuer will pay, regardless of the level of the reference rate. To the extent the Fund invests in floating rate loans, such instruments may be subject to legal or contractual restrictions on resale, may trade infrequently, and their value may be impaired when the Fund needs to liquidate such securities. It is possible that the collateral securing a floating rate loan may be insufficient or unavailable to the Fund, and that the Fund’s rights to collateral may be limited by bankruptcy or insolvency laws. Additionally, floating rate loans may not be considered “securities” under federal securities laws, and purchasers, such as the Fund, therefore may not be entitled to rely on the anti-fraud protections of the federal securities laws.
FORWARD CONTRACTS RISK. A forward contract is an over-the-counter derivative transaction between two parties to buy or sell a specified amount of an underlying reference at a specified price (or rate) on a specified date in the future. Forward contracts are negotiated on an individual basis and are not standardized or traded on exchanges. The market for forward contracts is substantially unregulated and can experience lengthy periods of illiquidity, unusually high trading volume and other negative impacts, such as political intervention, which may result in volatility or disruptions in such markets. A relatively small price movement in a forward contract may result in substantial losses to the Fund, exceeding the amount of the margin paid. Forward contracts can increase the Fund’s risk exposure to underlying references and their attendant risks, such as credit risk, currency risk, market risk, and interest rate risk, while also exposing the Fund to counterparty risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk, among others.
FUTURES CONTRACTS RISK. Futures contracts are typically exchange-traded contracts that call for the future delivery of an asset by one party to another at a certain price and date, or cash settlement of the terms of the contract. The risk of a position in a futures contract may be very large compared to the relatively low level of margin the Fund is required to deposit. In many cases, a relatively small price movement in a futures contract may result in immediate and substantial loss or gain to the investor relative to the size of a required margin deposit. In the event no secondary market exists for a particular contract, it might not be possible to effect closing transactions, and the Fund will be unable to terminate the derivative. If the Fund uses futures contracts for hedging purposes, there is a risk of imperfect correlation between movements in the prices of the derivatives and movements in the securities or index underlying the derivatives or movements in the prices of the Fund's investments that are the subject of such hedge. The prices of futures contracts may not correlate perfectly with movements in the securities or index underlying them.
HIGH YIELD SECURITIES RISK. High yield securities, or “junk” bonds, are subject to greater market fluctuations, are less liquid and provide a greater risk of loss than investment grade securities, and therefore, are considered to be highly speculative. In general, high yield securities may have a greater risk of default than other types of securities and could cause income and principal losses for the Fund.
INCOME RISK. The Fund’s income may decline when interest rates fall or if there are defaults in its portfolio. This decline can occur because the Fund may subsequently invest in lower-yielding securities as debt securities in its portfolio mature, are near maturity or are called, or the Fund otherwise needs to purchase additional debt securities.
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First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
INDEX OR MODEL CONSTITUENT RISK. The Fund may be a constituent of one or more indices or ETF models. As a result, the Fund may be included in one or more index-tracking exchange-traded funds or mutual funds. Being a component security of such a vehicle could greatly affect the trading activity involving the Fund’s shares, the size of the Fund and the market volatility of the Fund. Inclusion in an index could increase demand for the Fund and removal from an index could result in outsized selling activity in a relatively short period of time. As a result, the Fund’s net asset value could be negatively impacted and the Fund’s market price may be below the Fund’s net asset value during certain periods. In addition, index rebalances may potentially result in increased trading activity in the Fund’s shares.
INFLATION RISK. Inflation risk is the risk that the value of assets or income from investments will be less in the future as inflation decreases the value of money. As inflation increases, the present value of the Fund’s assets and distributions may decline.
INFLATION-INDEXED SECURITIES RISK. Inflation-indexed debt securities, such as TIPS, are subject to the same risks as other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. The principal amount of an inflation-indexed security typically increases with inflation and decreases with deflation, as measured by a specified index. Although the holders of TIPS receive no less than the par value of the security at maturity, if the Fund purchases TIPS in the secondary market whose principal values have previously been adjusted upward and there is a period of subsequent declining inflation rates, the Fund may receive at maturity less than it invested and incur a loss.
INTEREST RATE RISK. Interest rate risk is the risk that the value of the debt securities in the Fund’s portfolio will decline because of rising market interest rates. Interest rate risk is generally lower for shorter term debt securities and higher for longer-term debt securities. The Fund may be subject to a greater risk of rising interest rates than would normally be the case due to the current period of historically low rates and the effect of potential government fiscal policy initiatives and resulting market reaction to those initiatives. Duration is a reasonably accurate measure of a debt security’s price sensitivity to changes in interest rates and a common measure of interest rate risk. Duration measures a debt security’s expected life on a present value basis, taking into account the debt security’s yield, interest payments and final maturity. In general, duration represents the expected percentage change in the value of a security for an immediate 1% change in interest rates. For example, the price of a debt security with a three-year duration would be expected to drop by approximately 3% in response to a 1% increase in interest rates. Therefore, prices of debt securities with shorter durations tend to be less sensitive to interest rate changes than debt securities with longer durations. As the value of a debt security changes over time, so will its duration.
LIBOR RISK. The United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates LIBOR, will cease making LIBOR available as a reference rate over a phase-out period that will begin immediately after December 31, 2021. The unavailability or replacement of LIBOR may affect the value, liquidity or return on certain Fund investments and may result in costs incurred in connection with closing out positions and entering into new trades. Any potential effects of the transition away from LIBOR on the Fund or on certain instruments in which the Fund invests can be difficult to ascertain, and they may vary depending on a variety of factors. Any such effects of the transition away from LIBOR, as well as other unforeseen effects, could result in losses to the Fund.
LIQUIDITY RISK. The Fund may hold certain investments that may be subject to restrictions on resale, trade over-the-counter or in limited volume, or lack an active trading market. Accordingly, the Fund may not be able to sell or close out of such investments at favorable times or prices (or at all), or at the prices approximating those at which the Fund currently values them. Illiquid securities may trade at a discount from comparable, more liquid investments and may be subject to wide fluctuations in market value.
MANAGEMENT RISK. The Fund is subject to management risk because it is an actively managed portfolio. In managing the Fund’s investment portfolio, the portfolio managers will apply investment techniques and risk analyses that may not produce the desired result. There can be no guarantee that the Fund will meet its investment objective.
MARKET MAKER RISK. The Fund faces numerous market trading risks, including the potential lack of an active market for Fund shares due to a limited number of market markers. Decisions by market makers or authorized participants to reduce their role or step away from these activities in times of market stress could inhibit the effectiveness of the arbitrage process in maintaining the relationship between the underlying values of the Fund’s portfolio securities and the Fund’s market price. The Fund may rely on a small number of third-party market makers to provide a market for the purchase and sale of shares. Any trading halt or other problem relating to the trading activity of these market makers could result in a dramatic change in the spread between the Fund’s net asset value and the price at which the Fund’s shares are trading on the Exchange, which could result in a decrease in value of the Fund’s shares. This reduced effectiveness could result in Fund shares trading at a discount to net asset value and also in greater than normal intraday bid-ask spreads for Fund shares.
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First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
MARKET RISK. Market risk is the risk that a particular security, or shares of the Fund in general, may fall in value. Securities are subject to market fluctuations caused by such factors as economic, political, regulatory or market developments, changes in interest rates and perceived trends in securities prices. Shares of the Fund could decline in value or underperform other investments. In addition, local, regional or global events such as war, acts of terrorism, spread of infectious diseases or other public health issues, recessions, or other events could have a significant negative impact on the Fund and its investments. For example, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic and the aggressive responses taken by many governments, including closing borders, restricting international and domestic travel, and the imposition of prolonged quarantines or similar restrictions, had negative impacts, and in many cases severe impacts, on markets worldwide. While the development of vaccines has slowed the spread of the virus and allowed for the resumption of reasonably normal business activity in the United States, many countries continue to impose lockdown measures in an attempt to slow the spread. Additionally, there is no guarantee that vaccines will be effective against emerging variants of the disease. As this global pandemic illustrated, such events may affect certain geographic regions, countries, sectors and industries more significantly than others. These events also adversely affect the prices and liquidity of the Fund’s portfolio securities or other instruments and could result in disruptions in the trading markets. Any of such circumstances could have a materially negative impact on the value of the Fund’s shares and result in increased market volatility. During any such events, the Fund’s shares may trade at increased premiums or discounts to their net asset value.
MORTGAGE-RELATED SECURITIES RISK. Mortgage-related securities are subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. However, these investments make the Fund more susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory events that affect the value of real estate. Mortgage-related securities are also significantly affected by the rate of prepayments and modifications of the mortgage loans underlying those securities, as well as by other factors such as borrower defaults, delinquencies, realized or liquidation losses and other shortfalls. The incidence of borrower defaults or delinquencies may rise significantly during financial downturns and could adversely affect the value of mortgage-related securities held by the Fund. Events such as war, acts of terrorism, spread of infectious diseases or other public health issues, recessions, or other events that result in broad and simultaneous financial hardships for individuals and businesses could have a significant negative impact on the value of mortgage-related securities. Mortgage-related securities are particularly sensitive to prepayment risk, given that the term to maturity for mortgage loans is generally substantially longer than the expected lives of those securities. As the timing and amount of prepayments cannot be accurately predicted, the timing of changes in the rate of prepayments of the mortgage loans may significantly affect the Fund's actual yield to maturity on any mortgage-related securities. Along with prepayment risk, mortgage-related securities are significantly affected by interest rate risk.
MUNICIPAL SECURITIES RISK. Issuers, including governmental issuers, may be unable to pay their obligations as they come due. The values of municipal securities that depend on a specific revenue source to fund their payment obligations may fluctuate as a result of actual or anticipated changes in the cash flows generated by the revenue source or changes in the priority of the municipal obligation to receive the cash flows generated by the revenue source. The values of municipal securities held by the Fund may be adversely affected by local political and economic conditions and developments. Adverse conditions in an industry significant to a local economy could have a correspondingly adverse effect on the financial condition of local issuers. In addition, income from municipal securities held by the Fund could be declared taxable because of, among other things, unfavorable changes in tax laws, adverse interpretations by the Internal Revenue Service or state tax authorities, or noncompliant conduct of an issuer or other obligated party. Loss of tax-exempt status may cause interest received and distributed to shareholders by the Fund to be taxable and may result in a significant decline in the values of such municipal securities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the risks of the municipal securities market have been magnified. The costs associated with combating the pandemic and the negative impact on tax revenues has adversely affected the financial condition of many states and political subdivisions. These risks may also adversely affect several sectors of the municipal bond market, such as airports, toll roads, hospitals and colleges, among many others. The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on state and political subdivisions’ ability to make payments on debt obligations is impossible to predict, but could negatively impact the value of bonds, the ability of state and political subdivisions to make payments when due and the performance of the Fund.
NON-AGENCY SECURITIES RISK. Investments in asset-backed or mortgage-backed securities offered by non-governmental issuers, such as commercial banks, savings and loans, private mortgage insurance companies, mortgage bankers and other secondary market issuers are subject to additional risks. There are no direct or indirect government or agency guarantees of payments in loan pools created by non-government issuers. Securities issued by private issuers are subject to the credit risks of the issuers. An unexpectedly high rate of defaults on the loan pool may adversely affect the value of a non-agency security and could result in losses to the Fund. The risk of such defaults is generally higher in the case of pools that include subprime loans. Non-agency securities are typically traded “over-the-counter” rather than on a securities exchange and there may be
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First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
a limited market for the securities, especially when there is a perceived weakness in the mortgage and real estate market sectors. Without an active trading market, the non-agency mortgage-related securities held by the Fund may be particularly difficult to value because of the complexities involved in assessing the value of the underlying loans.
NON-U.S. SECURITIES RISK. Non-U.S. securities are subject to higher volatility than securities of domestic issuers due to possible adverse political, social or economic developments, restrictions on foreign investment or exchange of securities, capital controls, lack of liquidity, currency exchange rates, excessive taxation, government seizure of assets, the imposition of sanctions by foreign governments, different legal or accounting standards, and less government supervision and regulation of securities exchanges in foreign countries.
OPERATIONAL RISK. The Fund is subject to risks arising from various operational factors, including, but not limited to, human error, processing and communication errors, errors of the Fund’s service providers, counterparties or other third-parties, failed or inadequate processes and technology or systems failures. The Fund relies on third-parties for a range of services, including custody. Any delay or failure relating to engaging or maintaining such service providers may affect the Fund’s ability to meet its investment objective. Although the Fund and the Fund's investment advisor seek to reduce these operational risks through controls and procedures, there is no way to completely protect against such risks.
OPTIONS RISK. The use of options involves investment strategies and risks different from those associated with ordinary portfolio securities transactions and depends on the ability of the Fund's portfolio managers to forecast market movements correctly. The prices of options are volatile and are influenced by, among other things, actual and anticipated changes in the value of the underlying instrument, or in interest or currency exchange rates, including the anticipated volatility, which in turn are affected by fiscal and monetary policies and by national and international political and economic events. The effective use of options also depends on the Fund's ability to terminate option positions at times deemed desirable to do so. There is no assurance that the Fund will be able to effect closing transactions at any particular time or at an acceptable price. In addition, there may at times be an imperfect correlation between the movement in values of options and their underlying securities and there may at times not be a liquid secondary market for certain options.
OTC DERIVATIVES RISK. The Fund may utilize derivatives that are traded over-the-counter, or “OTC.” In general, OTC derivatives are subject to the same risks as derivatives generally, as described throughout. However, because OTC derivatives do not trade on an exchange, the parties to an OTC derivative face heightened levels of counterparty risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. To the extent that the Fund utilizes OTC derivatives, its counterparty risk will be higher if it only trades with a single or small number of counterparties. The secondary market for OTC derivatives may not be as deep as for other instruments and such instruments may experience periods of illiquidity. In addition, some OTC derivatives may be complex and difficult to value.
PORTFOLIO TURNOVER RISK. High portfolio turnover may result in the Fund paying higher levels of transaction costs and may generate greater tax liabilities for shareholders. Portfolio turnover risk may cause the Fund’s performance to be less than expected.
PREFERRED SECURITIES RISK. Preferred securities combine some of the characteristics of both common stocks and bonds. Preferred securities are typically subordinated to bonds and other debt securities in a company’s capital structure in terms of priority to corporate income, subjecting them to greater credit risk than those debt securities. Generally, holders of preferred securities have no voting rights with respect to the issuing company unless preferred dividends have been in arrears for a specified number of periods, at which time the preferred security holders may obtain limited rights. In certain circumstances, an issuer of preferred securities may defer payment on the securities and, in some cases, redeem the securities prior to a specified date. Preferred securities may also be substantially less liquid than other securities, including common stock.
PREMIUM/DISCOUNT RISK. The market price of the Fund’s shares will generally fluctuate in accordance with changes in the Fund’s net asset value as well as the relative supply of and demand for shares on the Exchange. The Fund’s investment advisor cannot predict whether shares will trade below, at or above their net asset value because the shares trade on the Exchange at market prices and not at net asset value. Price differences may be due, in large part, to the fact that supply and demand forces at work in the secondary trading market for shares will be closely related, but not identical, to the same forces influencing the prices of the holdings of the Fund trading individually or in the aggregate at any point in time. However, given that shares can only be purchased and redeemed in Creation Units, and only to and from broker-dealers and large institutional investors that have entered into participation agreements (unlike shares of closed-end funds, which frequently trade at appreciable discounts from, and sometimes at premiums to, their net asset value), the Fund’s investment advisor believes that large discounts or premiums to the net asset value of shares should not be sustained. During stressed market conditions, the market
10

First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
for the Fund’s shares may become less liquid in response to deteriorating liquidity in the market for the Fund’s underlying portfolio holdings, which could in turn lead to differences between the market price of the Fund’s shares and their net asset value.
PREPAYMENT RISK. Prepayment risk is the risk that the issuer of a debt security will repay principal prior to the scheduled maturity date. Debt securities allowing prepayment may offer less potential for gains during a period of declining interest rates, as the Fund may be required to reinvest the proceeds of any prepayment at lower interest rates. These factors may cause the value of an investment in the Fund to change.
REPURCHASE AGREEMENT RISK. A repurchase agreement is an agreement to purchase a security from a party at one price and a simultaneous agreement to sell it back to the original party at an agreed-upon price, typically representing the purchase price plus interest. Repurchase agreements are subject to the risk of failure. If the Fund's counterparty defaults on its obligations and the Fund is delayed or prevented from recovering the collateral, or if the value of the collateral is insufficient, the Fund may realize a loss.
RESTRICTED SECURITIES RISK. Restricted securities are securities that cannot be offered for public resale unless registered under the applicable securities laws or that have a contractual restriction that prohibits or limits their resale. The Fund may be unable to sell a restricted security on short notice or may be able to sell them only at a price below current value.
SENIOR LOAN RISK. Senior loans represent debt obligations of sub-investment grade corporate borrowers, similar to high yield bonds; however, senior loans are different from traditional high yield bonds in that senior loans are typically senior to other obligations of the borrower and generally secured by a lien on all or some portion of the assets of the borrower. The senior loan market has seen a significant increase in loans with weaker lender protections including, but not limited to, limited financial maintenance covenants or, in some cases, no financial maintenance covenants (i.e., “covenant-lite loans”) that would typically be included in a traditional loan agreement and general weakening of other restrictive covenants applicable to the borrower such as limitations on incurrence of additional debt, restrictions on payments of junior debt or restrictions on dividends and distributions. Weaker lender protections such as the absence of financial maintenance covenants in a loan agreement and the inclusion of “borrower-favorable” terms may impact recovery values and/or trading levels of senior loans in the future. The absence of financial maintenance covenants in a loan agreement generally means that the lender may not be able to declare a default if financial performance deteriorates. This may hinder the Fund’s ability to reprice credit risk associated with a particular borrower and reduce the Fund’s ability to restructure a problematic loan and mitigate potential loss. As a result, the Fund’s exposure to losses on investments in senior loans may be increased, especially during a downturn in the credit cycle or changes in market or economic conditions.
Senior loans are also subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk that may be heightened because of the limited public information available regarding senior loans. If the Fund holds a senior loan through another financial institution or relies on a financial institution to administer the loan, its receipt of principal and interest on the loan may be subject to the credit risk of that financial institution. Although senior loans are generally secured by specific collateral, there can be no assurance that liquidation of such collateral would satisfy the borrower’s obligation in the event of non-payment of scheduled interest or principal or that such collateral could be readily liquidated.
No active trading market may exist for certain senior loans, which may impair the ability of the Fund to realize full value in the event of the need to sell its position in a senior loan and which may make it difficult to accurately value senior loans. Lastly, senior loans may not be considered “securities,” and the Fund may not be entitled to rely on the anti-fraud protections of the federal securities laws.
SIGNIFICANT EXPOSURE RISK. To the extent that the Fund invests a significant percentage of its assets in a single asset class or the securities of issuers within the same country, state, region, industry or sector, an adverse economic, business or political development may affect the value of the Fund’s investments more than if the Fund were more broadly diversified. A significant exposure makes the Fund more susceptible to any single occurrence and may subject the Fund to greater market risk than a fund that is more broadly diversified.
SOVEREIGN DEBT SECURITIES RISK. Sovereign debt securities are issued or guaranteed by foreign governmental entities. Investments in such securities are subject to the risk that the relevant sovereign government or governmental entity may delay or refuse to pay interest or repay principal on its debt. Such delays or refusals may be due to cash flow problems, insufficient foreign currency reserves, political considerations, the size of its debt relative to the economy or the failure to put in place economic reforms required by the International Monetary Fund or other multilateral agencies. There is no legal
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First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
process for collecting sovereign debt that is not repaid, nor are there bankruptcy proceedings through which all or part of the unpaid sovereign debt may be collected.
SWAP AGREEMENTS RISK. Swap agreements may involve greater risks than direct investment in securities as they may be leveraged and are subject to credit risk, counterparty risk and valuation risk. A swap agreement could result in losses if the underlying reference or asset does not perform as anticipated. In addition, many swaps trade over-the-counter and may be considered illiquid. It may not be possible for the Fund to liquidate a swap position at an advantageous time or price, which may result in significant losses.
TRADING ISSUES RISK. Trading in Fund shares on the Exchange may be halted due to market conditions or for reasons that, in the view of the Exchange, make trading in shares inadvisable. In addition, trading in Fund shares on the Exchange is subject to trading halts caused by extraordinary market volatility pursuant to the Exchange’s “circuit breaker” rules. There can be no assurance that the requirements of the Exchange necessary to maintain the listing of the Fund will continue to be met or will remain unchanged. The Fund may have difficulty maintaining its listing on the Exchange in the event the Fund’s assets are small, the Fund does not have enough shareholders, or if the Fund is unable to proceed with creation and/or redemption orders.
U.S. GOVERNMENT SECURITIES RISK. U.S. government securities are subject to interest rate risk but generally do not involve the credit risks associated with investments in other types of debt securities. As a result, the yields available from U.S. government securities are generally lower than the yields available from other debt securities. U.S. government securities are guaranteed only as to the timely payment of interest and the payment of principal when held to maturity.While securities issued or guaranteed by U.S. federal government agencies (such as Ginnie Mae) are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, securities issued by government sponsored entities (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are solely the obligation of the issuer and generally do not carry any guarantee from the U.S. government.
VALUATION RISK. Unlike publicly traded securities that trade on national securities exchanges, there is no central place or exchange for trading most debt securities. Debt securities generally trade on an “over-the-counter” market. Due to the lack of centralized information and trading, and variations in lot sizes of certain debt securities, the valuation of debt securities may carry more uncertainty and risk than that of publicly traded securities. Debt securities are commonly valued by third-party pricing services that utilize a range of market-based inputs and assumptions, including readily available market quotations obtained from broker-dealers making markets in such securities, cash flows and transactions for comparable instruments. However, because the available information is less reliable and more subjective, elements of judgment may play a greater role in valuation of debt securities than for other types of securities. There is no assurance that the Fund will be able to sell a portfolio security at the price established by the pricing service, which could result in a loss to the Fund.
WHEN-ISSUED, TBA AND DELAYED DELIVERY TRANSACTIONS RISK. The Fund may purchase securities on a when-issued, to-be-announced ("TBA"), delayed delivery or forward commitment basis. In such a transaction, the purchase price of the securities is typically fixed at the time of the commitment, but delivery and payment can take place a month or more after the date of the commitment. At the time of delivery of the securities, the value may be more or less than the purchase or sale price. Purchasing securities on a when-issued, TBA, delayed delivery or forward commitment basis may give rise to investment leverage and may increase the Fund’s volatility. Default by, or bankruptcy of, a counterparty to a when-issued, TBA, delayed delivery or forward commitment transaction would expose the Fund to possible losses because of an adverse market action, expenses or delays in connection with the purchase or sale of the pools specified in such transaction.
Annual Total Return
The bar chart and table below illustrate the annual calendar year returns of the Fund based on net asset value as well as the average annual Fund returns. The bar chart and table provide an indication of the risks of investing in the Fund by showing changes in the Fund’s performance from year-to-year and by showing how the Fund’s average annual total returns based on net asset value compared to those of a broad-based market index. See “Total Return Information” for additional performance information regarding the Fund. The Fund’s performance information is accessible on the Fund’s website at www.ftportfolios.com.
12

First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF
Calendar Year Total Returns as of 12/31 (1)
(1)
The Fund's calendar year-to-date total return based on net asset value for the period 12/31/20 to 09/30/21 was -1.12%.
During the periods shown in the chart above:
Best Quarter
 
Worst Quarter
 
4.02%
June 30, 2020
-1.31%
March 31, 2018
The Fund’s past performance (before and after taxes) is not necessarily an indication of how the Fund will perform in the future.
Returns before taxes do not reflect the effects of any income or capital gains taxes. All after-tax returns are calculated using the historical highest individual federal marginal income tax rates and do not reflect the impact of any state or local tax. Returns after taxes on distributions reflect the taxed return on the payment of dividends and capital gains. Returns after taxes on distributions and sale of shares assume you sold your shares at period end, and, therefore, are also adjusted for any capital gains or losses incurred. Returns for the market indices do not include expenses, which are deducted from Fund returns, or taxes.
Your own actual after-tax returns will depend on your specific tax situation and may differ from what is shown here. After-tax returns are not relevant to investors who hold Fund shares in tax-deferred accounts such as individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or employee-sponsored retirement plans.
Average Annual Total Returns for the Periods Ended December 31, 2020
 
1 Year
Since
Inception
Inception
Date
Return Before Taxes
9.15%
5.52%
2/14/2017
Return After Taxes on Distributions
7.83%
4.22%
 
Return After Taxes on Distributions and Sale of Fund Shares
5.43%
3.67%
 
Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index (reflects no deduction for fees,
expenses or taxes)
7.51%
4.99%
 
Management
Investment Advisor
First Trust Advisors L.P. (“First Trust” or the “Advisor”)
Investment Sub-Advisor
TCW Investment Management Company LLC (“TCW” or the “Sub-Advisor”)
Portfolio Managers
The following persons serve as the portfolio managers of the Fund:
13

First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
Stephen M. Kane, CFA, Generalist Portfolio Manager, Co-Chief Investment Officer and Co-Director in the Fixed Income Group of TCW
Laird Landmann, Generalist Portfolio Manager and Co-Director in the Fixed Income Group of TCW
Bryan T. Whalen, CFA, Generalist Portfolio Manager, Co-Chief Investment Officer and Co-Director in the Fixed Income Group of TCW
The portfolio managers are primarily and jointly responsible for the day-to-day management of the Fund. Each portfolio manager has served as a part of the portfolio management team of the Fund since 2017.
Purchase and Sale of Fund Shares
The Fund issues and redeems shares on a continuous basis, at net asset value, only in large blocks of shares called “Creation Units.” Individual shares of the Fund may only be purchased and sold on the secondary market through a broker-dealer. Since shares of the Fund trade on securities exchanges in the secondary market at their market price rather than their net asset value, the Fund’s shares may trade at a price greater than (premium) or less than (discount) the Fund’s net asset value. An investor may incur costs attributable to the difference between the highest price a buyer is willing to pay to purchase shares of the Fund (bid) and the lowest price a seller is willing to accept for shares of the Fund (ask) when buying or selling shares in the secondary market (the “bid-ask spread”). Recent information, including the Fund’s net asset value, market price, premiums and discounts, bid-ask spreads and the median bid-ask spread for the Fund’s most recent fiscal year, is available online at https://www.ftportfolios.com/Retail/etf/home.aspx.
Tax Information
The Fund’s distributions are taxable and will generally be taxed as ordinary income or capital gains. Distributions on shares held in a tax-deferred account, while not immediately taxable, will be subject to tax when the shares are no longer held in a tax-deferred account.
Payments to Broker-Dealers and Other Financial Intermediaries
If you purchase shares of the Fund through a broker-dealer or other financial intermediary (such as a bank), First Trust and First Trust Portfolios L.P., the Fund’s distributor, may pay the intermediary for the sale of Fund shares and related services. These payments may create a conflict of interest by influencing the broker-dealer or other intermediary and your salesperson to recommend the Fund over another investment. Ask your salesperson or visit your financial intermediary’s website for more information.
14

Summary Information

First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
Investment Objective
The investment objective of the First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (the “Fund”) is to seek to maximize long-term total return.
Fees and Expenses of the Fund
The following table describes the fees and expenses you may pay if you buy, hold and sell shares of the Fund. Investors may pay other fees, such as brokerage commissions and other fees to financial intermediaries, which are not reflected in the table and example below.
Shareholder Fees
(fees paid directly from your investment)
Maximum Sales Charge (Load) Imposed on Purchases (as a percentage of offering price)
None
Annual Fund Operating Expenses
(expenses that you pay each year as a percentage of the value of your investment)
Management Fees
0.85%
Distribution and Service (12b-1) Fees
0.00%
Other Expenses
0.00%
Acquired Fund Fees and Expenses
0.01%
Total Annual Fund Operating Expenses
0.86%
Fee Waiver(1)
0.10%
Total Annual Fund Operating Expenses After Fee Waiver
0.76%
(1)
Pursuant to a contractual agreement, First Trust Advisors L.P., the Fund's investment advisor, has agreed to waive management fees of 0.10% of average daily net assets until December 31, 2022. The waiver agreement may be terminated by action of the Trust's Board of Trustees at any time upon 60 days' written notice by the Trust, on behalf of the Fund, or by the Fund's investment advisor only after December 31, 2022.
Example
The example below is intended to help you compare the cost of investing in the Fund with the cost of investing in other funds. This example does not take into account customary brokerage commissions that you pay when purchasing or selling shares of the Fund in the secondary market.
The example assumes that you invest $10,000 in the Fund for the time periods indicated and then hold or sell all of your shares at the end of those periods. The example also assumes that your investment has a 5% return each year and that the Fund’s operating expenses remain at current levels. The example assumes First Trust's agreement to waive management fees of 0.10% of average daily net assets will be terminated following December 31, 2022. Although your actual costs may be higher or lower, based on these assumptions your costs would be:
1 Year
3 Years
5 Years
10 Years
$78
$264
$467
$1,052
Portfolio Turnover
The Fund pays transaction costs, such as commissions, when it buys and sells securities (or “turns over” its portfolio). A higher portfolio turnover rate may indicate higher transaction costs and may result in higher taxes when Fund shares are held in a taxable account. These costs, which are not reflected in annual fund operating expenses or in the example, affect the Fund’s performance. During the most recent fiscal year, the Fund’s portfolio turnover rate was 190% of the average value of its portfolio.
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First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
Principal Investment Strategies
Under normal market conditions, the Fund invests at least 80% of its net assets (including investment borrowings) in a portfolio of fixed income securities. The Fund’s investment sub-advisor, TCW Investment Management Company LLC (“TCW” or the “Sub-Advisor”), manages the Fund’s portfolio in an “unconstrained” manner, meaning that its investment universe is not limited to the securities of any particular index and it has discretion to invest in fixed income securities of any type or credit quality, including up to 70% of its net assets in high yield (or “junk”) securities, up to 60% of its net assets in securities issued by issuers with significant ties to emerging market countries and up to 50% of its net assets in securities denominated in non-U.S. currencies. Additionally, under normal market conditions, the Fund’s average portfolio duration will vary from between 0 to 10 years. Duration is a measure of the expected price volatility of a fixed income security as a result of changes in market rates of interest.
In managing the Fund’s portfolio, TCW employs a flexible approach that allocates the Fund’s investments across a range of global investment opportunities and actively manage exposure to interest rates, credit sectors and currencies. At the core of TCW’s investment process is its long-term economic outlook, which drives duration and yield curve and sector positioning. TCW will also seek to utilize independent, bottom-up research to identify securities that are undervalued and that offer a superior risk/return profile.
Pursuant to this investment strategy, the Fund may invest principally in the following types of fixed income securities: securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government or its agencies, instrumentalities or U.S. government-sponsored entities; Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (“TIPS”); residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities; asset-backed securities; U.S. corporate bonds; fixed income securities issued by non-U.S. corporations and governments, including those with significant ties to emerging market countries; bank loans, including first lien senior secured floating rate bank loans (“Senior Loans”); municipal bonds; collateralized loan obligations ("CLOs"); Rule 144A securities; and other debt securities bearing fixed, floating or variable interest rates of any maturity. The Fund may also invest in preferred stock and common stock.
The Fund may invest a significant portion of its assets in securitized investment products, including up to 50% of its net assets in each of asset-backed securities, residential mortgage-backed securities and commercial mortgage-backed securities. The Fund may invest in mortgage-backed securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, its agencies or instrumentalities (such as Ginnie Mae), and U.S. government-sponsored entities (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). Government agency or instrumentality securities have different levels of credit support. The Fund may invest in such government supported mortgage-backed securities by investing in to-be-announced transactions (“TBA Transactions”). The Fund may invest in the following non-agency, non-government-sponsored entity securities and privately-issued mortgage-related and other asset-backed securities: residential mortgage- backed securities, commercial mortgage-backed securities, asset-backed securities and CLOs (collectively, “Private MBS/ABS”). The Fund’s investments in Private MBS/ABS are subject to the following restrictions: (1) the Fund may not invest more than 50% of its total assets in Private MBS/ABS; (2) the Fund may not invest more than 25% of its total assets in non-agency residential mortgage-backed securities; (3) the Fund may not invest more than 25% of its total assets in non-agency commercial mortgage-backed securities and CLOs; and (4) the Fund may not invest more than 25% of its total assets in non-agency asset-backed securities.
As stated above, the Fund may invest up to 70% of its net assets in securities rated below investment grade by one or more nationally recognized statistical rating organization (“NRSROs”), or, if unrated, judged to be of comparable quality by the Sub-Advisor (commonly referred to as “high yield” or “junk” bonds). The Fund may also invest in distressed securities, which are securities that are in default and are not expected to pay the current coupon. The Fund may also invest up to 60% of its net assets in securities of issuers with significant ties to emerging markets, as determined by the Sub-Advisor. The Sub-Advisor considers emerging market countries to be countries that are characterized by developing commercial and financial infrastructure with significant potential for economic growth and increased capital market participation by non-U.S. investors.
The Fund may also utilize listed and over-the-counter traded derivatives instruments including, but not limited to, futures, options, swap agreements (including credit default swaps) and forward contracts for duration/yield curve management and/or hedging purposes. The Fund may invest up to 25% of its total assets in over-the-counter derivatives that are used to reduce currency, interest rate or credit risk arising from the Fund’s investments. The Fund’s investments in over-the-counter derivatives that are not used to hedge the Fund’s portfolio against currency, interest rate or credit risk will be limited to 20% of the Fund’s total assets. For purposes of these percentage limitations on over-the-counter derivatives, the weight of such derivatives will be calculated as the aggregate gross notional value of such over-the-counter derivatives.
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First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
Principal Risks
You could lose money by investing in the Fund. An investment in the Fund is not a deposit of a bank and is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other governmental agency. There can be no assurance that the Fund’s investment objective will be achieved. The order of the below risk factors does not indicate the significance of any particular risk factor.
ASSET-BACKED SECURITIES RISK. Asset-backed securities are debt securities typically created by buying and pooling loans or other receivables other than mortgage loans and creating securities backed by those similar type assets. As with other debt securities, asset-backed securities are subject to credit risk, extension risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. These securities are generally not backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government and are subject to the risk of default on the underlying asset or loan, particularly during periods of economic downturn. The impairment of the value of collateral or other assets underlying an asset-backed security, such as a result of non-payment of loans or non-performance of underlying assets, may result in a reduction in the value of such asset-backed securities and losses to the Fund.
AUTHORIZED PARTICIPANT CONCENTRATION RISK. Only an authorized participant may engage in creation or redemption transactions directly with the Fund. A limited number of institutions act as authorized participants for the Fund. To the extent that these institutions exit the business or are unable to proceed with creation and/or redemption orders and no other authorized participant steps forward to create or redeem, the Fund’s shares may trade at a premium or discount to the Fund’s net asset value and possibly face delisting.
BANK LOANS RISK. Investments in bank loans are subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk that may be heightened because of the limited public information available regarding bank loans and because loan borrowers may be leveraged and tend to be more adversely affected by changes in market or economic conditions. If the Fund holds a bank loan through another financial institution or relies on a financial institution to administer the loan, its receipt of principal and interest on the loan may be subject to the credit risk of that financial institution. It is possible that any collateral securing a loan may be insufficient or unavailable to the Fund, and that the Fund’s rights to collateral may be limited by bankruptcy or insolvency laws. Additionally, there is no central clearinghouse for loan trades and the loan market has not established enforceable settlement standards or remedies for failure to settle. As such, the secondary market for bank loans may be subject to irregular trading activity, wide bid/ask spreads and extended trade settlement periods (in some cases longer than 7 days) which may cause the Fund to be unable to realize the full value of its investment. In addition, bank loans are generally not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and may not be considered “securities,” and the Fund may not be entitled to rely on the anti-fraud protections of the federal securities laws.
CALL RISK. Some debt securities may be redeemed, or “called,” at the option of the issuer before their stated maturity date. In general, an issuer will call its debt securities if they can be refinanced by issuing new debt securities which bear a lower interest rate. The Fund is subject to the possibility that during periods of falling interest rates an issuer will call its high yielding debt securities. The Fund would then be forced to invest the proceeds at lower interest rates, likely resulting in a decline in the Fund’s income.
CASH TRANSACTIONS RISK. The Fund will effect some or all of its creations and redemptions for cash rather than in-kind. As a result, an investment in the Fund may be less tax-efficient than an investment in an ETF that effects all of its creations and redemptions in-kind. Because the Fund may effect redemptions for cash, it may be required to sell portfolio securities in order to obtain the cash needed to distribute redemption proceeds. A sale of portfolio securities may result in capital gains or losses and may also result in higher brokerage costs.
CLO RISK. The Fund may invest in CLOs. CLOs bear many of the same risks as other forms of asset-backed securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. As they are backed by pools of loans, CLOs also bear similar risks to investing in loans directly. CLOs issue classes or “tranches” that vary in risk, expected maturity, priority of payment and yield. CLOs may experience substantial losses attributable to loan defaults. Losses caused by defaults on underlying loans are typically borne first by the holders of subordinate tranches. Investment in CLOs may decrease in market value when the CLO experiences loan defaults or credit impairment, the disappearance of one or more subordinate classes, or market anticipation of defaults and investor aversion to CLO securities as a class.
COUNTERPARTY RISK. Fund transactions involving a counterparty are subject to the risk that the counterparty will not fulfill its obligation to the Fund. Counterparty risk may arise because of the counterparty’s financial condition (i.e., financial difficulties, bankruptcy, or insolvency), market activities and developments, or other reasons, whether foreseen or not. A counterparty’s
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inability to fulfill its obligation may result in significant financial loss to the Fund. The Fund may be unable to recover its investment from the counterparty or may obtain a limited recovery, and/or recovery may be delayed.
COVENANT-LITE LOANS RISK. There may be instances in which the Fund invests in covenant-lite loans. Covenant-lite loans contain fewer maintenance covenants, or no maintenance covenants at all, than traditional loans and may not include terms that allow the lender to monitor the financial performance of the borrower and declare a default if certain criteria are breached. This may hinder the Fund’s ability to reprice credit risk associated with the borrower and reduce the Fund’s ability to restructure a problematic loan and mitigate potential loss. As a result, the Fund’s exposure to losses on such investments is increased, especially during a downturn in the credit cycle.
CREDIT DEFAULT SWAPS RISK. Credit default swap transactions involve greater risks than if the Fund had invested in the reference obligation directly. In addition to general market risks, credit default swaps are subject to liquidity risk, counterparty risk and credit risks. With respect to a reference obligation, a buyer will lose its investment and recover nothing should no event of default occur. For a seller, if an event of default were to occur, the value of the reference obligation received by the seller, coupled with the periodic payments previously received, may be less than the full notional value it pays to the buyer, resulting in a loss of value. When the Fund acts as a seller of a credit default swap agreement, it is exposed to the risks of leverage since if an event of default occurs with respect to a reference obligation, the seller must pay the buyer the full notional value of the reference obligation.
CREDIT RISK. An issuer or other obligated party of a debt security held by the Fund may be unable or unwilling to make dividend, interest and/or principal payments when due. In addition, the value of a debt security may decline because of concerns about the issuer’s ability or unwillingness to make such payments.
CYBER SECURITY RISK. The Fund is susceptible to operational risks through breaches in cyber security. A breach in cyber security refers to both intentional and unintentional events that may cause the Fund to lose proprietary information, suffer data corruption or lose operational capacity. Such events could cause the Fund to incur regulatory penalties, reputational damage, additional compliance costs associated with corrective measures and/or financial loss. Cyber security breaches may involve unauthorized access to the Fund’s digital information systems through “hacking” or malicious software coding but may also result from outside attacks such as denial-of-service attacks through efforts to make network services unavailable to intended users. In addition, cyber security breaches of the issuers of securities in which the Fund invests or the Fund’s third-party service providers, such as its administrator, transfer agent, custodian, or sub-advisor, as applicable, can also subject the Fund to many of the same risks associated with direct cyber security breaches. Although the Fund has established risk management systems designed to reduce the risks associated with cyber security, there is no guarantee that such efforts will succeed, especially because the Fund does not directly control the cyber security systems of issuers or third-party service providers.
DEBT SECURITIES RISK. Investments in debt securities subject the holder to the credit risk of the issuer. Credit risk refers to the possibility that the issuer or other obligor of a security will not be able or willing to make payments of interest and principal when due. Generally, the value of debt securities will change inversely with changes in interest rates. To the extent that interest rates rise, certain underlying obligations may be paid off substantially slower than originally anticipated and the value of those securities may fall sharply. During periods of falling interest rates, the income received by the Fund may decline. If the principal on a debt security is prepaid before expected, the prepayments of principal may have to be reinvested in obligations paying interest at lower rates. Debt securities generally do not trade on a securities exchange making them generally less liquid and more difficult to value than common stock.
DERIVATIVES RISK. The use of derivative instruments involves risks different from, or possibly greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in securities and other traditional investments. These risks include: (i) the risk that the counterparty to a derivative transaction may not fulfill its contractual obligations; (ii) risk of mispricing or improper valuation; and (iii) the risk that changes in the value of the derivative may not correlate perfectly with the underlying asset. Derivative prices are highly volatile and may fluctuate substantially during a short period of time. Such prices are influenced by numerous factors that affect the markets, including, but not limited to: changing supply and demand relationships; government programs and policies; national and international political and economic events, changes in interest rates, inflation and deflation and changes in supply and demand relationships. Trading derivative instruments involves risks different from, or possibly greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in securities. Derivative contracts ordinarily have leverage inherent in their terms. The low margin deposits normally required in trading derivatives, including futures contracts, permit a high degree of leverage. Accordingly, a relatively small price movement may result in an immediate and substantial loss. The use of leverage may also cause the Fund to liquidate portfolio positions when it would not be advantageous to do so in order to satisfy its obligations
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or to meet collateral segregation requirements. The use of leveraged derivatives can magnify potential for gain or loss and, therefore, amplify the effects of market volatility on share price.
DISTRESSED SECURITIES RISK. Distressed debt securities are speculative and involve substantial risks in addition to the risks of investing in high-yield securities that are not in default. In some instances, the Fund will not receive interest payments from the distressed securities it holds, and there is a substantial risk that the principal will not be repaid. In any reorganization or liquidation proceeding related to a distressed debt security, the Fund may lose its entire investment in the security.
EQUITY SECURITIES RISK. The value of the Fund’s shares will fluctuate with changes in the value of the equity securities in which it invests. Equity securities prices fluctuate for several reasons, including changes in investors’ perceptions of the financial condition of an issuer or the general condition of the relevant equity market, such as market volatility, or when political or economic events affecting an issuer occur. Common stock prices may be particularly sensitive to rising interest rates, as the cost of capital rises and borrowing costs increase. Equity securities may decline significantly in price over short or extended periods of time, and such declines may occur in the equity market as a whole, or they may occur in only a particular country, company, industry or sector of the market.
EXTENSION RISK. Extension risk is the risk that, when interest rates rise, certain obligations will be paid off by the issuer (or other obligated party) more slowly than anticipated, causing the value of these debt securities to fall. Rising interest rates tend to extend the duration of debt securities, making their market value more sensitive to changes in interest rates. The value of longer-term debt securities generally changes more in response to changes in interest rates than shorter-term debt securities. As a result, in a period of rising interest rates, securities may exhibit additional volatility and may lose value.
FLOATING RATE DEBT INSTRUMENTS RISK. Investments in floating rate debt instruments are subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. Floating rate debt instruments include debt securities issued by corporate and governmental entities, as well as bank loans, mortgage-backed securities and asset-backed securities. Floating rate debt instruments are structured so that the security’s coupon rate fluctuates based upon the level of a reference rate. Most commonly, the coupon rate of a floating rate debt instrument is set at the level of a widely followed interest rate, plus a fixed spread. As a result, the coupon on floating rate debt instrument will generally decline in a falling interest rate environment, causing the Fund to experience a reduction in the income it receives from the instrument. A floating rate debt instrument’s coupon rate resets periodically according to its terms. Consequently, in a rising interest rate environment, floating rate debt instruments with coupon rates that reset infrequently may lag behind the changes in market interest rates. Floating rate debt instruments may also contain terms that impose a maximum coupon rate the issuer will pay, regardless of the level of the reference rate. To the extent the Fund invests in floating rate loans, such instruments may be subject to legal or contractual restrictions on resale, may trade infrequently, and their value may be impaired when the Fund needs to liquidate such securities. It is possible that the collateral securing a floating rate loan may be insufficient or unavailable to the Fund, and that the Fund’s rights to collateral may be limited by bankruptcy or insolvency laws. Additionally, floating rate loans may not be considered “securities” under federal securities laws, and purchasers, such as the Fund, therefore may not be entitled to rely on the anti-fraud protections of the federal securities laws.
FORWARD CONTRACTS RISK. A forward contract is an over-the-counter derivative transaction between two parties to buy or sell a specified amount of an underlying reference at a specified price (or rate) on a specified date in the future. Forward contracts are negotiated on an individual basis and are not standardized or traded on exchanges. The market for forward contracts is substantially unregulated and can experience lengthy periods of illiquidity, unusually high trading volume and other negative impacts, such as political intervention, which may result in volatility or disruptions in such markets. A relatively small price movement in a forward contract may result in substantial losses to the Fund, exceeding the amount of the margin paid. Forward contracts can increase the Fund’s risk exposure to underlying references and their attendant risks, such as credit risk, currency risk, market risk, and interest rate risk, while also exposing the Fund to counterparty risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk, among others.
FUTURES CONTRACTS RISK. Futures contracts are typically exchange-traded contracts that call for the future delivery of an asset by one party to another at a certain price and date, or cash settlement of the terms of the contract. The risk of a position in a futures contract may be very large compared to the relatively low level of margin the Fund is required to deposit. In many cases, a relatively small price movement in a futures contract may result in immediate and substantial loss or gain to the investor relative to the size of a required margin deposit. In the event no secondary market exists for a particular contract, it might not be possible to effect closing transactions, and the Fund will be unable to terminate the derivative. If the Fund uses futures contracts for hedging purposes, there is a risk of imperfect correlation between movements in the prices of the derivatives and movements in the securities or index underlying the derivatives or movements in the prices of the Fund's
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investments that are the subject of such hedge. The prices of futures contracts may not correlate perfectly with movements in the securities or index underlying them.
HIGH YIELD SECURITIES RISK. High yield securities, or “junk” bonds, are subject to greater market fluctuations, are less liquid and provide a greater risk of loss than investment grade securities, and therefore, are considered to be highly speculative. In general, high yield securities may have a greater risk of default than other types of securities and could cause income and principal losses for the Fund.
INCOME RISK. The Fund’s income may decline when interest rates fall or if there are defaults in its portfolio. This decline can occur because the Fund may subsequently invest in lower-yielding securities as debt securities in its portfolio mature, are near maturity or are called, or the Fund otherwise needs to purchase additional debt securities.
INDEX OR MODEL CONSTITUENT RISK. The Fund may be a constituent of one or more indices or ETF models. As a result, the Fund may be included in one or more index-tracking exchange-traded funds or mutual funds. Being a component security of such a vehicle could greatly affect the trading activity involving the Fund’s shares, the size of the Fund and the market volatility of the Fund. Inclusion in an index could increase demand for the Fund and removal from an index could result in outsized selling activity in a relatively short period of time. As a result, the Fund’s net asset value could be negatively impacted and the Fund’s market price may be below the Fund’s net asset value during certain periods. In addition, index rebalances may potentially result in increased trading activity in the Fund’s shares.
INFLATION RISK. Inflation risk is the risk that the value of assets or income from investments will be less in the future as inflation decreases the value of money. As inflation increases, the present value of the Fund’s assets and distributions may decline.
INFLATION-INDEXED SECURITIES RISK. Inflation-indexed debt securities, such as TIPS, are subject to the same risks as other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. The principal amount of an inflation-indexed security typically increases with inflation and decreases with deflation, as measured by a specified index. Although the holders of TIPS receive no less than the par value of the security at maturity, if the Fund purchases TIPS in the secondary market whose principal values have previously been adjusted upward and there is a period of subsequent declining inflation rates, the Fund may receive at maturity less than it invested and incur a loss.
INTEREST RATE RISK. Interest rate risk is the risk that the value of the debt securities in the Fund’s portfolio will decline because of rising market interest rates. Interest rate risk is generally lower for shorter term debt securities and higher for longer-term debt securities. The Fund may be subject to a greater risk of rising interest rates than would normally be the case due to the current period of historically low rates and the effect of potential government fiscal policy initiatives and resulting market reaction to those initiatives. Duration is a reasonably accurate measure of a debt security’s price sensitivity to changes in interest rates and a common measure of interest rate risk. Duration measures a debt security’s expected life on a present value basis, taking into account the debt security’s yield, interest payments and final maturity. In general, duration represents the expected percentage change in the value of a security for an immediate 1% change in interest rates. For example, the price of a debt security with a three-year duration would be expected to drop by approximately 3% in response to a 1% increase in interest rates. Therefore, prices of debt securities with shorter durations tend to be less sensitive to interest rate changes than debt securities with longer durations. As the value of a debt security changes over time, so will its duration.
LIBOR RISK. The United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates LIBOR, will cease making LIBOR available as a reference rate over a phase-out period that will begin immediately after December 31, 2021. The unavailability or replacement of LIBOR may affect the value, liquidity or return on certain Fund investments and may result in costs incurred in connection with closing out positions and entering into new trades. Any potential effects of the transition away from LIBOR on the Fund or on certain instruments in which the Fund invests can be difficult to ascertain, and they may vary depending on a variety of factors. Any such effects of the transition away from LIBOR, as well as other unforeseen effects, could result in losses to the Fund.
LIQUIDITY RISK. The Fund may hold certain investments that may be subject to restrictions on resale, trade over-the-counter or in limited volume, or lack an active trading market. Accordingly, the Fund may not be able to sell or close out of such investments at favorable times or prices (or at all), or at the prices approximating those at which the Fund currently values them. Illiquid securities may trade at a discount from comparable, more liquid investments and may be subject to wide fluctuations in market value.
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First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
MANAGEMENT RISK. The Fund is subject to management risk because it is an actively managed portfolio. In managing the Fund’s investment portfolio, the portfolio managers will apply investment techniques and risk analyses that may not produce the desired result. There can be no guarantee that the Fund will meet its investment objective.
MARKET MAKER RISK. The Fund faces numerous market trading risks, including the potential lack of an active market for Fund shares due to a limited number of market markers. Decisions by market makers or authorized participants to reduce their role or step away from these activities in times of market stress could inhibit the effectiveness of the arbitrage process in maintaining the relationship between the underlying values of the Fund’s portfolio securities and the Fund’s market price. The Fund may rely on a small number of third-party market makers to provide a market for the purchase and sale of shares. Any trading halt or other problem relating to the trading activity of these market makers could result in a dramatic change in the spread between the Fund’s net asset value and the price at which the Fund’s shares are trading on the Exchange, which could result in a decrease in value of the Fund’s shares. This reduced effectiveness could result in Fund shares trading at a discount to net asset value and also in greater than normal intraday bid-ask spreads for Fund shares.
MARKET RISK. Market risk is the risk that a particular security, or shares of the Fund in general, may fall in value. Securities are subject to market fluctuations caused by such factors as economic, political, regulatory or market developments, changes in interest rates and perceived trends in securities prices. Shares of the Fund could decline in value or underperform other investments. In addition, local, regional or global events such as war, acts of terrorism, spread of infectious diseases or other public health issues, recessions, or other events could have a significant negative impact on the Fund and its investments. For example, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic and the aggressive responses taken by many governments, including closing borders, restricting international and domestic travel, and the imposition of prolonged quarantines or similar restrictions, had negative impacts, and in many cases severe impacts, on markets worldwide. While the development of vaccines has slowed the spread of the virus and allowed for the resumption of reasonably normal business activity in the United States, many countries continue to impose lockdown measures in an attempt to slow the spread. Additionally, there is no guarantee that vaccines will be effective against emerging variants of the disease. As this global pandemic illustrated, such events may affect certain geographic regions, countries, sectors and industries more significantly than others. These events also adversely affect the prices and liquidity of the Fund’s portfolio securities or other instruments and could result in disruptions in the trading markets. Any of such circumstances could have a materially negative impact on the value of the Fund’s shares and result in increased market volatility. During any such events, the Fund’s shares may trade at increased premiums or discounts to their net asset value.
MORTGAGE-RELATED SECURITIES RISK. Mortgage-related securities are subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. However, these investments make the Fund more susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory events that affect the value of real estate. Mortgage-related securities are also significantly affected by the rate of prepayments and modifications of the mortgage loans underlying those securities, as well as by other factors such as borrower defaults, delinquencies, realized or liquidation losses and other shortfalls. The incidence of borrower defaults or delinquencies may rise significantly during financial downturns and could adversely affect the value of mortgage-related securities held by the Fund. Events such as war, acts of terrorism, spread of infectious diseases or other public health issues, recessions, or other events that result in broad and simultaneous financial hardships for individuals and businesses could have a significant negative impact on the value of mortgage-related securities. Mortgage-related securities are particularly sensitive to prepayment risk, given that the term to maturity for mortgage loans is generally substantially longer than the expected lives of those securities. As the timing and amount of prepayments cannot be accurately predicted, the timing of changes in the rate of prepayments of the mortgage loans may significantly affect the Fund's actual yield to maturity on any mortgage-related securities. Along with prepayment risk, mortgage-related securities are significantly affected by interest rate risk.
MUNICIPAL SECURITIES RISK. Issuers, including governmental issuers, may be unable to pay their obligations as they come due. The values of municipal securities that depend on a specific revenue source to fund their payment obligations may fluctuate as a result of actual or anticipated changes in the cash flows generated by the revenue source or changes in the priority of the municipal obligation to receive the cash flows generated by the revenue source. The values of municipal securities held by the Fund may be adversely affected by local political and economic conditions and developments. Adverse conditions in an industry significant to a local economy could have a correspondingly adverse effect on the financial condition of local issuers. In addition, income from municipal securities held by the Fund could be declared taxable because of, among other things, unfavorable changes in tax laws, adverse interpretations by the Internal Revenue Service or state tax authorities, or noncompliant conduct of an issuer or other obligated party. Loss of tax-exempt status may cause interest received and distributed to shareholders by the Fund to be taxable and may result in a significant decline in the values of such municipal securities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the risks of the municipal securities market have been magnified. The costs
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First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
associated with combating the pandemic and the negative impact on tax revenues has adversely affected the financial condition of many states and political subdivisions. These risks may also adversely affect several sectors of the municipal bond market, such as airports, toll roads, hospitals and colleges, among many others. The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on state and political subdivisions’ ability to make payments on debt obligations is impossible to predict, but could negatively impact the value of bonds, the ability of state and political subdivisions to make payments when due and the performance of the Fund.
NON-AGENCY SECURITIES RISK. Investments in asset-backed or mortgage-backed securities offered by non-governmental issuers, such as commercial banks, savings and loans, private mortgage insurance companies, mortgage bankers and other secondary market issuers are subject to additional risks. There are no direct or indirect government or agency guarantees of payments in loan pools created by non-government issuers. Securities issued by private issuers are subject to the credit risks of the issuers. An unexpectedly high rate of defaults on the loan pool may adversely affect the value of a non-agency security and could result in losses to the Fund. The risk of such defaults is generally higher in the case of pools that include subprime loans. Non-agency securities are typically traded “over-the-counter” rather than on a securities exchange and there may be a limited market for the securities, especially when there is a perceived weakness in the mortgage and real estate market sectors. Without an active trading market, the non-agency mortgage-related securities held by the Fund may be particularly difficult to value because of the complexities involved in assessing the value of the underlying loans.
NON-U.S. SECURITIES RISK. Non-U.S. securities are subject to higher volatility than securities of domestic issuers due to possible adverse political, social or economic developments, restrictions on foreign investment or exchange of securities, capital controls, lack of liquidity, currency exchange rates, excessive taxation, government seizure of assets, the imposition of sanctions by foreign governments, different legal or accounting standards, and less government supervision and regulation of securities exchanges in foreign countries.
OPERATIONAL RISK. The Fund is subject to risks arising from various operational factors, including, but not limited to, human error, processing and communication errors, errors of the Fund’s service providers, counterparties or other third-parties, failed or inadequate processes and technology or systems failures. The Fund relies on third-parties for a range of services, including custody. Any delay or failure relating to engaging or maintaining such service providers may affect the Fund’s ability to meet its investment objective. Although the Fund and the Fund's investment advisor seek to reduce these operational risks through controls and procedures, there is no way to completely protect against such risks.
OPTIONS RISK. The use of options involves investment strategies and risks different from those associated with ordinary portfolio securities transactions and depends on the ability of the Fund's portfolio managers to forecast market movements correctly. The prices of options are volatile and are influenced by, among other things, actual and anticipated changes in the value of the underlying instrument, or in interest or currency exchange rates, including the anticipated volatility, which in turn are affected by fiscal and monetary policies and by national and international political and economic events. The effective use of options also depends on the Fund's ability to terminate option positions at times deemed desirable to do so. There is no assurance that the Fund will be able to effect closing transactions at any particular time or at an acceptable price. In addition, there may at times be an imperfect correlation between the movement in values of options and their underlying securities and there may at times not be a liquid secondary market for certain options.
OTC DERIVATIVES RISK. The Fund may utilize derivatives that are traded over-the-counter, or “OTC.” In general, OTC derivatives are subject to the same risks as derivatives generally, as described throughout. However, because OTC derivatives do not trade on an exchange, the parties to an OTC derivative face heightened levels of counterparty risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. To the extent that the Fund utilizes OTC derivatives, its counterparty risk will be higher if it only trades with a single or small number of counterparties. The secondary market for OTC derivatives may not be as deep as for other instruments and such instruments may experience periods of illiquidity. In addition, some OTC derivatives may be complex and difficult to value.
PORTFOLIO TURNOVER RISK. High portfolio turnover may result in the Fund paying higher levels of transaction costs and may generate greater tax liabilities for shareholders. Portfolio turnover risk may cause the Fund’s performance to be less than expected.
PREFERRED SECURITIES RISK. Preferred securities combine some of the characteristics of both common stocks and bonds. Preferred securities are typically subordinated to bonds and other debt securities in a company’s capital structure in terms of priority to corporate income, subjecting them to greater credit risk than those debt securities. Generally, holders of preferred securities have no voting rights with respect to the issuing company unless preferred dividends have been in arrears for a specified number of periods, at which time the preferred security holders may obtain limited rights. In certain circumstances,
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First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
an issuer of preferred securities may defer payment on the securities and, in some cases, redeem the securities prior to a specified date. Preferred securities may also be substantially less liquid than other securities, including common stock.
PREMIUM/DISCOUNT RISK. The market price of the Fund’s shares will generally fluctuate in accordance with changes in the Fund’s net asset value as well as the relative supply of and demand for shares on the Exchange. The Fund’s investment advisor cannot predict whether shares will trade below, at or above their net asset value because the shares trade on the Exchange at market prices and not at net asset value. Price differences may be due, in large part, to the fact that supply and demand forces at work in the secondary trading market for shares will be closely related, but not identical, to the same forces influencing the prices of the holdings of the Fund trading individually or in the aggregate at any point in time. However, given that shares can only be purchased and redeemed in Creation Units, and only to and from broker-dealers and large institutional investors that have entered into participation agreements (unlike shares of closed-end funds, which frequently trade at appreciable discounts from, and sometimes at premiums to, their net asset value), the Fund’s investment advisor believes that large discounts or premiums to the net asset value of shares should not be sustained. During stressed market conditions, the market for the Fund’s shares may become less liquid in response to deteriorating liquidity in the market for the Fund’s underlying portfolio holdings, which could in turn lead to differences between the market price of the Fund’s shares and their net asset value.
PREPAYMENT RISK. Prepayment risk is the risk that the issuer of a debt security will repay principal prior to the scheduled maturity date. Debt securities allowing prepayment may offer less potential for gains during a period of declining interest rates, as the Fund may be required to reinvest the proceeds of any prepayment at lower interest rates. These factors may cause the value of an investment in the Fund to change.
REPURCHASE AGREEMENT RISK. A repurchase agreement is an agreement to purchase a security from a party at one price and a simultaneous agreement to sell it back to the original party at an agreed-upon price, typically representing the purchase price plus interest. Repurchase agreements are subject to the risk of failure. If the Fund's counterparty defaults on its obligations and the Fund is delayed or prevented from recovering the collateral, or if the value of the collateral is insufficient, the Fund may realize a loss.
RESTRICTED SECURITIES RISK. Restricted securities are securities that cannot be offered for public resale unless registered under the applicable securities laws or that have a contractual restriction that prohibits or limits their resale. The Fund may be unable to sell a restricted security on short notice or may be able to sell them only at a price below current value.
SENIOR LOAN RISK. Senior loans represent debt obligations of sub-investment grade corporate borrowers, similar to high yield bonds; however, senior loans are different from traditional high yield bonds in that senior loans are typically senior to other obligations of the borrower and generally secured by a lien on all or some portion of the assets of the borrower. The senior loan market has seen a significant increase in loans with weaker lender protections including, but not limited to, limited financial maintenance covenants or, in some cases, no financial maintenance covenants (i.e., “covenant-lite loans”) that would typically be included in a traditional loan agreement and general weakening of other restrictive covenants applicable to the borrower such as limitations on incurrence of additional debt, restrictions on payments of junior debt or restrictions on dividends and distributions. Weaker lender protections such as the absence of financial maintenance covenants in a loan agreement and the inclusion of “borrower-favorable” terms may impact recovery values and/or trading levels of senior loans in the future. The absence of financial maintenance covenants in a loan agreement generally means that the lender may not be able to declare a default if financial performance deteriorates. This may hinder the Fund’s ability to reprice credit risk associated with a particular borrower and reduce the Fund’s ability to restructure a problematic loan and mitigate potential loss. As a result, the Fund’s exposure to losses on investments in senior loans may be increased, especially during a downturn in the credit cycle or changes in market or economic conditions.
Senior loans are also subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk that may be heightened because of the limited public information available regarding senior loans. If the Fund holds a senior loan through another financial institution or relies on a financial institution to administer the loan, its receipt of principal and interest on the loan may be subject to the credit risk of that financial institution. Although senior loans are generally secured by specific collateral, there can be no assurance that liquidation of such collateral would satisfy the borrower’s obligation in the event of non-payment of scheduled interest or principal or that such collateral could be readily liquidated.
No active trading market may exist for certain senior loans, which may impair the ability of the Fund to realize full value in the event of the need to sell its position in a senior loan and which may make it difficult to accurately value senior loans. Lastly,
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First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
senior loans may not be considered “securities,” and the Fund may not be entitled to rely on the anti-fraud protections of the federal securities laws.
SIGNIFICANT EXPOSURE RISK. To the extent that the Fund invests a significant percentage of its assets in a single asset class or the securities of issuers within the same country, state, region, industry or sector, an adverse economic, business or political development may affect the value of the Fund’s investments more than if the Fund were more broadly diversified. A significant exposure makes the Fund more susceptible to any single occurrence and may subject the Fund to greater market risk than a fund that is more broadly diversified.
SOVEREIGN DEBT SECURITIES RISK. Sovereign debt securities are issued or guaranteed by foreign governmental entities. Investments in such securities are subject to the risk that the relevant sovereign government or governmental entity may delay or refuse to pay interest or repay principal on its debt. Such delays or refusals may be due to cash flow problems, insufficient foreign currency reserves, political considerations, the size of its debt relative to the economy or the failure to put in place economic reforms required by the International Monetary Fund or other multilateral agencies. There is no legal process for collecting sovereign debt that is not repaid, nor are there bankruptcy proceedings through which all or part of the unpaid sovereign debt may be collected.
SWAP AGREEMENTS RISK. Swap agreements may involve greater risks than direct investment in securities as they may be leveraged and are subject to credit risk, counterparty risk and valuation risk. A swap agreement could result in losses if the underlying reference or asset does not perform as anticipated. In addition, many swaps trade over-the-counter and may be considered illiquid. It may not be possible for the Fund to liquidate a swap position at an advantageous time or price, which may result in significant losses.
TRADING ISSUES RISK. Trading in Fund shares on the Exchange may be halted due to market conditions or for reasons that, in the view of the Exchange, make trading in shares inadvisable. In addition, trading in Fund shares on the Exchange is subject to trading halts caused by extraordinary market volatility pursuant to the Exchange’s “circuit breaker” rules. There can be no assurance that the requirements of the Exchange necessary to maintain the listing of the Fund will continue to be met or will remain unchanged. The Fund may have difficulty maintaining its listing on the Exchange in the event the Fund’s assets are small, the Fund does not have enough shareholders, or if the Fund is unable to proceed with creation and/or redemption orders.
U.S. GOVERNMENT SECURITIES RISK. U.S. government securities are subject to interest rate risk but generally do not involve the credit risks associated with investments in other types of debt securities. As a result, the yields available from U.S. government securities are generally lower than the yields available from other debt securities. U.S. government securities are guaranteed only as to the timely payment of interest and the payment of principal when held to maturity.While securities issued or guaranteed by U.S. federal government agencies (such as Ginnie Mae) are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, securities issued by government sponsored entities (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are solely the obligation of the issuer and generally do not carry any guarantee from the U.S. government.
VALUATION RISK. Unlike publicly traded securities that trade on national securities exchanges, there is no central place or exchange for trading most debt securities. Debt securities generally trade on an “over-the-counter” market. Due to the lack of centralized information and trading, and variations in lot sizes of certain debt securities, the valuation of debt securities may carry more uncertainty and risk than that of publicly traded securities. Debt securities are commonly valued by third-party pricing services that utilize a range of market-based inputs and assumptions, including readily available market quotations obtained from broker-dealers making markets in such securities, cash flows and transactions for comparable instruments. However, because the available information is less reliable and more subjective, elements of judgment may play a greater role in valuation of debt securities than for other types of securities. There is no assurance that the Fund will be able to sell a portfolio security at the price established by the pricing service, which could result in a loss to the Fund.
WHEN-ISSUED, TBA AND DELAYED DELIVERY TRANSACTIONS RISK. The Fund may purchase securities on a when-issued, to-be-announced ("TBA"), delayed delivery or forward commitment basis. In such a transaction, the purchase price of the securities is typically fixed at the time of the commitment, but delivery and payment can take place a month or more after the date of the commitment. At the time of delivery of the securities, the value may be more or less than the purchase or sale price. Purchasing securities on a when-issued, TBA, delayed delivery or forward commitment basis may give rise to investment leverage and may increase the Fund’s volatility. Default by, or bankruptcy of, a counterparty to a when-issued, TBA, delayed delivery or forward commitment transaction would expose the Fund to possible losses because of an adverse market action, expenses or delays in connection with the purchase or sale of the pools specified in such transaction.
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First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
Annual Total Return
The bar chart and table below illustrate the annual calendar year returns of the Fund based on net asset value as well as the average annual Fund returns. The bar chart and table provide an indication of the risks of investing in the Fund by showing changes in the Fund’s performance from year-to-year and by showing how the Fund’s average annual total returns based on net asset value compared to those of a market index. See “Total Return Information” for additional performance information regarding the Fund. The Fund’s performance information is accessible on the Fund’s website at www.ftportfolios.com.
First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF
Calendar Year Total Returns as of 12/31 (1)
(1)
The Fund's calendar year-to-date total return based on net asset value for the period 12/31/20 to 09/30/21 was 1.34%.
During the period shown in the chart above:
Best Quarter
 
Worst Quarter
 
6.71%
June 30, 2020
-4.66%
March 31, 2020
The Fund’s past performance (before and after taxes) is not necessarily an indication of how the Fund will perform in the future.
Returns before taxes do not reflect the effects of any income or capital gains taxes. All after-tax returns are calculated using the historical highest individual federal marginal income tax rates and do not reflect the impact of any state or local tax. Returns after taxes on distributions reflect the taxed return on the payment of dividends and capital gains. Returns after taxes on distributions and sale of shares assume you sold your shares at period end, and, therefore, are also adjusted for any capital gains or losses incurred. Returns for the market indices do not include expenses, which are deducted from Fund returns, or taxes.
Your own actual after-tax returns will depend on your specific tax situation and may differ from what is shown here. After-tax returns are not relevant to investors who hold Fund shares in tax-deferred accounts such as individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or employee-sponsored retirement plans.
Average Annual Total Returns for the Periods Ended December 31, 2020
 
1 Year
Since
Inception
Inception
Date
Return Before Taxes
6.78%
5.83%
6/4/2018
Return After Taxes on Distributions
5.38%
4.46%
 
Return After Taxes on Distributions and Sale of Fund Shares
3.98%
3.87%
 
ICE BofA US Dollar 3-Month Deposit Offered Rate Average Index (reflects no
deduction for fees, expenses or taxes)
0.87%
1.85%
 
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First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
Management
Investment Advisor
First Trust Advisors L.P. (“First Trust” or the “Advisor”)
Investment Sub-Advisor
TCW Investment Management Company LLC (“TCW” or the “Sub-Advisor”)
Portfolio Managers
The following persons serve as the portfolio managers of the Fund:
Stephen M. Kane, CFA, Generalist Portfolio Manager, Co-Chief Investment Officer and Co-Director in the Fixed Income Group of TCW
Laird Landmann, Generalist Portfolio Manager and Co-Director in the Fixed Income Group of TCW
Bryan T. Whalen, CFA, Generalist Portfolio Manager, Co-Chief Investment Officer and Co-Director in the Fixed Income Group of TCW
The portfolio managers are primarily and jointly responsible for the day-to-day management of the Fund. Each portfolio manager has served as a part of the portfolio management team of the Fund since 2018.
Purchase and Sale of Fund Shares
The Fund issues and redeems shares on a continuous basis, at net asset value, only in large blocks of shares called “Creation Units.” Individual shares of the Fund may only be purchased and sold on the secondary market through a broker-dealer. Since shares of the Fund trade on securities exchanges in the secondary market at their market price rather than their net asset value, the Fund’s shares may trade at a price greater than (premium) or less than (discount) the Fund’s net asset value. An investor may incur costs attributable to the difference between the highest price a buyer is willing to pay to purchase shares of the Fund (bid) and the lowest price a seller is willing to accept for shares of the Fund (ask) when buying or selling shares in the secondary market (the “bid-ask spread”). Recent information, including the Fund’s net asset value, market price, premiums and discounts, bid-ask spreads and the median bid-ask spread for the Fund’s most recent fiscal year, is available online at https://www.ftportfolios.com/Retail/etf/home.aspx.
Tax Information
The Fund’s distributions are taxable and will generally be taxed as ordinary income or capital gains. Distributions on shares held in a tax-deferred account, while not immediately taxable, will be subject to tax when the shares are no longer held in a tax-deferred account.
Payments to Broker-Dealers and Other Financial Intermediaries
If you purchase shares of the Fund through a broker-dealer or other financial intermediary (such as a bank), First Trust and First Trust Portfolios L.P., the Fund’s distributor, may pay the intermediary for the sale of Fund shares and related services. These payments may create a conflict of interest by influencing the broker-dealer or other intermediary and your salesperson to recommend the Fund over another investment. Ask your salesperson or visit your financial intermediary’s website for more information.
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Additional Information on the Funds' Investment Objectives and Strategies
Each Fund is a series of First Trust Exchange-Traded Fund VIII and is regulated as an “investment company” under the 1940 Act. Each Fund is actively managed and does not seek to track the performance of an index. Each Fund’s investment objective is fundamental and may not be changed without approval by the holders of a majority of the outstanding voting securities of the Fund. Unless an investment policy is identified as being fundamental, all investment policies included in this prospectus and the Fund’s Statement of Additional Information (“SAI”) are non-fundamental and may be changed by the Board of Trustees of the Trust (the “Board”), without shareholder approval. If there is a material change to a Fund's principal investment strategies, you should consider whether the Fund remains an appropriate investment for you. There is no guarantee that a Fund will achieve its investment objective.
Each Fund has adopted a non-fundamental investment policy pursuant to Rule 35d-1 under the 1940 Act (the “Name Policies”), whereby each Fund, under normal market conditions, will invest at least 80% of its net assets (including investment borrowings) in fixed income securities. The Name Policies may be changed by the Board without shareholder approval upon 60 days’ prior notice.
Fund Investments
Principal Investments
Asset-Backed Securities
Asset-backed securities are securities backed by installment contracts, credit-card receivables or other assets. Asset-backed securities represent interests in “pools” of assets in which payments of both interest and principal on the securities are made on a regular basis. The payments are, in effect, “passed through” to the holder of the securities (net of any fees paid to the issuer or guarantor of the securities). The average life of asset-backed securities varies with the maturities of the underlying instruments and, as a result of prepayments, can often be less than the original maturity of the assets underlying the securities.
Bank Loans
Each Fund may invest up to 15% of its net assets (including investment borrowings) in bank loans. Bank loans include floating rate loans and institutionally traded floating rate debt obligations issued by asset-backed pools and other issuers, and interests therein. Bank loan interests may be acquired from U.S. or foreign commercial banks, insurance companies, finance companies or other financial institutions that have made loans or are members of a lending syndicate or from other holders of loan interests. Bank loans typically pay interest at rates which are re-determined periodically on the basis of a floating base lending rate plus a premium. Bank loans are typically of below investment-grade quality. Bank loans generally hold the most senior position in the capital structure of a borrower and are often secured with collateral.
The Funds may invest in bank loans through assignments or participations. When a Fund is a purchaser of an assignment, it succeeds to all the rights and obligations under the loan agreement of the assigning lender and becomes a lender under the loan agreement with the same rights and obligations as the assigning lender. These rights include the ability to vote along with the other lenders on such matters as enforcing the terms of the loan agreement (e.g., declaring defaults, initiating collection actions, etc.). Taking such actions typically requires at least a vote of the lenders holding a majority of the investment in the loan and may require a vote by lenders holding two-thirds or more of the investment in the loan. Because a Fund usually does not hold a majority of the investment in any loan, it will not be able by itself to control decisions that require a vote by the lenders. A participation interest represents a fractional interest in a loan held by the lender selling a Fund the participation interest. In the case of participations, a Fund will not have any direct contractual relationship with the borrower, the Fund’s rights to consent to modifications of the loan are limited and it is dependent upon the participating lender to enforce the Fund’s rights upon a default. The Funds will have the right to receive payments of principal, interest, and any fees to which it is entitled only from the lender selling the participation and only upon receipt by the lender of the payments from the borrower.
Senior Loans
The Funds' investments in bank loans includes investments in senior loans. Senior loans are secured and are senior to other indebtedness of the borrower. Senior loans are generally secured by collateral such as accounts receivable, inventory, equipment, real estate, intangible assets such as trademarks, copyrights and patents, and securities of subsidiaries or affiliates. The value of the collateral generally will be determined by reference to financial statements of the borrower, by an independent appraisal, by obtaining the market value of such collateral, in the case of cash or securities if readily ascertainable, or by other customary valuation techniques. Senior loans generally consist of obligations of companies and other entities incurred for
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the purpose of reorganizing the assets and liabilities of a borrower, acquiring another company, taking over control of a company, temporary refinancing or financing internal growth or other general business purposes. Senior loans are often obligations of borrowers who have incurred a significant percentage of debt compared to their total assets and thus are highly leveraged.
Other Loans
In addition to their investment in senior loans, the Funds may also invest in secured loans that are not first lien and loans that are unsecured. These loans have the same characteristics as senior loans except that such loans are not first in priority of repayment and/or are not secured by collateral. Because these loans are lower in priority and/or unsecured, they are subject to the additional risk that the cash flow of the borrower may be insufficient to meet scheduled payments after giving effect to the secured obligations of the borrower. In the event of default on such a loan, the first priority lien holder has first claim to the underlying collateral of the loan. It is possible that no value would remain for the holders of secured loans that are not first lien and loans that are unsecured and therefore result in a loss of investment.
Collateralized Loan Obligations
A CLO is a financing company (generally called a “Special Purpose Vehicle” or “SPV”) created to reapportion the risk and return characteristics of a pool of assets. CLOs use funds received from the issuance of debt and equity to acquire a diverse portfolio of loans that are actively managed by the CLO manager. The debt issued by CLOs is divided into separate tranches, each of which has a different risk/return profile based on its priority of claim on the cash flows produced by the underlying loan pool. The most senior and highest rated tranche has the lowest yield but is the most loss remote as it has the highest claim on cash-flow distributions. Mezzanine tranches have higher yields but are more at risk of loss. The lowest tranche is the equity tranche, which does not have a coupon and represents a claim on all excess cash flows once the obligations for each debt tranche have been met. The equity tranche is also the most risky. While the Funds will not invest in the equity tranche, they may invest in the mezzanine tranches. The Funds invest in CLOs consisting primarily of first lien secured loans and not repackaged CLO obligations from other high risk pools. The underlying loans purchased by CLOs are generally performing at the time of purchase but may become non-performing, distressed or defaulted. CLOs with underlying assets of non-performing, distressed or defaulted loans are not contemplated to comprise a significant portion of a Fund’s investments in CLOs.
Debt Securities
Debt securities include obligations typically issued by corporations to borrow money from investors, such as corporate bonds, debentures and notes. These securities may be either secured or unsecured. Holders of debt securities, as creditors, have a prior legal claim over common and preferred shareholders as to both income and assets of the issuer for the principal and interest due them and may have a prior claim over other creditors if liens or mortgages are involved. Interest on debt securities is typically paid semi-annually and is fully taxable to the holder of the securities. The investment return of debt securities reflects interest on the security and changes in the market value of the security. The market value of a fixed rate debt security generally may be expected to rise and fall inversely with changes in interest rates and also may be affected by the credit rating of the issuer, the issuer’s performance and perceptions of the issuer in the marketplace. Debt securities issued by corporations usually have a higher yield than government or agency bonds due to the presence of credit risk.
High Yield Securities
A Fund may invest in securities of any credit quality, including securities that are rated below investment grade. Below investment grade securities are rated below “BBB-” by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Group, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies (“S&P”), or Fitch Ratings, Inc. (“Fitch”), below “Baa3” by Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. (“Moody’s”) or comparably rated by another NRSRO or, if unrated, determined by the Sub-Advisor to be of comparable credit quality at the time of purchase. Below investment grade securities are commonly referred to as “junk” or “high yield” securities and are considered speculative with respect to the issuer’s capacity to pay interest and repay principal.
Sovereign Debt Securities
Sovereign debt securities include bonds, notes and bills, issued or guaranteed by: (i) foreign governments and their instrumentalities, agencies and other political subdivisions; (ii) central banks, sovereign entities, supranational issuers or development agencies; or (iii) entities or enterprises organized, owned, backed or sponsored by any of the entities set forth above.
Derivative Instruments
Each Fund may invest in both exchange-listed and over-the-counter derivatives, including futures, options, swap agreements and forward contracts. Each Fund may invest up to 25% of its total assets in over-the-counter derivatives that are used to
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reduce currency, interest rate or credit risk arising from the Fund’s investments. Each Fund’s investments in over-the-counter derivatives that are not used to hedge the Fund’s portfolio against currency, interest rate or credit risk will be limited to 20% of the Fund’s total assets. For purposes of these percentage limitations on over-the-counter derivatives, the weight of such derivatives will be calculated as the aggregate gross notional value of such over-the-counter derivatives.
Mortgage-Related Investments
Mortgage-related securities are structured debt obligations collateralized by pools of residential or commercial mortgage loans made by banks and other financial institutions to finance purchases of residential homes, commercial buildings and other real estate. The individual mortgage loans are packaged or “pooled” together for sale to investors by various governmental and private organizations and provide the holder with monthly payments derived from the principal and interest payments made by the individual borrowers on the pooled mortgage loans. In their simplest form, mortgage-related securities are structured as “pass-through” securities, meaning they provide investors with monthly payments consisting of a pro rata share of both regular interest and principal payments as well as unscheduled prepayments on the underlying mortgage loans. In the basic mortgage-pass through structure, mortgages with similar issuer, term and coupon characteristics are collected and aggregated into a pool consisting of multiple mortgage loans. The pool is assigned a CUSIP number and undivided interests in the pool are traded and sold as pass-through securities. The holder of the security is entitled to a pro rata share of principal and interest payments (including unscheduled prepayments) from the pool of mortgage loans. However, mortgage-related securities may also be structured as collateralized mortgage obligations (“CMOs”). A CMO is a multi-class bond backed by a pool of mortgage pass-through certificates or mortgage loans. While CMOs may be collateralized by whole mortgage loans or private mortgage bonds, they are generally collateralized by portfolios of mortgage pass-through securities guaranteed by Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and their income streams. Each class of CMOs, often referred to as a “tranche,” is issued at a specific coupon rate and offers investors various maturity and credit risk characteristics. Tranches are categorized as senior, mezzanine, and subordinated/equity or “first loss,” according to their degree of risk. The most senior tranche has the greatest collateralization and pays the lowest interest rate. If there are defaults or the collateral otherwise underperforms, scheduled payments to senior tranches take precedence over those of mezzanine tranches, and scheduled payments to mezzanine tranches take precedence over those to subordinated/equity tranches. Lower tranches represent lower degrees of credit quality and pay higher interest rates intended to compensate for the increased risks. The return on the lower tranches is especially sensitive to the rate of defaults in the collateral pool. The lowest tranche (i.e., the “equity” or “residual” tranche) specifically receives the residual interest payments (money that is left over after the higher tranches have been paid and expenses of the issuing entities have been paid) rather than a fixed interest rate.
Mortgage-related investments may be issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, its agencies or instrumentalities (such as Ginnie Mae), and U.S. government-sponsored entities (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). Government agency or instrumentality securities have different levels of credit support. Securities issued by the U.S. governments, its agencies or instrumentalities carry a guarantee as to the timely repayment of principal and interest that is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. However, the full faith and credit guarantee does not apply to the market prices and yields of the Ginnie Mae securities or to the net asset value, trading price or performance of a Fund, which will vary with changes in interest rates and other market conditions. Securities issued by government-sponsored entities may only be backed by the creditworthiness of the issuing institution, not the U.S. government. Government-sponsored entity issuers may have the right to borrow from the U.S. Treasury to meet their obligations.
Non-U.S. Debt Securities
Non-U.S. debt securities include debt securities issued or guaranteed by companies organized under the laws of countries other than the United States, debt securities issued or guaranteed by foreign, national, provincial, state, municipal or other governments with taxing authority or by their agencies or instrumentalities and debt obligations of supranational governmental entities such as the World Bank or European Union. These debt securities may be U.S. dollar-denominated or non-U.S. dollar-denominated. Non-U.S. debt securities also include U.S. dollar-denominated debt obligations, such as “Yankee Dollar” obligations, of foreign issuers and of supranational government entities. Yankee Dollar obligations are U.S. dollar-denominated obligations issued in the U.S. capital markets by foreign corporations, banks and governments. Non-U.S. debt securities also may be traded on non-U.S. securities exchanges or in over-the-counter capital markets.
Repurchase Agreements
A repurchase agreement is a transaction where a party purchases securities and simultaneously commits to resell them at an agreed-upon date at a price reflecting a market rate of interest unrelated to the coupon rate or maturity of the securities. A
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Fund will enter into repurchase agreements only with counterparties that are deemed to present acceptable credit risks, and the collateral securing the repurchase agreements generally will be limited to U.S. government securities and cash.
U.S. Government Securities
U.S. government securities include U.S. Treasury obligations and securities issued or guaranteed by various agencies of the U.S. government, or by various instrumentalities that have been established or sponsored by the U.S. government. U.S. Treasury obligations are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government. Securities issued or guaranteed by federal agencies and U.S. government sponsored instrumentalities may or may not be backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.
Non-Principal Investments
Cash Equivalents and Short-Term Investments
Normally, a Fund invests substantially all of its assets to meet its investment objective. A Fund may invest the remainder of its assets in securities with maturities of less than one year or cash equivalents, or each may hold cash. The percentage of a Fund invested in such holdings varies and depends on several factors, including market conditions. For temporary defensive purposes and during periods of high cash inflows or outflows, a Fund may depart from its principal investment strategies and invest part or all of its assets in these securities, or it may hold cash. During such periods, a Fund may not be able to achieve its investment objective. A Fund may adopt a defensive strategy when the portfolio managers believe securities in which the Fund normally invests have elevated risks due to political or economic factors and in other extraordinary circumstances. For more information on eligible short-term investments, see the SAI.
Convertible Securities
Convertible securities are generally bonds, debentures, notes, preferred securities or other securities or investments that may be converted or exchanged into equity securities (and/or the cash equivalent thereof), which may be at a stated exchange ratio or predetermined price (the “conversion price”). A convertible security is designed to provide current income and also the potential for capital appreciation through the conversion feature, which enables the holder to benefit from increases (if any) in the market price of the underlying equity security. Accordingly, these equity-linked instruments offer the potential for equity market participation along with, in light of their bond-like characteristics, potential mitigated downside risk (which is generally the risk that a security may suffer a decline in value) in periods of equity market declines.
Equity Securities
First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF may invest in equity securities, including common and preferred stock. Common stock represents an equity ownership interest in issuers. Holders of common stock are entitled to the income and increase in the value of the assets and business of the issuers after all debt obligations and obligations to preferred stockholders are satisfied. Preferred stock, which generally pays fixed or adjustable-rate dividends or interest to investors, has preference over common stock in the payment of dividends or interest and the liquidation of a company’s assets, which means that a company typically must pay dividends or interest on its preferred stock before paying any dividends on its common stock. Preferred stock is generally junior to all forms of the company’s debt, including both senior and subordinated debt.
Exchange-Traded Notes
Exchange-traded notes (“ETNs”) are a type of senior, unsecured, unsubordinated debt security issued by financial institutions that combine both aspects of bonds and ETFs. An ETN’s returns are based on the performance of a market index minus fees and expenses. Similar to ETFs, ETNs are listed on an exchange and traded in the secondary market. However, unlike an ETF, an ETN can be held until the ETN’s maturity, at which time the issuer is obligated to pay a return linked to the performance of the market index to which the ETN is linked minus certain fees. Unlike regular bonds, ETNs do not make periodic interest payments and principal is not protected. When a Fund invests in ETNs, it will bear its proportionate share of any fees and expenses borne by the ETN. A Fund’s decision to sell its ETN holdings may be limited by the availability of a secondary market. In addition, although an ETN may be listed on an exchange, the issuer may not be required to maintain the listing and there can be no assurance that a secondary market will exist for an ETN.
Illiquid Investments
The Funds may invest up to 15% of their net assets in securities and other instruments that are, at the time of investment, illiquid (determined using the Securities and Exchange Commission's standard applicable to investment companies, i.e., any investment that the Fund reasonably expects cannot be sold or disposed of in current market conditions in seven calendar
30

days or less without the sale or disposition significantly changing the market value of the investment). For this purpose, illiquid investments may include, but are not limited to, certain restricted securities (securities the disposition of which is restricted under the federal securities laws), certain securities that may only be sold pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act and certain repurchase agreements, among others.
Investment Companies and Other Pooled Investment Vehicles
The Funds may invest in securities of other investment companies, including exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”), that invest primarily in fixed-income securities. ETFs trade on a securities exchange and their shares may, at times, trade at a premium or discount to their net asset value. As a stockholder in an investment company or other pooled vehicle, a Fund will bear its ratable share of that investment company’s or vehicle’s expenses, and would remain subject to payment of a Fund’s or vehicle’s advisory and administrative fees with respect to assets so invested.
A Fund's ability to invest in other investment companies is limited by the 1940 Act and the related rules and interpretations. Each Fund has adopted a policy that it will not invest in other investment companies in excess of 1940 Act limits in reliance on Sections 12(d)(1)(F) or 12(d)(1)(G) of the 1940 Act.
Disclosure of Portfolio Holdings
The Fund’s portfolio holdings are available on the Funds' website at www.ftportfolios.com. A description of the policies and procedures with respect to the disclosure of the Funds' portfolio securities is included in the Funds' SAI, which is also available on the Funds' website.
Risks of Investing in the Funds
Risk is inherent in all investing. Investing in a Fund involves risk, including the risk that you may lose all or part of your investment. There can be no assurance that a Fund will meet its stated objective. Before you invest, you should consider the following disclosure pertaining to the Principal Risks set forth above as well as additional Non-Principal Risks set forth below in this prospectus. The order of the below risk factors does not indicate the significance of any particular risk factor.
Principal Risks
ASSET-BACKED SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in asset-backed securities. Asset-backed securities are debt securities typically created by buying and pooling loans or other receivables other than mortgage loans and creating securities backed by those similar type assets. They are typically issued by trusts and special purpose co-purchasers that pass income from the underlying pool to investors. As with other debt securities, asset-backed securities are subject to credit risk, extension risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. Certain asset-backed securities do not have the benefit of the same security interest in the related collateral as do mortgage-backed securities, nor are they provided government guarantees of repayment. Credit card receivables are generally unsecured, and the debtors are entitled to the protection of a number of state and federal consumer credit laws, many of which give such debtors the right to set off certain amounts owed on the credit cards, thereby reducing the balance due. In addition, some issuers of automobile receivables permit the servicers to retain possession of the underlying obligations. If the servicer were to sell these obligations to another party, there is a risk that the purchaser would acquire an interest superior to that of the holders of the related automobile receivables. The impairment of the value of collateral or other assets underlying an asset-backed security, such as a result of non-payment of loans or non-performance of underlying assets, may result in a reduction in the value of such asset-backed securities and losses to a Fund.
AUTHORIZED PARTICIPANT CONCENTRATION RISK. Only an authorized participant may engage in creation or redemption transactions directly with a Fund. A limited number of institutions act as authorized participants for a Fund. Although participants are not obligated to make a market in a Fund’s shares or submit purchase and redemption orders for creation units. To the extent that these institutions exit the business, reduce their role or are unable to proceed with creation and/or redemption orders and no other authorized participant steps forward to create or redeem, a Fund’s shares may trade at a premium or discount to the Fund’s net asset value and possibly face delisting.
BANK LOANS RISK. The Funds may invest in bank loans. A Fund may invest in secured and unsecured participations in bank loans and assignments of such loans. In making investments in such loans, which are made by banks or other financial intermediaries to borrowers, a Fund will depend primarily upon the creditworthiness of the borrower for payment of principal and interest which will expose the Fund to the credit risk of the underlying borrower. Participations by a Fund in a lender's portion of a bank loan typically will result in the Fund having a contractual relationship only with such lender, not with the borrower. A Fund may have the right to receive payments of principal, interest and any fees to which it is entitled only from
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the lender selling a loan participation and only upon receipt by such lender of such payments from the borrower, which exposes the Fund to the credit risk of the lender. In connection with purchasing participations, a Fund generally will have no right to enforce compliance by the borrower with the terms of the loan agreement, nor any rights with respect to any funds acquired by other lenders through set-off against the borrower, and a Fund may not directly benefit from any collateral supporting the loan in which it has purchased the participation. There is also the risk that the value of any collateral securing a loan may decline and that the collateral may be insufficient to cover the amount owed on the loan. The secondary market for bank loans may not be highly liquid, and a Fund may have difficulty selling bank loans (other than at a discount) and it may experience settlement delays with respect to bank loan trades (in some cases longer than 7 days. Further, loans held by a Fund may not be considered securities and, therefore, purchasers, such as a Fund, may not be entitled to rely on the anti-fraud protections of the federal securities laws and would be forced to rely upon the contractual persons in the loan agreement and states law to enforce its rights to repayment. Many of the loans in which a Fund may invest or obtain exposure to may be “covenant-lite” loans. The amount of public information available with respect to bank loans may be less extensive than available for registered or exchange-traded securities. Covenant-lite loans may contain fewer or no maintenance covenants compared to other loans and may not include terms which allow the lender to monitor the performance of the borrower and declare a default if certain criteria are breached. A Fund may experience relatively greater realized or unrealized losses or delays in enforcing its rights on its holdings of covenant-lite loans than its holdings of loans with the usual covenants.
CALL RISK. Some debt securities may be redeemed at the option of the issuer, or “called,” before their stated maturity date. In general, an issuer will call its debt securities if they can be refinanced by issuing new debt securities which bear a lower interest rate. A Fund is subject to the possibility that during periods of falling interest rates an issuer will call its high yielding debt securities. A Fund would then be forced to invest the unanticipated proceeds at lower interest rates, likely resulting in a decline in the Fund’s income. Such redemptions and subsequent reinvestments would also increase a Fund’s portfolio turnover. If a called debt security was purchased by a Fund at a premium, the value of the premium may be lost in the event of a redemption.
CASH TRANSACTIONS RISK. The Funds intend to effect a significant portion of their creations and redemptions for cash rather than in-kind. As a result, an investment in such a Fund may be less tax-efficient than an investment in an ETF that effects its creations and redemptions only in-kind. ETFs are able to make in-kind redemptions and avoid being taxed on gains on the distributed portfolio securities at the fund level. A Fund that effects redemptions for cash may be required to sell portfolio securities in order to obtain the cash needed to distribute redemption proceeds. Any recognized gain on these sales by a Fund will generally cause the Fund to recognize a gain it might not otherwise have recognized, or to recognize such gain sooner than would otherwise be required if it were to distribute portfolio securities only in-kind. The Funds intend to distribute these gains to shareholders to avoid being taxed on this gain at the fund level and otherwise comply with the special tax rules that apply to it. This strategy may cause shareholders to be subject to tax on gains they would not otherwise be subject to, or at an earlier date than if they had made an investment in a different ETF. Moreover, cash transactions may have to be carried out over several days if the securities market is relatively illiquid and may involve considerable brokerage fees and taxes. These brokerage fees and taxes, which will be higher than if a Fund sold and redeemed its shares entirely in-kind, will be passed on to those purchasing and redeeming Creation Units in the form of creation and redemption transaction fees. In addition, these factors may result in wider spreads between the bid and the offered prices of a Fund’s shares than for ETFs that distribute portfolio securities in-kind.
CLO RISK. The Fund may invest in CLOs. CLOs bear many of the same risks as other forms of asset-backed securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. As they are backed by pools of loans, CLOs also bear similar risks to investing in loans directly. CLOs issue classes or “tranches” that vary in risk, expected maturity, priority or payment and yield. CLOs may experience substantial losses attributable to loan defaults. Losses caused by defaults on underlying loans are typically borne first by the holders of subordinate tranches. Investment in CLOs may decrease in market value when the CLO experiences loan defaults or credit impairment, the disappearance of one or more subordinate tranches, or market anticipation of defaults and investor aversion to CLO securities as a class. The complex structure of a CLO may not be fully understood at the time of investment and produce disputes with the issuer or unexpected investment results.
COUNTERPARTY RISK. The Funds may be subject to counterparty risk. If a Fund enters into an investment or transaction that depends on the performance of another party, the Fund becomes subject to the credit risk of that counterparty. A Fund's ability to profit from these types of investments and transactions depends on the willingness and ability of the Fund’s counterparty to perform its obligations. If a counterparty fails to meet its contractual obligations, a Fund may be unable to terminate or realize any gain on the investment or transaction, resulting in a loss to the Fund. A Fund may experience significant delays in obtaining any recovery in an insolvency, bankruptcy, or other reorganization proceeding involving a counterparty (including recovery of any collateral posted by it) and may obtain only a limited recovery or may obtain no recovery in such
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circumstances. If a Fund holds collateral posted by its counterparty, it may be delayed or prevented from realizing on the collateral in the event of a bankruptcy or insolvency proceeding relating to the counterparty. Under applicable law or contractual provisions, including if a Fund enters into an investment or transaction with a financial institution and such financial institution (or an affiliate of the financial institution) experiences financial difficulties, then the Fund may in certain situations be prevented or delayed from exercising its rights to terminate the investment or transaction, or to realize on any collateral and may result in the suspension of payment and delivery obligations of the parties under such investment or transactions or in another institution being substituted for that financial institution without the consent of the Fund. Further, a Fund may be subject to “bail-in” risk under applicable law whereby, if required by the financial institution's authority, the financial institution's liabilities could be written down, eliminated or converted into equity or an alternative instrument of ownership. A bail-in of a financial institution may result in a reduction in value of some or all of securities and, if a Fund holds such securities or has entered into a transaction with such a financial security when a bail-in occurs, such Fund may also be similarly impacted.
COVENANT-LITE LOAN RISK. The Funds may invest in covenant-lite loans. The loan agreement, which sets forth the terms of a loan and the obligations of the borrower and lender, contains certain covenants that mandate or prohibit certain borrower actions, including financial covenants that dictate certain minimum and maximum financial performance levels. Covenants that require the borrower to maintain certain financial metrics during the life of the loan (such as maintaining certain levels of cash flow and limiting leverage) are known as “maintenance covenants.” These covenants are included to permit the lender to monitor the performance of the borrower and declare an event of default if breached, allowing the lender to renegotiate the terms of the loan based upon the elevated risk levels or take other actions to help mitigate losses. Covenant-lite loans contain fewer or no maintenance covenants making an investment in these types of loans inherently riskier than an investment in loans containing provisions allowing the lender reprice credit risk associated with the borrower or restructure a problematic loan. Since 2013, the number of covenant-lite loans issued has increased significantly. A Fund’s elevated exposure to such loans during a downturn in the credit cycle could cause the Fund to experience outsized losses.
CREDIT DEFAULT SWAPS RISK. The Funds may utilize credit default swaps. Credit default swap transactions involve greater risks than if the Funds had invested in the reference obligation directly. In addition to general market risks, credit default swaps are subject to liquidity risk, counterparty risk and credit risks. With respect to a reference obligation, a buyer will lose its investment and recover nothing should no event of default occur. For a seller, if an event of default were to occur, the value of the reference obligation received by the seller, coupled with the periodic payments previously received, may be less than the full notional value it pays to the buyer, resulting in a loss of value. When the Funds act as a seller of a credit default swap agreement, they are exposed to the risks of leverage since if an event of default occurs with respect to a reference obligation, the seller must pay the buyer the full notional value of the reference obligation.
CREDIT RISK. An issuer or other obligated party of a debt security held by a Fund may be unable or unwilling to make dividend, interest and/or principal payments when due. In addition, the value of a debt security may decline because of concerns about the issuer’s ability or unwillingness to make such payments. Debt securities are subject to varying degrees of credit risk which are often reflected in credit ratings. The credit rating of a debt security may be lowered if the issuer or other obligated party suffers adverse changes to its financial condition. These adverse changes may lead to greater volatility in the price of the debt security and affect the security’s liquidity. High yield and comparable unrated debt securities, while generally offering higher yields than investment grade debt with similar maturities, involve greater risks, including the possibility of dividend or interest deferral, default or bankruptcy, and are regarded as predominantly speculative with respect to the issuer’s capacity to pay dividends or interest and repay principal. To the extent that a Fund holds debt securities that are secured or guaranteed by financial institutions, changes in credit quality of such financial institutions could cause values of the debt security to deviate.
CYBER SECURITY RISK. The Funds are susceptible to operational risks through breaches in cyber security. A breach in cyber security refers to both intentional and unintentional events that may cause a Fund to lose proprietary information, suffer data corruption or lose operational capacity. Such events could cause a Fund to incur regulatory penalties, reputational damage, additional compliance costs associated with corrective measures and/or financial loss. These risks typically are not covered by insurance. In general, cyber incidents can result from deliberate attacks or unintentional events. Cyber incidents include, but are not limited to, gaining unauthorized access to digital systems (e.g., through “hacking” or malicious software coding) for purposes of misappropriating assets or sensitive information, corrupting data or causing operational disruption. Cyber attacks may also be carried out in a manner that does not require gaining unauthorized access, such as causing denial-of-service attacks on websites (i.e., efforts to make network services unavailable to intended users). Cyber security failures by or breaches of the systems of the Advisor, distributor and other service providers (including, but not limited to, sub-advisors, index providers, fund accountants, custodians, transfer agents and administrators), market makers, authorized participants or the issuers of securities in which a Fund invests, have the ability to cause disruptions and impact business operations, potentially resulting in: financial losses; interference with a Fund’s ability to calculate its net asset value; disclosure of confidential trading
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information; impediments to trading; submission of erroneous trades or erroneous creation or redemption orders; the inability of a Fund or its service providers to transact business; violations of applicable privacy and other laws; regulatory fines penalties, reputational damage, reimbursement or other compensation costs; or additional compliance costs. Substantial costs may be incurred by a Fund in order to resolve or prevent cyber incidents in the future. While the Funds have established business continuity plans in the event of, and risk management systems to prevent, such cyber attacks, there are inherent limitations in such plans and systems, including the possibility that certain risks have not been identified and that prevention and remediation efforts will not be successful. Furthermore, the Funds cannot control the cyber security plans and systems put in place by service providers to the Funds, issuers in which the Funds invest, market makers or authorized participants. However, there is no guarantee that such efforts will succeed, and the Funds and their shareholders could be negatively impacted as a result.
DEBT SECURITIES RISK. Investments in debt securities subject the holder to the credit risk of the issuer or other obligor. Credit risk refers to the possibility that the issuer of a security will not be able or willing to make payments of interest and principal when due. Generally, the value of debt securities will change inversely with changes in interest rates. To the extent that interest rates rise, certain underlying obligations may be paid off substantially slower than originally anticipated and the value of those securities may fall sharply. During periods of falling interest rates, the income received by a Fund may decline. If the principal on a debt security is prepaid before expected, the prepayments of principal may have to be reinvested in obligations paying interest at lower rates. Debt securities generally do not trade on a centralized securities exchange making them generally less liquid and more difficult to value than common stock. The values of debt securities may also increase or decrease as a result of market fluctuations, actual or perceived inability or unwillingness of issuers, guarantors or liquidity providers to make scheduled principal or interest payments or illiquidity in debt securities markets generally.
DERIVATIVES RISK. The Funds may utilize derivative instruments. The use of derivative instruments involves risks different from, or possibly greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in securities and other traditional investments. These risks include: (i) the risk that the counterparty to a derivative transaction may not fulfill its contractual obligations; (ii) risk of mispricing or improper valuation; and (iii) the risk that changes in the value of the derivative may not correlate perfectly with the underlying asset. Derivative prices are highly volatile and may fluctuate substantially during a short period of time. Such prices are influenced by numerous factors that affect the markets, including, but not limited to: changing supply and demand relationships; government programs and policies; national and international political and economic events, changes in interest rates, inflation and deflation and changes in supply and demand relationships. Trading derivative instruments involves risks different from, or possibly greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in securities. Derivative contracts ordinarily have leverage inherent in their terms. The low margin deposits normally required in trading derivatives, including futures contracts, permit a high degree of leverage. Accordingly, a relatively small price movement may result in an immediate and substantial loss. The use of leverage may also cause a Fund to liquidate portfolio positions when it would not be advantageous to do so in order to satisfy its obligations or to meet collateral segregation requirements. The use of leveraged derivatives can magnify potential for gain or loss and, therefore, amplify the effects of market volatility on share price.
DISTRESSED SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in distressed securities. Distressed securities are speculative and involve substantial risks in addition to the risks of investing in high-yield debt securities that are not in default. In some instances, a Fund will not receive interest payments from the distressed securities it holds and may incur additional expenses to protect its investment. These securities may present a substantial risk of default and there is a substantial risk that the principal will not be repaid. A Fund may incur additional expenses to the extent it is required to seek recovery upon a default in the payment of principal or of interest on its portfolio holdings. In any reorganization or liquidation proceeding relating to a portfolio company, a Fund may lose its entire investment or may be required to accept cash or securities with a value less than its original investment. Distressed securities and any securities received in exchange for such securities may be subject to restrictions on resale.
EQUITY SECURITIES RISK. Certain of the Funds may invest in equity securities. The value of a Fund's shares will fluctuate with changes in the value of the equity securities in which it invests. Equity securities prices fluctuate for several reasons, including changes in investors' perceptions of the financial condition of an issuer or the general condition of the relevant equity market, such as market volatility, or when political or economic events affecting the issuers occur. Common stock prices may be particularly sensitive to rising interest rates, as the cost of capital rises and borrowing costs increase. Equity securities may decline significantly in price over short or extended periods of time, and such declines may occur in the equity market as a whole, or they may occur in only a particular country, company, industry or sector of the market. Additionally, holders of an issuer's common stock may be subject to greater risks than holders of its preferred stock and debt securities because common stockholders' claims are subordinated to those of holders of preferred stocks and debt securities upon the bankruptcy of an issuer.
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EXTENSION RISK. Extension risk is the risk that, when interest rates rise, certain obligations will be paid off by the issuer (or other obligated party) more slowly than anticipated, causing the value of these debt securities to fall. Rising interest rates tend to extend the duration of debt securities, making them more sensitive to changes in interest rates. The value of longer-term debt securities generally changes more in response to changes in interest rates than shorter-term debt securities. As a result, in a period of rising interest rates, securities may exhibit additional volatility and may lose value. Extension risk is particularly prevalent for a callable debt security where an increase in interest rates could result in the issuer of that security choosing not to redeem the debt security as anticipated on the security’s call date. Such a decision by the issuer could have the effect of lengthening the debt security’s expected maturity, making it more vulnerable to interest rate risk and reducing its market value.
FLOATING RATE DEBT INSTRUMENTS RISK. The Funds may invest in floating rate debt instruments. Investments in floating rate debt instruments are subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. Floating rate debt instruments include debt securities issued by corporate and governmental entities, as well bank loans, mortgage-backed securities and asset-backed securities. Floating rate debt instruments are structured so that the security’s coupon rate fluctuates based upon the level of a reference rate. Most commonly, the coupon rate of a floating rate debt instrument is set at the level of a widely followed interest rate, plus a fixed spread. As a result, the coupon on floating rate debt instrument will generally decline in a falling interest rate environment, causing the Fund to experience a reduction in the income it receives from the instrument. A floating rate debt instrument’s coupon rate resets periodically according to its terms. Consequently, in a rising interest rate environment, floating rate debt instruments with coupon rates that reset infrequently may lag behind the changes in market interest rates. Floating rate debt instruments may also contain terms that impose a maximum coupon rate the issuer will pay, regardless of the level of the reference rate. A Fund may invest in floating rate loans considered to be high yield, or “junk,” instruments and considered speculative because of the credit risk of their issuers. Such issuers are more likely than investment grade issuers to default on their payments of interest and principal owed to a Fund. An economic downturn would also generally lead to a higher non-payment rate, and a floating rate debt instrument may lose significant market value before a default occurs. To the extent a Fund invests in floating rate loans, such instruments may be subject to legal or contractual restrictions on resale, may trade infrequently, and their value may be impaired when the Fund needs to liquidate such securities. It is possible that the collateral securing a floating rate loan may be insufficient or unavailable to a Fund, and that the Fund’s rights to collateral may be limited by bankruptcy or insolvency laws. Additionally, there is no central clearinghouse for loan trades and the loan market has not established enforceable settlement standards or remedies for failure to settle. As such, the secondary market for floating rate loans may be subject to irregular trading activity, wide bid/ask spreads and extended trade settlement periods which may cause a Fund to be unable to realize the full value of its investment. Lastly, floating rate loans may not be considered “securities,” and purchasers, such as a Fund, therefore may not be entitled to rely on the anti-fraud protections of the federal securities laws.
FORWARD CONTRACTS RISK. A forward contract is an over-the-counter derivative transaction between two parties to buy or sell a specified amount of an underlying reference at a specified price (or rate) on a specified date in the future. Forward contracts are negotiated on an individual basis and are not standardized or traded on exchanges. The market for forward contracts is substantially unregulated and can experience lengthy periods of illiquidity, unusually high trading volume and other negative impacts, such as political intervention, which may result in volatility or disruptions in such markets. A relatively small price movement in a forward contract may result in substantial losses to the Fund, exceeding the amount of the margin paid. Forward contracts can increase a Fund’s risk exposure to underlying references and their attendant risks, such as credit risk, currency risk, market risk, and interest rate risk, while also exposing a Fund to counterparty risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk, among others.
FUTURES CONTRACTS RISK. The Funds may enter into futures contracts. Futures contracts are typically exchange-traded contracts that call for the future delivery of an asset by one party to another at a certain price and date, or cash settlement of the terms of the contract. The risk of a position in a futures contract may be very large compared to the relatively low level of margin a Fund is required to deposit. In many cases, a relatively small price movement in a futures contract may result in immediate and substantial loss or gain to the investor relative to the size of a required margin deposit. The ability to establish and close out positions in futures contracts is be subject to the development and maintenance of a liquid secondary market. There is no assurance that a liquid secondary market on an exchange will exist for any particular futures contract at any particular time. If a Fund uses futures contracts for hedging purposes, there is a risk of imperfect correlation between movements in the prices of the derivatives and movements in the securities or index underlying the derivatives or movements in the prices of the Fund's investments that are the subject of such hedge. The prices of futures contracts, for a number of reasons, may not correlate perfectly with movements in the securities or index underlying them. For example, participants in the futures markets are subject to margin deposit requirements less onerous than margin requirements in the securities markets in general.
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As a result, futures markets may attract more speculators than the securities markets. Increased participation by speculators in those markets may cause temporary price distortions. Due to the possibility of price distortion, even a correct forecast of general market trends by a Fund’s portfolio managers still may not result in a successful derivatives activity over a very short time period. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the various exchanges have established limits referred to as “speculative position limits” on the maximum net long or net short positions that any person and certain affiliated entities may hold or control in a particular futures contract. It is possible that, as a result of such limits, a Fund will be precluded from taking positions in certain futures contracts it might have otherwise taken to the disadvantage of shareholders.
HIGH YIELD SECURITIES RISK. A Fund’s investment in high yield securities, or “junk” bonds, may entail increased credit risks and the risk that the value of the Fund’s assets will decline, and may decline precipitously, with increases in interest rates. In recent years there have been wide fluctuations in interest rates and therefore in the value of debt securities generally. High yield securities are, under most circumstances, subject to greater market fluctuations and risk of loss of income and principal than are investments in lower-yielding, higher-rated debt securities. As interest rates rise, the value of high yield securities may decline precipitously. Increased rates may also indicate a slowdown in the economy which may adversely affect the credit of issuers of high yield securities resulting in a higher incidence of defaults among such issuers. A slowdown in the economy, or a development adversely affecting an issuer’s creditworthiness, may result in the issuer being unable to maintain earnings or sell assets at the rate and at the prices, respectively, that are required to produce sufficient cash flow to meet its interest and principal requirements. A Fund’s portfolio managers cannot predict future economic policies or their consequences or, therefore, the course or extent of any similar market fluctuations in the future. In addition, high yield securities are generally less liquid than investment grade securities.
INCOME RISK. A Fund’s income may decline when interest rates fall. This decline can occur because a Fund may subsequently invest in lower-yielding securities as debt securities in its portfolio mature, are near maturity or are called, or the Fund otherwise needs to purchase additional debt securities. In addition, a Fund’s income could decline when a Fund experiences defaults on the debt securities it holds.
INDEX OR MODEL CONSTITUENT RISK. Each Fund may be a constituent of one or more indices or ETF models. As a result, a Fund may be included in one or more index-tracking ETFs or mutual funds. Being a component security of such a vehicle could greatly affect the trading activity involving a Fund, the size of the Fund and the market volatility of the Fund’s shares. Inclusion in an index could increase demand for a Fund and removal from an index could result in outsized selling activity in a relatively short period of time. As a result, a Fund’s net asset value could be negatively impacted and the Fund’s market price may be below the Fund’s net asset value during certain periods. In addition, index rebalances may potentially result in increased trading activity. To the extent buying or selling activity increases, a Fund can be exposed to increased brokerage costs and adverse tax consequences and the market price of the Fund can be negatively affected.
INFLATION RISK. Inflation risk is the risk that the value of assets or income from investments will be less in the future as inflation decreases the value of money. As inflation increases, the present value of a Fund’s assets and distributions may decline. Inflation creates uncertainty over the future real value (after inflation) of an investment. Inflation rates may change frequently and drastically as a result of various factors, including unexpected shifts in the domestic or global economy, and a Fund’s investments may not keep pace with inflation, which may result in losses to Fund investors.
INFLATION-INDEXED SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in inflation-indexed debt securities. Inflation-indexed debt securities, such as TIPS, are subject to the same risks as other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. The principal amount of an inflation-indexed security typically increases with inflation and decreases with deflation, as measured by a specified index. It is possible that, in a period of declining inflation rates, a Fund could receive at maturity less than the initial principal amount of an inflation-indexed security. Although the holders of TIPS receive no less than the par value of the security at maturity, if a Fund purchases TIPS in the secondary market whose principal values have previously been adjusted upward and there is a period of subsequent declining inflation rates, a Fund may receive at maturity less than it invested and incur a loss. Depending on the changes in inflation rates during the period a Fund holds an inflation-indexed security, a Fund may earn less on the security than on a conventional debt security. Generally, the value of inflation-indexed securities are affected by changes in “real” interest rates, which are stated interest rates reduced by the expected impact of inflation. Inflation-indexed securities normally will decline in price when “real” interest rates rise. Changes in the values of inflation-indexed securities may be difficult to predict, and it is possible that an investment in such securities will have an effect different from that anticipated by a Fund’s portfolio managers. The principal amounts of inflation-indexed securities are typically only adjusted periodically, and changes in the values of the securities may only approximately reflect changes in inflation rates and may occur substantially after the changes in inflation rates in question occur.
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INTEREST RATE RISK. The value of debt securities held by a Fund will fluctuate in value with changes in interest rates. In general, debt securities will increase in value when interest rates fall and decrease in value when interest rates rise. A Fund may be subject to a greater risk of rising interest rates than would normally be the case due to the current period of historically low rates and the effect of potential government fiscal policy initiatives and resulting market reaction to those initiatives. Interest rate risk is generally lower for shorter term investments and higher for longer term investments. Duration is a common measure of interest rate risk. Duration measures a debt security’s expected life on a present value basis, taking into account the debt security’s yield, interest payments and final maturity. Duration is a reasonably accurate measure of a debt security’s price sensitivity to changes in interest rates. The longer the duration of a debt security, the greater the debt security’s price sensitivity is to changes in interest rates. Rising interest rates also may lengthen the duration of debt securities with call features, since exercise of the call becomes less likely as interest rates rise, which in turn will make the securities more sensitive to changes in interest rates and result in even steeper price declines in the event of further interest rate increases. An increase in interest rates could also cause principal payments on a debt security to be repaid at a slower rate than expected. This risk is particularly prevalent for a callable debt security where an increase in interest rates could cause the issuer of that security to not redeem the security as anticipated on the call date, effectively lengthening the security’s expected maturity, in turn making that security more vulnerable to interest rate risk and reducing its market value. When interest rates fall, a Fund may be required to reinvest the proceeds from the sale, redemption or early prepayment of a debt security at a lower interest rate.
LIBOR RISK. The United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates LIBOR, announced on March 5, 2021 that all non-USD LIBOR reference rates and the 1-week and 2-month USD LIBOR reference rates will cease to be provided or no longer be representative immediately after December 31, 2021 and the remaining USD LIBOR settings will cease to be provided or no longer be representative immediately after June 30, 2023. The unavailability or replacement of LIBOR may affect the value, liquidity or return on certain Fund investments and may result in costs incurred in connection with closing out positions and entering into new trades. Any potential effects of the transition away from LIBOR on the Fund or on certain instruments in which the Fund invests can be difficult to ascertain, and they may vary depending on a variety of factors. For example, certain of the Fund’s investments may involve individual contracts that have no existing fallback provision or language that contemplates the discontinuation of LIBOR, and those investments could experience increased volatility or reduced liquidity as a result of the transition process. The transition may also result in a reduction in the value of certain instruments held by the Fund, a reduction in the effectiveness of related transactions, such as hedges, or a reduction in the value of any payments due to the Fund that are linked to LIBOR. Any such effects of the transition away from LIBOR, as well as other unforeseen effects, could result in losses to the Fund.
LIQUIDITY RISK. The Funds may have investments that they may not be able to dispose of or close out readily at a favorable time or price (or at all), or at a price approximating a Fund’s valuation of the investment. For example, certain investments may be subject to restrictions on resale, may trade over-the-counter or in limited volume, or may not have an active trading market. Illiquid securities may trade at a discount from comparable, more liquid investments and may be subject to wide fluctuations in market value. It may be difficult for a Fund to value illiquid securities accurately. The market for certain investments may become illiquid under adverse market or economic conditions independent of any specific adverse changes in the conditions of a particular issuer. If a Fund needed to sell a large block of illiquid securities to meet shareholder redemption request or to raise cash, these sales could further reduce the securities’ prices and adversely affect performance of the Fund. Disposal of illiquid securities may entail registration expenses and other transaction costs that are higher than those for liquid securities.
MANAGEMENT RISK. Each Fund is subject to management risk because it is an actively managed portfolio. In managing a Fund’s investment portfolio, the portfolio managers will apply investment techniques and risk analyses that may not produce the desired result. There can be no guarantee that a Fund will meet its investment objective(s), meet relevant benchmarks or perform as well as other funds with similar objectives.
MARKET MAKER RISK. The Funds face numerous market trading risks, including the potential lack of an active market for Fund shares due to a limited number of market markers. Decisions by market makers or authorized participants to reduce their role or step away from these activities in times of market stress could inhibit the effectiveness of the arbitrage process in maintaining the relationship between the underlying values of a Fund’s portfolio securities and the Fund’s market price. A Fund may rely on a small number of third-party market makers to provide a market for the purchase and sale of shares. Any trading halt or other problem relating to the trading activity of these market makers could result in a dramatic change in the spread between a Fund’s net asset value and the price at which the Fund’s shares are trading on the Exchange, which could result in a decrease in value of the Fund’s shares. This reduced effectiveness could result in Fund shares trading at a discount to net asset value and also in greater than normal intraday bid-ask spreads for Fund shares.
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MARKET RISK. Market risk is the risk that a particular security, or shares of the Fund in general, may fall in value. Securities are subject to market fluctuations caused by such factors as economic, political, regulatory or market developments, changes in interest rates and perceived trends in securities prices. Shares of the Fund could decline in value or underperform other investments due to short-term market movements or any longer periods during more prolonged market downturns. In addition, local, regional or global events such as war, acts of terrorism, spread of infectious diseases or other public health issues, recessions, or other events could have a significant negative impact on the Fund and its investments. For example, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic and the aggressive responses taken by many governments, including closing borders, restricting international and domestic travel, and the imposition of prolonged quarantines or similar restrictions, had negative impacts, and in many cases severe impacts, on markets worldwide. While the development of vaccines has slowed the spread of the virus and allowed for the resumption of reasonably normal business activity in the United States, many countries continue to impose lockdown measures in an attempt to slow the spread. Additionally, there is no guarantee that vaccines will be effective against emerging variants of the disease. As this global pandemic illustrated, such events may affect certain geographic regions, countries, sectors and industries more significantly than others. These events also adversely affect the prices and liquidity of the Fund’s portfolio securities or other instruments and could result in disruptions in the trading markets. Any of such circumstances could have a materially negative impact on the value of the Fund’s shares and result in increased market volatility. During any such events, the Fund’s shares may trade at increased premiums or discounts to their net asset value.
MORTGAGE-RELATED SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in mortgage-related securities, including mortgage-backed securities. Mortgage-related securities are subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. However, these investments make the Fund more susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory events that affect the value of real estate. Mortgage-related securities are also significantly affected by the rate of prepayments and modifications of the mortgage loans underlying those securities, as well as by other factors such as borrower defaults, delinquencies, realized or liquidation losses and other shortfalls. The incidence of borrower defaults or delinquencies may rise significantly during financial downturns and could adversely affect the value of mortgage-related securities held by the Fund. Events such as war, acts of terrorism, spread of infectious diseases or other public health issues, recessions, or other events that result in broad and simultaneous financial hardships for individuals and businesses could have a significant negative impact on the value of mortgage-related securities. Mortgage-related securities are particularly sensitive to prepayment risk, given that the term to maturity for mortgage loans is generally substantially longer than the expected lives of those securities. Nonetheless, the timing and amount of prepayments cannot be accurately predicted. The timing of changes in the rate of prepayments of the mortgage loans may significantly affect the Fund's actual yield to maturity on any mortgage-related securities, even if the average rate of principal payments is consistent with the Fund's expectation. Along with prepayment risk, mortgage-related securities are significantly affected by interest rate risk. In a low interest rate environment, mortgage loan prepayments would generally be expected to increase due to factors such as re-financings and loan modifications at lower interest rates. In contrast, if prevailing interest rates rise, prepayments of mortgage loans would generally be expected to decline and therefore extend the weighted average lives of mortgage-related securities held or acquired by the Fund. Fund investments in mortgage-backed securities issued by Ginnie Mae are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Fund investments in mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, and there can be no assurance that the U.S. government would provide financial support to its agencies or instrumentalities where it is not obligated to do so.
MUNICIPAL SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in municipal securities. The values of municipal securities may be adversely affected by local political and economic conditions and developments. Adverse conditions in an industry significant to a local economy could have a correspondingly adverse effect on the financial condition of local issuers. Other factors that could affect municipal securities include a change in the local, state, or national economy, demographic factors, ecological or environmental concerns, statutory limitations on the issuer’s ability to increase taxes, and other developments generally affecting the revenue of issuers (for example, legislation or court decisions reducing state aid to local governments or mandating additional services). This risk would be heightened to the extent that a Fund invests a substantial portion of its assets in bonds issued pursuant to similar projects (such as those relating to the education, health care, housing, transportation, or utilities industries), in industrial development bonds, or in particular types of municipal securities (such as general obligation bonds, private activity bonds or moral obligation bonds) that are particularly exposed to specific types of adverse economic, business or political events. Changes in a municipality’s financial health may also make it difficult for the municipality to make interest and principal payments when due. The values of municipal securities that depend on a specific revenue source to fund their payment obligations may fluctuate as a result of actual or anticipated changes in the cash flows generated by the revenue source or changes in the priority of the municipal securities to receive the cash flows generated by the revenue source. Under some circumstances, municipal securities might not pay interest unless the state legislature or municipality authorizes money
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for that purpose. Municipal securities may be more susceptible to downgrades or defaults during recessions or similar periods of economic stress. In addition, since some municipal obligations may be secured or guaranteed by banks and other institutions, the risk to a Fund could increase if the banking or financial sector suffers an economic downturn and/or if the credit ratings of the institutions issuing the guarantee are downgraded or at risk of being downgraded by a national rating organization. Such a downward revision or risk of being downgraded may have an adverse effect on the market prices of the bonds and thus the value of the Fund’s investments. In addition to being downgraded, an insolvent municipality may file for bankruptcy. The reorganization of a municipality’s debts may significantly affect the rights of creditors and the value of the securities issued by the municipality and the value of a Fund’s investments. In addition, income from municipal securities held by a Fund could be declared taxable because of, among other things, unfavorable changes in tax laws, adverse interpretations by the Internal Revenue Service or state tax authorities, or noncompliant conduct of an issuer or other obligated party. Loss of tax-exempt status may cause interest received and distributed to shareholders by a Fund to be taxable and may result in a significant decline in the values of such municipal securities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the risks of the municipal securities market have been magnified. The costs associated with combating the pandemic and the negative impact on tax revenues has adversely affected the financial condition of many states and political subdivisions. These risks may also adversely affect several sectors of the municipal bond market, such as airports, toll roads, hospitals and colleges, among many others. The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on state and political subdivisions’ ability to make payments on debt obligations is impossible to predict, but could negatively impact the value of bonds, the ability of state and political subdivisions to make payments when due and the performance of the Fund.
NON-AGENCY SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in non-agency securities. Investments in asset-backed or mortgage-backed securities offered by non-governmental issuers, such as commercial banks, savings and loans, private mortgage insurance companies, mortgage bankers and other secondary market issuers are subject to additional risks. There are no direct or indirect government or agency guarantees of payments in loan pools created by non-government issuers. Securities issued by private issuers are subject to the credit risks of the issuers. Timely payment of interest and principal of non-governmental issuers is supported by various forms of private insurance or guarantees, including individual loan, title, pool and hazard insurance purchased by the issuer. There can be no assurance that the private insurers can meet their obligations under the policies. Non-agency securities are also not subject to the same underwriting requirements for the underlying mortgages that are applicable to those mortgage-related securities that have a government or government-sponsored entity guarantee. An unexpectedly high rate of defaults on the loan pool may adversely affect the value of a non-agency security and could result in losses to a Fund. The risk of such defaults is generally higher in the case of loan pools that include subprime loans. Subprime loans refer to loans made to borrowers with weakened credit histories or with a lower capacity to make timely payments on their loans. Non-agency securities are typically traded “over the counter” rather than on a securities exchange and there may be a limited market for the securities, especially when there is a perceived weakness in the mortgage and real estate market sectors. Without an active trading market, the non-agency securities held by a Fund may be particularly difficult to value because of the complexities involved in assessing the value of the underlying loans.
NON-U.S. SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in non-U.S. securities. An investment in securities of non-U.S. companies involves risks not associated with domestic issuers. Investment in non-U.S. securities may involve higher costs than investment in U.S. securities, including higher transaction and custody costs as well as the imposition of additional taxes by non-U.S. governments. Non-U.S. investments may also involve risks associated with the level of currency exchange rates, less complete financial information about the issuers, less market liquidity, more market volatility and political instability. Future political and economic developments, the possible imposition of withholding taxes on dividend income, the possible seizure or nationalization of non-U.S. holdings, the imposition of sanctions by foreign governments, the possible establishment of capital controls, exchange controls or freezes on the convertibility of currency or the adoption of other governmental restrictions might adversely affect an investment in non-U.S. securities. Additionally, non-U.S. issuers may be subject to less stringent regulation, and to different accounting, auditing and recordkeeping requirements. The U.S. and non-U.S. markets often rise and fall at different times or by different amounts due to economic or other regional developments particular to a given country or region.
OPERATIONAL RISK. Each Fund is subject to risks arising from various operational factors, including, but not limited to, human error, processing and communication errors, errors of a Fund’s service providers, counterparties or other third-parties, failed or inadequate processes and technology or systems failures. Each Fund relies on third-parties for a range of services, including custody. Any delay or failure relating to engaging or maintaining such service providers may affect each Fund's ability to meet its investment objective. Although the Funds and the Funds’ investment advisor seek to reduce these operational risks through controls and procedures, there is no way to completely protect against such risks.
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OPTIONS RISK. The use of options involves investment strategies and risks different from those associated with ordinary portfolio securities transactions and depends on the ability of a Fund’s portfolio manager to forecast market movements correctly. The prices of options are influenced by, among other things, actual and anticipated changes in the value of the underlying instrument, or in interest or currency exchange rates, including the anticipated volatility, which in turn are affected by fiscal and monetary policies and by national and international political and economic events. As a seller (writer) of a put option, the seller will tend to lose money if the value of the reference index or security falls below the strike price. As the seller (writer) of a call option, the seller will tend to lose money if the value of the reference index or security rises above the strike price. As the buyer of a put or call option, the buyer risks losing the entire premium invested in the option if the buyer does not exercise the option. The effective use of options also depends on a Fund's ability to terminate option positions at times deemed desirable to do so. There is no assurance that a Fund will be able to effect closing transactions at any particular time or at an acceptable price. In addition, there may at times be an imperfect correlation between the movement in values of options and their underlying securities and there may at times not be a liquid secondary market for certain options. Options may also involve the use of leverage, which could result in greater price volatility than other markets.
OTC DERIVATIVES RISK. The Fund may utilize derivatives that are traded over-the-counter, or “OTC.” In general, OTC derivatives are subject to the same risks as derivatives generally, as described throughout. However, because OTC derivatives do not trade on an exchange, the parties to an OTC derivative face heightened levels of counterparty risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. To the extent that the Fund utilizes OTC derivatives, its counterparty risk will be higher if it only trades with a single or small number of counterparties. The secondary market for OTC derivatives may not be as deep as for other instruments and such instruments may experience periods of illiquidity. In addition, some OTC derivatives may be complex and difficult to value. Under certain market conditions it may not be economically feasible to initiate a transaction or liquidate a position in time to avoid a loss or take advantage of an opportunity. If a particular derivative transaction is particularly large or if the relevant market is illiquid, it may not be possible to initiate a transaction or liquidate a position at an advantageous time or price, which may result in significant losses.
PORTFOLIO TURNOVER RISK. Each Fund has an investment strategy that may frequently involve buying and selling portfolio securities. High portfolio turnover may result in the Fund paying higher levels of transaction costs, including brokerage commissions, dealer mark-ups and other costs and may generate greater tax liabilities for shareholders. Portfolio turnover risk may cause the Fund’s performance to be less than expected.
PREFERRED SECURITIES RISK. Certain of the Funds may invest in preferred securities. Preferred securities combine some of the characteristics of both common stocks and bonds. Preferred securities are typically subordinated to bonds and other debt securities in a company’s capital structure in terms of priority to corporate income, subjecting them to greater credit risk than those debt securities. Preferred securities often include provisions that permit the issuer, at its discretion, to defer distributions for a stated period without any adverse consequences to the issuer. If a Fund owns a preferred security that is deferring its distributions, the Fund may be required to report income for federal income tax purposes although it has not yet received such income in cash. Generally, holders of preferred securities have no voting rights with respect to the issuing company unless preferred dividends have been in arrears for a specified number of periods, at which time the preferred security holders may elect a number of directors to the issuer’s board of director. Generally, once the issuer pays all the arrearages, the preferred security holders no longer have voting rights. In certain circumstances, an issuer of preferred securities may redeem the securities prior to a specified date. For instance, for certain types of preferred securities, a redemption may be triggered by a change in federal income tax or securities laws or a change in regulatory trademark. As with redemption provisions of debt securities, a special redemption by the issuer may negatively impact the return of the preferred security held by a Fund. Preferred securities may also be substantially less liquid than other securities, including common stock.
PREMIUM/DISCOUNT RISK. The market price of a Fund’s shares will generally fluctuate in accordance with changes in the Fund’s net asset value as well as the relative supply of and demand for shares on the Exchange. First Trust cannot predict whether shares will trade below, at or above their net asset value because the shares trade on the Exchange at market prices and not at net asset value. Price differences may be due, in large part, to the fact that supply and demand forces at work in the secondary trading market for shares will be closely related, but not identical, to the same forces influencing the prices of the holdings of a Fund trading individually or in the aggregate at any point in time. However, given that shares can only be purchased and redeemed in Creation Units, and only to and from broker-dealers and large institutional investors that have entered into participation agreements (unlike shares of closed-end funds, which frequently trade at appreciable discounts from, and sometimes at premiums to, their net asset value), First Trust believes that large discounts or premiums to the net asset value of shares should not be sustained absent disruptions to the creation and redemption mechanism, extreme market volatility or potential lack of authorized participants. During stressed market conditions, the market for a Fund’s shares may
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become less liquid in response to deteriorating liquidity in the market for a Fund’s underlying portfolio holdings, which could in turn lead to differences between the market price of a Fund’s shares and their net asset value.
PREPAYMENT RISK. Prepayment risk is the risk that the issuer of a debt security will repay principal (in part or in whole) prior to the scheduled maturity date. Debt securities allowing prepayment may offer less potential for gains during a period of declining interest rates, as a Fund may be required to reinvest the proceeds of any prepayment at lower interest rates, reducing its income. If a Fund purchased the debt securities at a premium, prepayments on the securities could cause the Fund to lose a portion of its principal investment. These factors may cause the value of an investment in a Fund to change. The impact of prepayments on the price of a debt security may be difficult to predict and may increase the security’s volatility.
REPURCHASE AGREEMENT RISK. The Funds may enter into repurchase agreements. A repurchase agreement is an agreement to purchase a security from a party at one price and a simultaneous agreement to sell it back to the original party at an agreed-upon price, typically representing the purchase price plus interest. Repurchase agreements may be viewed as loans made by a Fund which are collateralized by the securities subject to repurchase. A Fund's investment return on such transactions will depend on the counterparty's willingness and ability to perform its obligations under a repurchase agreement. If a Fund's counterparty should default on its obligations and a Fund is delayed or prevented from recovering the collateral, or if the value of the collateral is insufficient, a Fund may have to borrow cash, subject to certain legal limits, or realize a loss.
RESTRICTED SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in restricted securities. Restricted securities are securities that cannot be offered for public resale unless registered under the applicable securities laws or that have a contractual restriction that prohibits or limits their resale. Restricted securities include private placement securities that have not been registered under the applicable securities laws, such as Rule 144A securities, and securities of U.S. and non-U.S. issuers that are issued pursuant to Regulation S. Private placements are generally subject to strict restrictions on resale. Restricted securities may be illiquid as they generally are not listed on an exchange and may have no active trading market. A Fund may be unable to sell a restricted security on short notice or may be able to sell them only at a price below current value. It may be more difficult to determine a market value for a restricted security. Also, a Fund may get limited information about the issuer of a restricted security, so it may be less able to predict a loss. In addition, if Fund management receives material non-public information about the issuer, a Fund may as a result be unable to sell the securities. Certain restricted securities may involve a high degree of business and financial risk and may result in substantial losses.
SENIOR LOANS RISK. Senior loans represent debt obligations of sub-investment grade corporate borrowers, similar to high yield bonds; however, senior loans are different from traditional high yield bonds in that senior loans are typically senior to other obligations of the borrower and generally secured by the assets of the borrower. The senior loan market has seen a significant increase in loans with limited financial maintenance covenants or, in some cases, no financial maintenance covenants (i.e., “covenant-lite loans”) that would typically be included in a traditional loan credit agreement and general weakening of other restrictive covenants applicable to the borrower such as limitations on incurrence of additional debt, restrictions on payments of junior debt or restrictions on dividends and distributions, all of which may impact recovery values and/or trading levels of senior loans in the future. The absence of financial maintenance covenants in a loan agreement generally means that the lender may be unable to declare a default if financial performance deteriorates. This may hinder the Fund’s ability to reprice credit risk associated with the borrower and reduce the Fund’s ability to restructure a problematic loan and mitigate potential loss. As a result, the Fund’s exposure to losses on investments in senior loans may be increased, especially during a downturn in the credit cycle or changes in market or economic conditions.
Senior loans are also subject to the same risks as investments in other types of debt securities, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk that may be heightened because of the limited public information available regarding senior loans and because loan borrowers may be more highly leveraged and tend to be more adversely affected by changes in market or economic conditions. If the Fund holds a senior loan through another financial institution or relies on a financial institution to administer the loan, its receipt of principal and interest on the loan may be subject to the credit risk of that financial institution. Although senior loans are generally secured by specific collateral, there can be no assurance that liquidation of such collateral would satisfy the borrower’s obligation in the event of non-payment of scheduled interest or principal or that such collateral could be readily liquidated. To the extent that a senior loan is collateralized by equity interests in the borrower or its subsidiaries, such equity interest may lose all of its value in the event of the bankruptcy of the borrower. Uncollateralized senior loans involve a greater risk of loss. Senior loans made in connection with highly leveraged transactions are subject to greater risks than other senior loans. For example, the risks of default or bankruptcy of the borrower or the risks that other creditors of the borrower may seek to nullify or subordinate the Fund’s claims on any collateral securing the loan are greater in highly leveraged transactions.
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Additionally, there is no central clearinghouse for loan trades and the loan market has not established enforceable settlement standards or remedies for failure to settle. As such, the secondary market for senior loans may be subject to irregular trading activity, wide bid/ask spreads and extended trade settlement periods, which may cause the Fund to be unable to realize the full value of its investment. Lastly, senior loans may not be considered “securities,” and the Fund may not be entitled to rely on the anti-fraud protections of the federal securities laws and could be forced to rely on the contractual provisions in the loan agreement and state law to enforce its right to repayment.
SIGNIFICANT EXPOSURE RISK. To the extent that a Fund invests a significant percentage of its assets in a single asset class or the securities of issuers within the same country, state, region, industry or sector, an adverse economic, business or political development that affected a particular asset class, region or industry may affect the value of the Fund’s investments more than if the Fund were more broadly diversified. A significant exposure makes a Fund more susceptible to any single occurrence and may subject the Fund to greater volatility and market risk than a fund that is more broadly diversified.
SOVEREIGN DEBT SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in sovereign debt securities. Sovereign debt securities are issued or guaranteed by foreign governmental entities. Investments in such securities are subject to the risk that the relevant sovereign government or governmental entity may delay or refuse to pay interest or repay principal on its debt. Such delays or refusals may be due to cash flow problems, insufficient foreign currency reserves, political considerations, the size of its debt relative to the economy or the failure to put in place economic reforms required by the International Monetary Fund or other multilateral agencies. A governmental entity may default on its obligations or may require renegotiation as to maturity or interest rate units of debt payments. Any restructuring of a sovereign debt obligation held by a Fund will likely have a significant adverse effect on the value of the obligation. A restricting or default of sovereign debt security may cause additional impacts on financial markets such as downgrades to credit ratings, disruptions in trading markets, reduced liquidity and increase volatility. Additionally, a Fund may be unable to pursue legal action against the sovereign issuer or to realize on collateral securing the debt. The sovereign debt of many non-U.S. governments, including their sub-divisions and instrumentalities, is rated below investment-grade.
SWAP AGREEMENTS RISK. The Funds may enter in swap agreements. Swap agreements are two-party contracts entered into for a set period of time in which the parties agree to exchange payments based on some underlying reference or asset (such as interest rates). The use of swaps is a highly specialized activity that involves investment techniques, risk analyses and tax planning different from those associated with ordinary portfolio securities transactions. These transactions can result in sizeable realized and unrealized capital gains and losses relative to the gains and losses from a Fund’s direct investments in the reference assets. Transactions in swaps can involve greater risks than if a Fund had invested directly in the reference asset since, in addition to general market risks, swaps may be leveraged and are also subject to credit risk, counterparty risk, liquidity risk and valuation risk. Because they are two-party contracts and may have terms of greater than seven days, certain swap transactions may be considered to be illiquid. Moreover, a Fund bears the risk of loss of the amount expected to be received under a swap agreement in the event of the default or bankruptcy of a swap counterparty. Some swaps may be complex and difficult to value. Swaps may also be subject to pricing or “basis” risk, which exists when a particular swap becomes extraordinarily expensive relative to historical prices or the price of corresponding cash market instruments. Under certain market conditions it may not be economically feasible to initiate a transaction or liquidate a position in time to avoid a loss or take advantage of an opportunity. If a swap transaction is particularly large or if the relevant market is illiquid, it may not be possible to initiate a transaction or liquidate a position at an advantageous time or price, which may result in significant losses. The prices of swaps can be very volatile, and a variance in the degree of volatility or in the direction of the price of the reference asset from the sub-adviser’s expectations may produce significant losses in a Fund’s investments in swaps. In addition, a perfect correlation between a swap and an investment position may be impossible to achieve. As a result, a Fund’s use of swaps may not be effective in fulfilling the Fund’s investment strategies and may contribute to losses that would not have been incurred otherwise. Certain swaps are not bilateral agreements but are centrally-cleared and are exchange-traded. Central clearing tends to decrease credit risk and improve liquidity but many regulations regarding centrally-cleared swaps have not been fully implemented and the scope of the risks remain unclear. As central clearing does not make the agreements risk-free and there is no guarantee that a Fund would consider all centrally-cleared or exchange-traded swaps to be liquid.
TRADING ISSUES RISK. Trading in Fund shares on the Exchange may be halted due to market conditions or for reasons that, in the view of the Exchange, make trading in shares inadvisable. In addition, trading in Fund shares on the Exchange is subject to trading halts caused by extraordinary market volatility pursuant to the Exchange’s “circuit breaker” rules. There can be no assurance that the requirements of the Exchange necessary to maintain the listing of a Fund will continue to be met or will remain unchanged. A Fund may have difficulty maintaining its listing on the Exchange in the event a Fund’s assets are small, the Fund does not have enough shareholders, or if the Fund is unable to proceed with creation and/or redemption orders.
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U.S. GOVERNMENT SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in U.S. government securities. U.S. government securities are subject to interest rate risk but generally do not involve the credit risks associated with investments in other types of debt securities. As a result, the yields available from U.S. government securities are generally lower than the yields available from other debt securities. U.S. government securities are guaranteed only as to the timely payment of interest and the payment of principal when held to maturity. While securities issued or guaranteed by U.S. federal government agencies (such as Ginnie Mae) are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, securities issued by government sponsored entities (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are solely the obligation of the issuer and generally do not carry any guarantee from the U.S. government. No assurance can be given that the U.S. government will provide financial support to its government sponsored entities or any other agency if not obligated by law to do so.
VALUATION RISK. Unlike publicly traded securities that trade on national securities exchanges, there is no central place or exchange for trading most debt securities. Debt securities generally trade on an “over-the-counter” market. Due to the lack of centralized information and trading, and variations in lot sizes of certain debt securities, the valuation of debt securities may carry more uncertainty and risk than that of publicly traded securities. Debt securities are commonly valued by third-party pricing services that utilize a range of market-based inputs and assumptions, including readily available market quotations obtained from broker-dealers making markets in such securities, cash flows and transactions for comparable instruments. However, because the available information is less reliable and more subjective, elements of judgment may play a greater role in valuation of debt securities than for other types of securities. There is no assurance that the Fund will be able to sell a portfolio security at the price established by the pricing service, which could result in a loss to the Fund.
WHEN-ISSUED, TBA AND DELAYED DELIVERY TRANSACTIONS RISK. A Fund may purchase securities on a when-issued, TBA, delayed delivery or forward commitment basis. In such a transaction, the purchase price of the securities is typically fixed at the time of the commitment, but delivery and payment can take place a month or more after the date of the commitment. At the time of delivery of the securities, the value may be more or less than the purchase or sale price. Purchasing securities on a when-issued, TBA, delayed delivery or forward commitment basis may give rise to investment leverage and may increase a Fund’s volatility. Default by, or bankruptcy of, a counterparty to a when-issued, TBA or delayed delivery transaction would expose a Fund to possible losses because of an adverse market action, expenses or delays in connection with the purchase or sale of the pools specified in such transaction. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority recently imposed mandatory margin requirements for certain types of when-issued, TBA, delayed delivery or forward commitment transactions. Such transactions require mandatory collateralization which could increase the cost of such transactions and impose added operational complexity.
Non-Principal Risks
AFRICA RISK. Certain Funds may invest in African issuers. A fund that invests in securities issued by African issuers is subject to certain risks specifically associated with investments in the securities of African issuers. Investing in the economies of African countries involves risks not typically associated with investments in securities of issuers in more developed economies, countries or geographic regions that may negatively affect the value of investments in the Fund. Such heightened risks include, among others, expropriation and/or nationalization of assets, restrictions on and government intervention in international trade, confiscatory taxation, political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision making, armed conflict, civil war, and social instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socioeconomic unrest or widespread outbreaks of disease. The securities markets in Africa are underdeveloped and are often considered to be less correlated to global economic cycles than markets located in more developed economies, countries or geographic regions. Securities markets in African countries are subject to greater risks associated with market volatility, lower market capitalization, lower trading volume, illiquidity, inflation, greater price fluctuations, uncertainty regarding the existence of trading markets, governmental control and heavy regulation of labor and industry. Moreover, trading on African securities markets may be suspended altogether. Certain governments in African countries may restrict or control to varying degrees the ability of foreign investors to invest in securities of issuers located or operating in those countries. Moreover, certain countries in Africa may require governmental approval or special licenses prior to investment by foreign investors; may limit the amount of investment by foreign investors in a particular industry and/or issuer; may limit such foreign investment to a certain class of securities of an issuer that may have less advantageous rights than the classes available for purchase by domestic investors of those countries; and/or may impose additional taxes on foreign investors. These factors, among others, make investing in issuers located or operating in countries in Africa significantly riskier than investing in issuers located or operating in more developed countries.
ASIA RISK. Certain Funds invest significantly in the securities of Asian issuers. Such investments subject a Fund to certain risks associated specifically with investments in securities of Asian issuers, including distinct legal, regulatory, political and economic risks. Many Asian economies have experienced rapid growth and industrialization, and there is no assurance that
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this growth rate will be maintained. Some Asian economies are highly dependent on trade, and economic conditions in other countries within and outside Asia can impact these economies. Certain of these economies may be adversely affected by trade or policy disputes with its major trade partners. There is also a high concentration of market capitalization and trading volume in a small number of issuers representing a limited number of industries, as well as a high concentration of investors and financial intermediaries. Certain Asian countries have experienced and may in the future experience expropriation and nationalization of assets, confiscatory taxation, currency manipulation, political instability, armed conflict and social instability as a result of religious, ethnic, socio-economic and/or political unrest. In particular, escalated tensions involving North Korea and any outbreak of hostilities involving North Korea could have a severe adverse effect on Asian economies. Governments of certain Asian countries have exercised, and continue to exercise, substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector. In certain cases, the government owns or controls many companies, including the largest in the country. Accordingly, government actions could have a significant effect on the issuers of a Fund’s securities or on economic conditions generally. Issuers in Asia may not be subject to the same accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards as U.S. companies and if their securities are not listed on a U.S. exchange, they may not be subject to the same corporate governance standards as U.S. issuers. In addition, satisfactory custodial services for investment securities may not be available in some Asia countries, which may result in a Fund incurring additional costs and delays in providing transportation and custody services for such securities outside such countries. Recent developments in relations between the U.S. and China have heightened concerns of increased tariffs and restrictions on trade between the two countries. An increase in tariffs or trade restrictions, or even the threat of such developments, could lead to a significant reduction in international trade, which could have a negative impact on the economy of Asian countries and a commensurately negative impact on the Fund.
BORROWING AND LEVERAGE RISK. If a Fund borrows money, it must pay interest and other fees, which may reduce the Fund’s returns. Any such borrowings are intended to be temporary. However, under certain market conditions, including periods of low demand or decreased liquidity, such borrowings might be outstanding for longer periods of time. As prescribed by the 1940 Act, a Fund will be required to maintain specified asset coverage of at least 300% with respect to any bank borrowing immediately following such borrowing and at all times thereafter. A Fund may be required to dispose of assets on unfavorable terms if market fluctuations or other factors reduce the Fund’s asset coverage to less than the prescribed amount.
CONVERTIBLE SECURITIES RISK. The Funds may invest in convertible securities. Convertible securities are bonds, debentures, notes, preferred stocks or other securities that may be converted or exchanged (by the holder or by the issuer, depending on the terms of the securities) into shares of the underlying common stock (or cash or securities of equivalent value) at a stated exchange ratio. If a convertible security held by a Fund is called for redemption or conversion, the Fund could be required to tender it for redemption, convert it into the underlying equity security or sell it to a third party, which may have an adverse effect on the Fund’s ability to achieve its investment objective. The market values of convertible securities tend to decline as interest rates increase. However, a convertible security’s market value also tends to reflect the market price of the equity security of the issuing company, particularly when the price of the equity security is greater than the convertible security’s conversion price (i.e., the predetermined price or exchange ratio at which the convertible security can be converted or exchanged for the underlying equity security). Convertible securities are also exposed to the risk that an issuer will be unable to meet its obligation to make dividend or principal payments when due as a result of changing financial or market conditions. Convertible debt securities generally offer lower interest or dividend yields than non-convertible debt securities of similar credit quality because of their potential for capital appreciation. Moreover, there can be no assurance that convertible securities will provide current income prior to conversion because the issuers of the convertible securities may default on their obligations. If the convertible security has a conversion or call feature that allows the issuer to redeem the security before the conversion date, the potential for capital appreciation may be diminished. In the event that convertible securities are not optional but mandatory based upon the price of the underlying common stock, a Fund may be subject to additional exposure to loss of income in situations where the sub-advisor would prefer to hold debt.
CREDIT RATING AGENCY RISK. Credit ratings are determined by credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s, Inc., Moody’s Investors Services, Inc. and Fitch Inc., and are only the opinions of such entities. Ratings assigned by a rating agency are not absolute standards of credit quality and do not evaluate market risk or the liquidity of securities. Any shortcomings or inefficiencies in credit rating agencies’ processes for determining credit ratings may adversely affect the credit ratings of securities held by a Fund and, as a result, may adversely affect those securities’ perceived or actual credit risk.
CURRENCY RISK. The Funds may invest in securities denominated in a non-U.S. currency. Changes in currency exchange rates affect the value of investments denominated in a foreign currency, the value of dividends and interest earned from such securities and gains and losses realized on the sale of such securities. A Fund’s net asset value could decline if a currency to which the Fund has exposure depreciates against the U.S. dollar or if there are delays or limits on repatriation of such currency. Currency exchange rates can be very volatile and can change quickly and unpredictably. Changes in currency exchange rates
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may affect a Fund's net asset value, the value of dividends and interest earned, and gains and losses realized on the sale of securities. An increase in the strength of the U.S. dollar relative to other currencies may cause the value of a Fund to decline. Certain non-U.S. currencies may be particularly volatile, and non-U.S. governments may intervene in the currency markets, causing a decline in value or liquidity in a Fund's non-U.S. holdings whose value is tied to the affected non-U.S. currency. Additionally, the prices of non-U.S. securities that are traded in U.S. dollars are often indirectly influenced by currency fluctuations.
DEFAULTED SECURITIES RISK. Defaulted securities pose a greater risk that principal will not be repaid than non-defaulted securities. The reorganization or liquidation of an issuer of a defaulted security may result in losing its entire investment or being required to accept cash or securities with a value less than its original investment. It may also be difficult to obtain complete and accurate information regarding the true financial condition of the issuer of a defaulted security. Defaulted securities and any securities received in an exchange for such securities may be subject to restrictions on resale.
DEPENDENCE ON KEY PERSONNEL RISK. The Sub-Advisor is dependent upon the experience and expertise of the Funds' portfolio managers in providing advisory services with respect to the Funds' investments. If the Sub-Advisor were to lose the services of any of these portfolio managers, its ability to service the Funds could be adversely affected. There can be no assurance that a suitable replacement could be found for any of the portfolio managers in the event of their death, resignation, retirement or inability to act on behalf of the Sub-Advisor.
EMERGING MARKETS RISK. The Funds may invest in securities issued by emerging market governments and companies incorporated in emerging market countries. Investments in securities issued by companies operating in emerging market countries involve additional risks relating to political, economic, or regulatory conditions not associated with investments in securities and instruments issued by U.S. companies or by companies operating in other developed market countries. This is due to, among other things, the potential for greater market volatility, lower trading volume, a lack of liquidity, potential for market manipulation, higher levels of inflation, political and economic instability, greater risk of a market shutdown and more governmental limitations on foreign investments in emerging market countries than are typically found in more developed market countries. Moreover, emerging market countries often have less uniformity in accounting and reporting requirements, unsettled securities laws, less reliable securities valuations and greater risks associated with custody of securities than developed markets. In addition, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, which regulates auditors of U.S. public companies, is unable to inspect audit work papers in certain emerging market countries. Emerging market countries often have greater risk of capital controls through such measures as taxes or interest rate control than developed markets. Certain emerging market countries may also lack the infrastructure necessary to attract large amounts of foreign trade and investment. Local securities markets in emerging market countries may trade a small number of securities and may be unable to respond effectively to increases in trading volume, potentially making prompt liquidation of holdings difficult or impossible. Settlement procedures in emerging market countries are frequently less developed and reliable than those in the U.S. and other developed market countries. In addition, significant delays may occur in registering the transfer of securities. Settlement or registration problems may make it more difficult for a Fund to value its portfolio securities and could cause the Fund to miss attractive investment opportunities. Investing in emerging market countries involves a higher risk of expropriation, nationalization, confiscation of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on foreign investments and on repatriation of capital invested by certain emerging market countries. Enforcing legal rights may be made difficult, costly and slow in emerging markets as there may be additional problems enforcing claims against non-U.S. governments. As such, the rights and remedies associated with emerging market investment securities may be different than those available for investments in more developed markets. For example, it may be more difficult for shareholders to bring derivative litigation or for U.S. regulators to bring enforcement actions against issuers in emerging markets.
In addition, due to the differences in regulatory, accounting, audit and financial recordkeeping standards, including financial disclosures, less information about emerging market companies is publicly available and information that is available may be unreliable or outdated. This may affect the Index Provider’s ability to compute and construct the Index and may further impede the Advisor’s ability to accurately evaluate the index data provided. This potential for error in index construction and index data could affect the overall performance of a Fund.
EUROPE RISK. Certain Funds may invest significantly in the securities of European issuers. Therefore, in addition to the risks associated with investments in non-U.S. securities generally, such Funds are subject to certain risks associated specifically with investments in securities of European issuers. Political or economic disruptions in European countries, even in countries in which a Fund is not invested, may adversely affect security values and thus the Fund’s holdings. A significant number of countries in Europe are member states in the EU, and the member states no longer control their own monetary policies by directing independent interest rates for their currencies. In these member states, the authority to direct monetary policies,
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including money supply and official interest rates for the Euro, is exercised by the European Central Bank. In a 2016 referendum, the United Kingdom elected to withdraw from the EU. After years of negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU, a withdrawal agreement was reached whereby the United Kingdom formally left the EU. After years of negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU, a withdrawal agreement was reached whereby the United Kingdom formally left the EU. As the second largest economy among EU members, the implications of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal are difficult to gauge and cannot be fully known. Trade between the United Kingdom and the EU is highly integrated through supply chains and trade in services, as well as through multinational companies. The United Kingdom’s departure may negatively impact the EU and Europe as a whole by causing volatility within the EU, triggering prolonged economic downturns in certain European countries or sparking additional member states to contemplate departing the EU (thereby perpetuating political instability in the region).
FAILURE TO QUALIFY AS A REGULATED INVESTMENT COMPANY RISK. If, in any year, a Fund fails to qualify as a regulated investment company under the applicable tax laws, that Fund would be taxed as an ordinary corporation. In such circumstances, a Fund could be required to recognize unrealized gains, pay substantial taxes and interest and make substantial distributions before requalifying as a regulated investment company that is accorded special tax treatment.
INVESTMENT COMPANIES RISK. Certain Funds may invest in securities of other investment companies. As a shareholder in another investment company, the Funds will bear its ratable share of that investment company’s expenses, and would remain subject to payment of the Funds’ advisory and administrative fees with respect to assets so invested. Shareholders would therefore be subject to duplicative expenses to the extent the Funds invest in other investment companies. In addition, the Funds will incur brokerage costs when purchasing and selling shares of exchange-traded investment companies.
ISSUER SPECIFIC CHANGES RISK. The value of an individual security or particular type of security can be more volatile than the market as a whole and can perform differently from the value of the market as a whole.
LATIN AMERICA RISK. Certain Funds may invest in the securities of Latin American issuers. The economies of Latin American countries have in the past experienced considerable difficulties, including high inflation rates, high interest rates, high unemployment, government overspending and political instability. International economic conditions, particularly those in the United States, Europe and Asia, as well as world prices for oil and other commodities may also influence the development of Latin American economies. Many Latin American countries are highly reliant on the exportation of commodities and their economies may be significantly impacted by fluctuations in commodity prices and the global demand for certain commodities. In the past, certain Latin American economies have been influenced by changing supply and demand for a particular currency, monetary policies of governments (including exchange control programs, restrictions on local exchanges or markets and limitations on foreign investment in a country or on investment by residents of a country in other countries), and currency devaluations and revaluations. Other Latin American investment risks may include inadequate investor protection, less developed regulatory, accounting, auditing and financial standards, unfavorable changes in laws or regulations, natural disasters, corruption and military activity. The governments of many Latin American countries may also exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector, and any such exercise could have a significant effect on companies in which a Fund invests. Securities of companies in Latin America may also be subject to significant price volatility.
LEGISLATION/LITIGATION RISK. From time to time, various legislative initiatives are proposed in the United States and abroad, which may have a negative impact on certain companies in which a Fund invests. In addition, litigation regarding any of the issuers of the securities owned by a Fund, or industries represented by these issuers, may negatively impact the value of the securities. Such legislation or litigation may cause a Fund to lose value or may result in higher portfolio turnover if the Advisor determines to sell such a holding.
REIT RISK. REITs typically own and operate income-producing real estate, such as residential or commercial buildings, or real-estate related assets, including mortgages. As a result, investments in REITs are subject to the risks associated with investing in real estate, which may include, but are not limited to: fluctuations in the value of underlying properties; defaults by borrowers or tenants; market saturation; changes in general and local operating expenses; and other economic, political or regulatory occurrences affecting companies in the real estate sector. Additionally, investing in REITs involves certain other risks related to their structure and focus, which include, but are not limited to, dependency upon management skills, limited diversification, the risks of locating and managing financing for projects, heavy cash flow dependency, possible default by borrowers, the costs and potential losses of self-liquidation of one or more holdings, the risk of a possible lack of mortgage funds and associated interest rate risks, overbuilding, property vacancies, increases in property taxes and operating expenses, changes in zoning laws, losses due to environmental damages, changes in neighborhood values and appeal to purchasers, the possibility of failing to maintain exemptions from registration under the 1940 Act, failure to satisfy the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for maintaining REIT status and, in many cases, relatively small market capitalization, which may result in less
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market liquidity and greater price volatility for a REIT’s shares. REITs are also subject to the risk that the real estate market may experience an economic downturn generally, which may have a material effect on the real estate in which the REITs invest and their underlying portfolio securities.
Fund Organization
Each Fund is a series of the Trust, an investment company registered under the 1940 Act. Each Fund is treated as a separate fund with its own investment objective and policies. The Trust is organized as a Massachusetts business trust. The Board is responsible for the overall management and direction of the Trust. The Board elects the Trust’s officers and approves all significant agreements, including those with the Advisor, Sub-Advisor, custodian and fund administrative and accounting agent.
Management of the Funds
First Trust Advisors L.P., 120 East Liberty Drive, Wheaton, Illinois 60187, is the investment advisor to the Funds. In this capacity, First Trust is responsible for overseeing the Sub-Advisor in the selection and ongoing monitoring of the securities in the Funds' portfolio and certain other services necessary for the management of the portfolio.
First Trust is a limited partnership with one limited partner, Grace Partners of DuPage L.P., and one general partner, The Charger Corporation. Grace Partners of DuPage L.P. is a limited partnership with one general partner, The Charger Corporation, and a number of limited partners. The Charger Corporation is an Illinois corporation controlled by James A. Bowen, the Chief Executive Officer of First Trust. First Trust discharges its responsibilities subject to the policies of the Board.
First Trust serves as advisor or sub-advisor for 8 mutual fund portfolios, 10 exchange-traded funds consisting of 193 series and 16 closed-end funds. It is also the portfolio supervisor of certain unit investment trusts sponsored by First Trust Portfolios L.P. (“FTP”), an affiliate of First Trust, 120 East Liberty Drive, Wheaton, Illinois 60187. FTP specializes in the underwriting, trading and distribution of unit investment trusts and other securities. FTP is the principal underwriter of the shares of each Fund.
The Trust, on behalf of the Funds, and First Trust have retained TCW Investment Management Company LLC to serve as investment sub-advisor pursuant to a sub-advisory agreement (the "Sub-Advisory Agreement"). In this capacity, TCW is responsible for the selection and ongoing monitoring of the securities in the Funds' investment portfolio. TCW Investment Management Company LLC, with principal offices at 865 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California 90017, was founded in 1987, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The TCW Group, Inc. (“TCW Group”). TCW, together with TCW Group and its other subsidiaries, which provide a variety of investment management and investment advisory services, had approximately $270.8 billion under management or committed to management, including $233.1 billion of U.S. fixed income investments, as of August 31, 2021.
Stephen M. Kane, Laird Landmann and Bryan T. Whalen are the Funds' portfolio managers and are jointly and primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of the Funds’ investment portfolios.
Stephen M. Kane, CFA, is a Generalist Portfolio Manager, Co-Chief Investment Officer and Co-Director in the Fixed Income Group of TCW. Mr. Kane joined TCW in 2009 during the acquisition of MetWest. Prior to joining TCW in December 2009, Mr. Kane was a portfolio manager and a founding partner with MetWest since 1996. Mr. Kane began his investment career in 1990 and earned a B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Laird Landmann, is a Generalist Portfolio Manager and Co-Director in the Fixed Income Group of TCW and leads the fixed income group’s risk management efforts. Prior to joining TCW in December 2009, Mr. Landmann was a portfolio manager and a founding partner with MetWest since 1996. Mr. Landmann began his investment career in 1986 and earned a B.S. from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Bryan T. Whalen, CFA, is a Generalist Portfolio Manager, Co-Chief Investment Officer and Co-Director in TCW’s Fixed Income group. Prior to joining TCW in December 2009, Mr. Whalen was co-head of MetWest’s Securitized Products division. Mr. Whalen began his investment career in 1997 and earned a B.A. from Yale University.
For additional information concerning First Trust and the Sub-Advisor, including a description of the services provided to the Funds, see the Funds’ SAI. Additional information about the portfolio managers’ compensation, other accounts managed by the portfolio managers and the portfolio managers’ ownership of shares of the Funds is provided in the SAI.
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Management Fee
Pursuant to an investment management agreement between First Trust and the Trust, on behalf of the Funds (the "Investment Management Agreement"), First Trust oversees TCW’s management of each Fund’s assets and pays TCW for its services as Sub-Advisor. First Trust is paid an annual unitary management fee by each Fund based on the Fund's average daily net assets at a rate set forth in the table below and is responsible for each Fund’s expenses, including the cost of transfer agency, sub-advisory, custody, fund administration, legal, audit and other services, but excluding fee payments under the Investment Management Agreement, interest, taxes, acquired fund fees and expenses, if any, brokerage commissions and other expenses connected with the execution of portfolio transactions, distribution and service fees payable pursuant to a 12b-1 plan, if any, and extraordinary expenses. Pursuant to contractual agreements, First Trust has agreed to waive management fees of 0.10% of average daily net assets until December 31, 2022 for each Fund. The fee waiver agreements may be terminated by action of the Board of Trustees at any time upon 60 days’ written notice by the Trust, on behalf of the Funds, or by First Trust only after December 31, 2022. First Trust has committed to the fee waivers to respond to the current low interest rate environment and expects that the fee waivers will be appropriate until long term yields increase. First Trust anticipates that if the trailing average 30-day yield of the current 1-year U.S. Treasury Bond exceeds 3.50% before December 31, 2022, the fee waiver may not be continued past December 31, 2022.
Fund
Management Fee
First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF
0.65%
First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF
0.85%
A discussion regarding the Board’s approval of the continuation of the Investment Management Agreement and Investment Sub-Advisory Agreement is available in the Funds’ Annual Report to shareholders for the fiscal period ended August 31, 2021.
How to Buy and Sell Shares
Most investors buy and sell shares of a Fund in secondary market transactions through brokers. Shares of each Fund are listed for trading on the secondary market on one or more national securities exchanges. Shares can be bought and sold throughout the trading day like other publicly traded shares. There is no minimum investment when buying shares on an Exchange. Although shares are generally purchased and sold in “round lots” of 100 shares, brokerage firms typically permit investors to purchase or sell shares in smaller “odd lots,” at no per-share price differential. When buying or selling shares through a broker, investors should expect to pay brokerage commissions, investors may receive less than the net asset value of the shares because shares are bought and sold at market prices rather than at net asset value, and investors may pay some or all of the bid-ask spread for each transaction (purchase or sale) of Fund shares. Share prices are reported in dollars and cents per share.
Under normal circumstances, a Fund will pay out redemption proceeds to a redeeming authorized participant within two days after the authorized participant’s redemption request is received, in accordance with the process set forth in a Fund’s SAI and in the agreement between the authorized participant and the Fund’s distributor. However, each Fund reserves the right, including under stressed market conditions, to take up to seven days after the receipt of a redemption request to pay an authorized participant, all as permitted by the 1940 Act. If a Fund has foreign investments in a country where a local market holiday, or series of consecutive holidays, or the extended delivery cycles for transferring foreign investments to redeeming authorized participants prevents the Fund from delivering such foreign investments to an authorized participant in response to a redemption request, a Fund may take up to 15 days after the receipt of the redemption request to deliver such investments to the authorized participant.
For purposes of the 1940 Act, each Fund is treated as a registered investment company, and, absent an available exemption or exemptive relief, the acquisition of shares by other registered investment companies and companies relying on Sections 3(c)(1) and 3(c)(7) of the 1940 Act is subject to the restrictions of Section 12(d)(1) of the 1940 Act. The Trust, on behalf of the Funds, has received an exemptive order from the Securities and Exchange Commission that permits certain registered investment companies to invest in a Fund beyond the limits set forth in Section 12(d)(1), subject to certain terms and conditions, including that any such investment companies enter into agreements with a Fund regarding the terms of any investment.
Book Entry
Shares are held in book-entry form, which means that no share certificates are issued. The Depository Trust Company (“DTC”) or its nominee is the record owner of all outstanding shares of a Fund and is recognized as the owner of all shares for all purposes.
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Investors owning shares are beneficial owners as shown on the records of DTC or its participants. DTC serves as the securities depository for all shares. Participants in DTC include securities brokers and dealers, banks, trust companies, clearing corporations and other institutions that directly or indirectly maintain a custodial relationship with DTC. As a beneficial owner of shares, you are not entitled to receive physical delivery of share certificates or to have shares registered in your name, and you are not considered a registered owner of shares. Therefore, to exercise any right as an owner of shares, you must rely upon the procedures of DTC and its participants. These procedures are the same as those that apply to any other stocks that you hold in book-entry or “street name” form.
Share Trading Prices
The trading price of shares of a Fund on the secondary market is based on market price and may differ from such Fund’s daily net asset value and can be affected by market forces of supply and demand, economic conditions and other factors.
Frequent Purchases and Redemptions of the Funds' Shares
The Funds impose no restrictions on the frequency of purchases and redemptions (“market timing”). In determining not to approve a written, established policy, the Board evaluated the risks of market timing activities by the Funds' shareholders. The Board considered that the Funds' shares can only be purchased and redeemed directly from the Funds in Creation Units by broker-dealers and large institutional investors that have entered into participation agreements (i.e., authorized participants (“APs”)) and that the vast majority of trading in the Funds' shares occurs on the secondary market. Because the secondary market trades do not involve the Funds directly, it is unlikely those trades would cause many of the harmful effects of market timing, including dilution, disruption of portfolio management, increases in the Funds' trading costs and the realization of capital gains. With respect to trades directly with the Fund, to the extent effected in‑kind (i.e., for securities), those trades do not cause any of the harmful effects that may result from frequent cash trades. To the extent that the Fund may effect the purchase or redemption of Creation Units in exchange wholly or partially for cash, the Board noted that such trades could result in dilution to a Fund and increased transaction costs, which could negatively impact the Funds' ability to achieve their investment objective. However, the Board noted that direct trading by APs is critical to ensuring that the shares trade at or close to net asset value. In addition, the Funds impose fixed and variable transaction fees on purchases and redemptions of Creation Units to cover the custodial and other costs incurred by the Funds in effecting trades. Finally, the Advisor monitors purchase and redemption orders from APs for patterns of abusive trading and the Funds reserve the right to not accept orders from APs that the Advisor has determined may be disruptive to the management of the Funds, or otherwise not in the Funds' best interests.
Dividends, Distributions and Taxes
Dividends from net investment income of the Funds, if any, are declared and paid monthly by each Fund. Each Fund distributes its net realized capital gains, if any, to shareholders at least annually.
Distributions in cash may be reinvested automatically in additional whole shares only if the broker through whom you purchased shares makes such option available. Such shares will generally be reinvested by the broker based upon the market price of those shares and investors may be subject to customary brokerage commissions charged by the broker.
Federal Tax Matters
This section summarizes some of the main U.S. federal income tax consequences of owning shares of the Funds. This section is current as of the date of this prospectus. Tax laws and interpretations change frequently, and these summaries do not describe all of the tax consequences to all taxpayers. For example, these summaries generally do not describe your situation if you are a corporation, a non-U.S. person, a broker-dealer, or other investor with special circumstances. In addition, this section does not describe your state, local or non-U.S. tax consequences.
This federal income tax summary is based in part on the advice of counsel to the Funds. The Internal Revenue Service could disagree with any conclusions set forth in this section. In addition, counsel to the Funds may not have been asked to review, and may not have reached a conclusion with respect to, the federal income tax treatment of the assets to be included in the Funds. The following disclosure may not be sufficient for you to use for the purpose of avoiding penalties under federal tax law.
As with any investment, you should seek advice based on your individual circumstances from your own tax advisor.
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Fund Status
Each Fund intends to continue to qualify as a “regulated investment company” under the federal tax laws. If a Fund qualifies as a regulated investment company and distributes its income as required by the tax law, the Fund generally will not pay federal income taxes.
Distributions
The Funds' distributions are generally taxable. After the end of each year, you will receive a tax statement that separates the distributions of a Fund into three categories, exempt-interest dividends (if any), ordinary income distributions and capital gain dividends.Dividends that qualify as “exempt-interest dividends” generally are excluded from your gross income for federal income tax purposes. Some or all of the exempt-interest dividends, however, may be taken into account in determining your alternative minimum tax and may have other tax consequences (e.g., they may affect the amount of your social security benefits that are taxed). Ordinary income distributions are generally taxed at your ordinary tax rate, however, as further discussed below, certain ordinary income distributions received from a Fund may be taxed at the capital gains tax rates. Generally, you will treat all capital gain dividends as long-term capital gains regardless of how long you have owned your shares.
To determine your actual tax liability for your capital gain dividends, you must calculate your total net capital gain or loss for the tax year after considering all of your other taxable transactions, as described below. In addition, the Funds may make distributions that represent a return of capital for tax purposes and thus will generally not be taxable to you; however, such distributions may reduce your tax basis in your shares, which could result in you having to pay higher taxes in the future when shares are sold, even if you sell the shares at a loss from your original investment. A "return of capital" is a return, in whole or in part, of the funds that you previously invested in the Fund. A return of capital distribution should not be considered part of a Fund’s dividend yield or total return of an investment in Fund shares. The tax status of your distributions from a Fund is not affected by whether you reinvest your distributions in additional shares or receive them in cash. The income from a Fund that you must take into account for federal income tax purposes is not reduced by amounts used to pay a deferred sales fee, if any. The tax laws may require you to treat distributions made to you in January as if you had received them on December 31 of the previous year.
Income from a Fund may also be subject to a 3.8% “Medicare tax.” This tax generally applies to your net investment income if your adjusted gross income exceeds certain threshold amounts, which are $250,000 in the case of married couples filing joint returns and $200,000 in the case of single individuals. Interest that is excluded from gross income and exempt-interest dividends from a Fund are generally not included in your net investment income for purposes of this tax.
Dividends Received Deduction
A corporation that owns shares generally will not be entitled to the dividends received deduction with respect to many dividends received from a Fund because the dividends received deduction is generally not available for distributions from regulated investment companies. However, certain ordinary income dividends on shares that are attributable to qualifying dividends received by a Fund from certain corporations may be reported by the Fund as being eligible for the dividends received deduction.
Capital Gains and Losses and Certain Ordinary Income Dividends
If you are an individual, the maximum marginal stated federal tax rate for net capital gain is generally 20% (15% or 0% for taxpayers with taxable income below certain thresholds). Some capital gains, including some portion of your capital gain dividends, may be taxed at a higher maximum stated federal tax rate. Capital gains may also be subject to the Medicare tax described above.
Net capital gain equals net long-term capital gain minus net short-term capital loss for the taxable year. Capital gain or loss is long-term if the holding period for the asset is more than one year and is short-term if the holding period for the asset is one year or less. You must exclude the date you purchase your shares to determine your holding period. If you hold a share for six months or less, any loss incurred by you related to the disposition of such share will be disallowed to the extent of the exempt-interest dividends you received, except in the case of a regular dividend paid by a Fund if the Fund declares exempt-interest dividends on a daily basis in an amount equal to at least 90 percent of its net tax-exempt interest and distributes such dividends on a monthly or more frequent basis. To the extent, if any, it is not disallowed, it will be recharacterized as long-term capital loss to the extent of any capital gain dividend received. The tax rates for capital gains realized from assets held for one year or less are generally the same as for ordinary income. The Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, treats certain capital gains as ordinary income in special situations.
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An election may be available to you to defer recognition of the gain attributable to a capital gain dividend if you make certain qualifying investments within a limited time. You should talk to your tax advisor about the availability of this deferral election and its requirements.
Ordinary income dividends received by an individual shareholder from a regulated investment company such as each Fund are generally taxed at the same rates that apply to net capital gain (as discussed above), provided certain holding period requirements are satisfied and provided the dividends are attributable to qualifying dividends received by the Fund itself. Each Fund will provide notice to its shareholders of the amount of any distribution which may be taken into account as a dividend which is eligible for the capital gains tax rates.
Sale of Shares
If you sell or redeem your shares, you will generally recognize a taxable gain or loss. To determine the amount of this gain or loss, you must subtract your tax basis in your shares from the amount you receive in the transaction. Your tax basis in your shares is generally equal to the cost of your shares, generally including sales charges. In some cases, however, you may have to adjust your tax basis after you purchase your shares. Further, if you hold your shares for six months or less, any loss incurred by you related to the disposition of such a share will be disallowed to the extent of the exempt-interest dividends you received, except as otherwise described in the prior paragraph. An election may be available to you to defer recognition of capital gain if you make certain qualifying investments within a limited time. You should talk to your tax advisor about the availability of this deferral election and its requirements.
Taxes on Purchase and Redemption of Creation Units
If you exchange securities for Creation Units, you will generally recognize a gain or a loss. The gain or loss will be equal to the difference between the market value of the Creation Units at the time and your aggregate basis in the securities surrendered and the cash component paid. If you exchange Creation Units for securities, you will generally recognize a gain or loss equal to the difference between your basis in the Creation Units and the aggregate market value of the securities received and the cash redemption amount. The Internal Revenue Service, however, may assert that a loss realized upon an exchange of securities for Creation Units or Creation Units for securities cannot be deducted currently under the rules governing “wash sales,” or on the basis that there has been no significant change in economic position.
Treatment of Expenses
Expenses incurred and deducted by the Funds will generally not be treated as income taxable to you. If a Fund pays exempt-interest dividends, which are treated as exempt interest for federal income tax purposes, you will not be able to deduct some of your interest expense for debt that you incur or continue to purchase or carry your shares.
Non-U.S. Tax Credit
If a Fund invests in non-U.S. securities, the tax statement that you receive may include an item showing non-U.S. taxes a Fund paid to other countries. In this case, dividends taxed to you will include your share of the taxes such Fund paid to other countries. You may be able to deduct or receive a tax credit for your share of these taxes.
Non-U.S. Investors
If you are a non-U.S. investor (i.e., an investor other than a U.S. citizen or resident or a U.S. corporation, partnership, estate or trust), you should be aware that, generally, subject to applicable tax treaties, distributions from a Fund will be characterized as dividends for federal income tax purposes (other than dividends which a Fund properly reports as capital gain dividends) and, other than exempt-interest dividends, will be subject to U.S. federal income taxes, including withholding taxes, subject to certain exceptions described below. However, distributions received by a non-U.S. investor from a Fund that are properly reported by a Fund as capital gain dividends may not be subject to U.S. federal income taxes, including withholding taxes, provided that a Fund makes certain elections and certain other conditions are met. Distributions from a Fund that are properly reported by such Fund as an interest-related dividend attributable to certain interest income received by such Fund or as a short-term capital gain dividend attributable to certain net short-term capital gain income received by such Fund may not be subject to U.S. federal income taxes, including withholding taxes when received by certain non-U.S. investors, provided that the Fund makes certain elections and certain other conditions are met.
Distributions may be subject to a U.S. withholding tax of 30% in the case of distributions to (i) certain non-U.S. financial institutions that have not entered into an agreement with the U.S. Treasury to collect and disclose certain information and are not resident in a jurisdiction that has entered into such an agreement with the U.S. Treasury and (ii) certain other non-U.S.
51

entities that do not provide certain certifications and information about the entity’s U.S. owners. This withholding tax is also currently scheduled to apply to the gross proceeds from the disposition of securities that produce U.S. source interest ordividends. However, proposed regulations may eliminate the requirement to withhold on payments of gross proceeds from dispositions.
Investments in Certain Non-U.S. Corporations
If a Fund holds an equity interest in any “passive foreign investment companies” (“PFICs”), which are generally certain non-U.S. corporations that receive at least 75% of their annual gross income from passive sources (such as interest, dividends, certain rents and royalties or capital gains) or that hold at least 50% of their assets in investments producing such passive income, a Fund could be subject to U.S. federal income tax and additional interest charges on gains and certain distributions with respect to those equity interests, even if all the income or gain is timely distributed to its shareholders. A Fund will not be able to pass through to its shareholders any credit or deduction for such taxes. A Fund may be able to make an election that could ameliorate these adverse tax consequences. In this case, a Fund would recognize as ordinary income any increase in the value of such PFIC shares, and as ordinary loss any decrease in such value to the extent it did not exceed prior increases included in income. Under this election, a Fund might be required to recognize in a year income in excess of its distributions from PFICs and its proceeds from dispositions of PFIC stock during that year, and such income would nevertheless be subject to the distribution requirement and would be taken into account for purposes of the 4% excise tax. Dividends paid by PFICs are not treated as qualified dividend income.
Distribution Plan
FTP serves as the distributor of Creation Units for the Funds on an agency basis. FTP does not maintain a secondary market in shares.
The Board has adopted a Distribution and Service Plan pursuant to Rule 12b-1 under the 1940 Act. In accordance with the Rule 12b-1 plan, the Funds are authorized to pay an amount up to 0.25% of their average daily net assets each year to reimburse FTP for amounts expended to finance activities primarily intended to result in the sale of Creation Units or the provision of investor services. FTP may also use this amount to compensate securities dealers or other persons that are APs for providing distribution assistance, including broker-dealer and shareholder support and educational and promotional services.
The Funds do not currently pay 12b-1 fees, and pursuant to a contractual arrangement, First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF and First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF will not pay 12b-1 fees any time before December 31, 2022. However, in the event 12b-1 fees are charged in the future, because these fees are paid out of the Funds' assets, over time these fees will increase the cost of your investment and may cost you more than certain other types of sales charges.
Net Asset Value
Each Fund net asset value is determined as of the close of trading (normally 4:00 p.m., Eastern Time) on each day the New York Stock Exchange (the "NYSE") is open for trading. If the NYSE closes early on a valuation day, the Fund’s net asset value will be determined as of that time. Net asset value is calculated for a Fund by taking the market price of the Fund’s total assets, including interest or dividends accrued but not yet collected, less all liabilities, and dividing such amount by the total number of shares outstanding. The result, rounded to the nearest cent, is the net asset value per share. All valuations are subject to review by the Board or its delegate.
Each Fund investments are valued daily at market or, in the absence of market value with respect to any investments, at fair value. Market value prices represent last sale or official closing prices from a national or foreign exchange (i.e., a regulated market) and are primarily obtained from third party pricing services (“Pricing Services”). Fair value prices represent any prices not considered market value prices and are either obtained from a Pricing Service or determined by the Advisor’s pricing committee (the “Pricing Committee”), in accordance with valuation procedures (which may be revised from time to time) adopted by the Board, and in accordance with provisions of the 1940 Act. As a general principle, the current “fair value” of a security would appear to be the amount which the owner might reasonably expect to receive for the security upon its current sale. Valuing a Fund’s assets using fair value pricing can result in using prices for those assets (particularly assets that trade in foreign markets) that may differ from current market valuations.
The Fund's investments are valued daily at market value or, in the absence of market value with respect to any portfolio securities, at fair value, in accordance with valuation procedures adopted by the Board and in accordance with the 1940 Act. Portfolio securities listed on any exchange other than Nasdaq and the London Stock Exchange Alternative Investment Market
52

(“AIM”) are valued at the last sale price on the business day as of which such value is being determined. Securities listed on Nasdaq or the AIM are valued at the official closing price on the business day as of which such value is being determined. If there has been no sale on such day, or no official closing price in the case of securities traded on Nasdaq or the AIM, the securities are fair valued at the mean of the most recent bid and ask prices on such day. Portfolio securities traded on more than one securities exchange are valued at the last sale price or official closing price, as applicable, on the business day as of which such value is being determined at the close of the exchange representing the principal market for such securities. Portfolio securities traded in the over-the-counter market, but excluding securities trading on Nasdaq or the AIM, are fair valued at the mean of the most recent bid and asked price, if available, and otherwise at the closing bid price. Short-term investments that mature in less than 60 days when purchased are fair valued at cost adjusted for amortization of premiums and accretion of discount, provided the Advisor’s Pricing Committee has determined that the use of amortized cost is an appropriate reflection of fair value given market and issuer-specific conditions existing at the time of determination. Net asset value may change on days when investors may not sell or redeem Fund shares.
Mortgage-related debt securities and other mortgage-related instruments ("Mortgage-Related Investments") will generally be valued by using a third-party pricing service. If a pricing service does not cover a particular Mortgage-Related Investment, or discontinues covering a Mortgage-Related Investment, the security will be priced using a broker quote. To derive values, pricing services and broker-dealers may use matrix pricing and valuation models, as well as recent market transactions for the same or similar assets. Occasionally, the Pricing Committee may determine that a pricing service price does not represent an accurate value of a Mortgage-Related Investment, based on the broker quote it receives, a recent trade in the security by the Fund, information from a portfolio manager, or other market information. In the event that the Pricing Committee determines that the pricing service price is unreliable or inaccurate based on such other information, the broker quote may be used. Additionally, if the Pricing Committee determines that the price of a Mortgage-Related Investment obtained from a pricing service and the available broker quote is unreliable or inaccurate due to market conditions or other reasons, or if a pricing service price or broker quote is unavailable, the security will be valued using fair value pricing, as described below.
Floating rate loans in which a Fund invests are not listed on any securities exchange or board of trade. Floating rate loans are typically bought and sold by institutional investors in individually negotiated private transactions that function in many respects like an over-the-counter secondary market, although typically no formal market-makers exist. This market, while having grown substantially since its inception, generally has fewer trades and less liquidity than the secondary market for other types of securities. Some floating rate loans have few or no trades, or trade infrequently, and information regarding a specific floating rate loan may not be widely available or may be incomplete. Accordingly, determinations of the market value of floating rate loans may be based on infrequent and dated information. Because there is less reliable, objective data available, elements of judgment may play a greater role in valuation of floating rate loans than for other types of securities. Typically, floating rate loans are fair valued using information provided by a third-party pricing service. The third-party pricing service primarily uses over-the-counter pricing from dealer runs and broker quotes from indicative sheets to value the floating rate loans.
Certain securities in which a Fund may invest are not listed on any securities exchange or board of trade. Such securities are typically bought and sold by institutional investors in individually negotiated private transactions that function in many respects like an over-the-counter secondary market, although typically no formal market makers exist. Certain securities, particularly debt securities, have few or no trades, or trade infrequently, and information regarding a specific security may not be widely available or may be incomplete. Accordingly, determinations of the fair value of debt securities may be based on infrequent and dated information. Because there is less reliable, objective data available, elements of judgment may play a greater role in valuation of debt securities than for other types of securities. Typically, short-term debt instruments are fair valued using information provided by a Pricing Service or obtained from broker-dealer quotations. Short-term debt instruments having a remaining maturity of 60 days or less when purchased are typically valued at cost adjusted for amortization of premiums and accretion of discounts, provided that the Pricing Committee has determined that the use of amortized cost is an appropriate reflection of fair value given market and issuer-specific conditions existing at the time of the determination.
Because foreign securities exchanges may be open on different days than the days during which an investor may purchase or sell shares of a Fund, the value of the Fund's securities may change on days when investors are not able to purchase or sell shares of the Fund. Assets denominated in foreign currencies are translated into U.S. dollars at the exchange rate of such currencies against the U.S. dollar as provided by a Pricing Service. The value of assets denominated in foreign currencies is converted into U.S. dollars at the exchange rates in effect at the time of valuation.
Repurchase agreements will be valued as follows: Overnight repurchase agreements will be fair valued at cost. Term repurchase agreements (i.e., those whose maturity exceeds seven days) will be valued by the Advisor’s Pricing Committee at the average of the bid quotations obtained daily from at least two recognized dealers.
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Currency-linked notes, credit-linked notes, interest rate swaps, credit default swaps, and other similar instruments will be valued by a Fund by using a pricing service or, if the pricing service does not provide a value, by quotes provided by the selling dealer or financial institution. When price quotes are not available, fair market value is based on prices of comparable securities. Absent a material difference between the exit price for these instruments and the market rates for similar instruments, currency-linked notes, credit-linked notes, etc. will be valued at the exit price.
Fund Service Providers
The Bank of New York Mellon, 240 Greenwich Street, New York, New York 10286, acts as the administrator, custodian and fund accounting and transfer agent for the Funds. Chapman and Cutler LLP, 111 West Monroe Street, Chicago, Illinois 60603, serves as legal counsel to the Funds.
Premium/Discount Information
Information showing the number of days the market price of each Fund's shares was greater (at a premium) and less (at a discount) than each Fund's net asset value for the most recently completed year, and the most recently completed calendar quarters since that year (or life of a Fund, if shorter), is available at https://www.ftportfolios.com/Retail/etf/home.aspx.
Total Return Information
The tables below compare the total return of each Fund to a market index. The information presented for each Fund is for the period indicated.
“Average annual total returns” represent the average annual change in the value of an investment over the period indicated. “Cumulative total returns” represent the total change in value of an investment over the period indicated. The return information shown under “Annual Total Return” in a Fund’s summary prospectus represents the average annual total returns of the Fund as of the calendar year end, while the information presented below is as of the Fund’s fiscal year end. The net asset value per share of a Fund is the value of one share of the Fund and is computed by dividing the value of all assets of the Fund (including accrued interest and dividends), less liabilities (including accrued expenses and dividends declared but unpaid), by the total number of outstanding shares. The net asset value return is based on the net asset value per share of a Fund and the market return is based on the market price per share of a Fund. The price used to calculate market return (“Market Price”) is determined by using the midpoint of the national best bid and offer price (“NBBO”) as of the time that a Fund’s net asset value is calculated. Under SEC rules, the NBBO consists of the highest displayed buy and lowest sell prices among the various exchanges trading a Fund at the time a Fund's net asset value is calculated. Prior to January 1, 2019, the price used was the midpoint between the highest bid and the lowest offer on the stock exchange on which shares of a Fund were listed for trading as of the time that a Fund's net asset value was calculated. Since the shares of each Fund typically do not trade in the secondary market until several days after a Fund's inception, for the period from inception to the first day of secondary market trading in shares of a Fund, the net asset value of a Fund is used as a proxy for the secondary market trading price to calculate market returns. Market and net asset value returns assume that all distributions have been reinvested in a Fund at Market Price and net asset value, respectively. An index is a statistical composite that tracks a specified financial market or sector. Unlike each Fund, an index does not actually hold a portfolio of securities and therefore does not incur the expenses incurred by a Fund. These expenses negatively impact the performance of each Fund. Also, market returns do not include brokerage commissions that may be payable on secondary market transactions. If brokerage commissions were included, market returns would be lower. The total returns reflect the reinvestment of dividends on securities in the indices. The returns shown in the table below do not reflect the deduction of taxes that a shareholder would pay on Fund distributions or the redemption or sale of shares of a Fund. The investment return and principal value of shares of a Fund will vary with changes in market conditions. Shares of a Fund may be worth more or less than their original cost when they are redeemed or sold in the market. The Funds' past performance is no guarantee of future results.
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First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
Total Returns as of August 31, 2021
 
 
Average Annual
Cumulative
 
1 Year
Inception
(2/14/2017)
Inception
(2/14/2017)
Fund Performance
 
 
 
Net Asset Value
0.77%
4.62%
22.76%
Market Price
0.82%
4.64%
22.86%
Index Performance
 
 
 
Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index
-0.08%
4.08%
19.94%
First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
Total Returns as of August 31, 2021
 
 
Average Annual
Cumulative
 
1 Year
Inception
(6/4/2018)
Inception
(6/4/2018)
Fund Performance
 
 
 
Net Asset Value
4.04%
5.01%
17.16%
Market Price
3.99%
5.05%
17.33%
Index Performance
 
 
 
ICE BofA US Dollar 3-Month Deposit Offered Rate Average Index
0.21%
1.51%
4.96%
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Financial Highlights
The financial highlights table is intended to help you understand the Funds' financial performance for the periods shown. Certain information reflects financial results for a single share of each Fund. The total returns represent the rate that an investor would have earned (or lost) on an investment in a Fund (assuming reinvestment of all dividends and distributions). The information for the periods indicated has been derived from financial statements audited by Deloitte & Touche LLP, whose report, along with the Funds' financial statements, is included in the Funds' Annual Report to Shareholders dated August 31, 2021 and is incorporated by reference in the Funds' SAI, which is available upon request.
First Trust Exchange-Traded Fund VIII
Financial Highlights
For a share outstanding throughout each period
First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF (FIXD)
 
Year Ended August 31,
Period Ended
8/31/2017(a)
 
2021
2020
2019
2018
Net asset value, beginning of period
$55.16
$52.97
$49.40
$51.01
$50.00
Income from investment operations:
 
 
 
 
 
Net investment income (loss)
0.76
1.06
1.39
1.15
0.49
Net realized and unrealized gain (loss)
(0.34)
2.85
3.63
(1.46)
1.12
Total from investment operations
0.42
3.91
5.02
(0.31)
1.61
Distributions paid to shareholders from:
 
 
 
 
 
Net investment income
(0.81)
(1.12)
(1.45)
(1.30)
(0.60)
Net realized gain
(0.75)
(0.60)
(b)(0.00)
Return of Capital
(0.04)
Total distributions
(1.60)
(1.72)
(1.45)
(1.30)
(0.60)
Net asset value, end of period
$53.98
$55.16
$52.97
$49.40
$51.01
Total Return(c)
0.77%
7.57%
10.33%
(0.57)%
3.23%
Ratios/supplemental data:
 
 
 
 
 
Net assets, end of period (in 000’s)
$5,297,667
$3,640,505
$900,459
$318,605
$51,011
Ratios to average net assets:
 
 
 
 
 
Ratio of total expenses to average net assets
0.65%
0.65%
0.65%
0.65%
(d)0.65%
Ratio of net expenses to average net assets
0.55%
0.55%
0.55%
0.55%
(d)0.55%
Ratio of net investment income (loss) to average net assets
1.34%
1.61%
2.69%
2.29%
(d)1.81%
Portfolio turnover rate(e) (f)
497%
431%
246%
358%
231%
(a)
Inception date is February 14, 2017, which is consistent with the Fund’s commencement of investment operations and is the date the initial creation units were established.
(b)
Amount is less than $0.01.
(c)
Total return is calculated assuming an initial investment made at the net asset value at the beginning of the period, reinvestment of all distributions at net asset value during the period, and redemption at net asset value on the last day of the period. The returns presented do not reflect the deduction of taxes that a shareholder would pay on Fund distributions or the redemption or sale of Fund shares. Total return is calculated for the time period presented and is not annualized for periods of less than a year. The total returns would have been lower if certain fees had not been waived by the investment advisor.
(d)
Annualized.
(e)
Portfolio turnover is calculated for the time period presented and is not annualized for periods of less than a year and does not include securities received or delivered from processing creations or redemptions and in-kind transactions.
(f)
The portfolio turnover rate not including mortgage dollar rolls was 282%, 270%, 223%, 241% and 158% for the periods ending August 31, 2021, August 31, 2020, August 31, 2019, August 31, 2018 and August 31, 2017, respectively.
56

First Trust Exchange-Traded Fund VIII
Financial Highlights
For a share outstanding throughout each period
First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF (UCON)
 
Year Ended August 31,
Period Ended
8/31/2018(a)
2021
2020
2019
Net asset value, beginning of period
$26.19
$25.79
$25.12
$25.00
Income from investment operations:
 
 
 
 
Net investment income (loss)
0.53
0.75
0.77
0.17
Net realized and unrealized gain (loss)
0.52
0.50
0.75
0.10
Total from investment operations
1.05
1.25
1.52
0.27
Distributions paid to shareholders from:
 
 
 
 
Net investment income
(0.51)
(0.85)
(0.81)
(0.15)
Net realized gain
(0.17)
(0.04)
Total distributions
(0.68)
(0.85)
(0.85)
(0.15)
Net asset value, end of period
$26.56
$26.19
$25.79
$25.12
Total Return(b)
4.04%
4.97%
6.15%
1.06%
Ratios/supplemental data:
 
 
 
 
Net assets, end of period (in 000’s)
$608,317
$204,295
$207,606
$25,125
Ratios to average net assets:
 
 
 
 
Ratio of total expenses to average net assets
0.85%
0.85%
0.85%
(c)0.85%
Ratio of net expenses to average net assets
0.75%
0.75%
0.75%
(c)0.75%
Ratio of net investment income (loss) to average net assets
1.90%
2.88%
3.16%
(c)2.68%
Portfolio turnover rate(d)
(e)190%
(e)111%
(e)40%
70%
(a)
Inception date is June 4, 2018, which is consistent with the Fund’s commencement of investment operations and is the date the initial creation units were established.
(b)
Total return is calculated assuming an initial investment made at the net asset value at the beginning of the period, reinvestment of all distributions at net asset value during the period, and redemption at net asset value on the last day of the period. The returns presented do not reflect the deduction of taxes that a shareholder would pay on Fund distributions or the redemption or sale of Fund shares. Total return is calculated for the time period presented and is not annualized for periods of less than a year. The total returns would have been lower if certain fees had not been waived by the investment advisor.
(c)
Annualized.
(d)
Portfolio turnover is calculated for the time period presented and is not annualized for periods of less than a year and does not include securities received or delivered from processing creations or redemptions and in-kind transactions.
(e)
The portfolio turnover rate not including mortgage dollar rolls was 40%, 67% and 39% for the periods ending August 31, 2021, August 31, 2020 and August 31, 2019, respectively.
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Other Information
Continuous Offering
Each Fund issues, on a continuous offering basis, its shares in one or more groups of a fixed number of Fund shares (each such group of such specified number of individual Fund shares, a “Creation Unit Aggregation”). The method by which Creation Unit Aggregations of Fund shares are created and traded may raise certain issues under applicable securities laws. Because new Creation Unit Aggregations of shares are issued and sold by a Fund on an ongoing basis, a “distribution,” as such term is used in the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Securities Act"), may occur at any point. Broker-dealers and other persons are cautioned that some activities on their part may, depending on the circumstances, result in their being deemed participants in a distribution in a manner which could render them statutory underwriters and subject them to the prospectus delivery requirement and liability provisions of the Securities Act.
For example, a broker-dealer firm or its client may be deemed a statutory underwriter if it takes Creation Unit Aggregations after placing an order with FTP, breaks them down into constituent shares and sells such shares directly to customers, or if it chooses to couple the creation of a supply of new shares with an active selling effort involving solicitation of secondary market demand for shares. A determination of whether one is an underwriter for purposes of the Securities Act must take into account all the facts and circumstances pertaining to the activities of the broker-dealer or its client in the particular case, and the examples mentioned above should not be considered a complete description of all the activities that could lead to a characterization as an underwriter.
Broker-dealer firms should also note that dealers who are not “underwriters” but are effecting transactions in shares, whether or not participating in the distribution of shares, are generally required to deliver a prospectus. This is because the prospectus delivery exemption in Section 4(a)(3) of the Securities Act is not available in respect of such transactions as a result of Section 24(d) of the 1940 Act. As a result, broker-dealer firms should note that dealers who are not underwriters but are participating in a distribution (as contrasted with ordinary secondary market transactions) and thus dealing with the shares that are part of an overallotment within the meaning of Section 4(a)(3)(C) of the Securities Act would be unable to take advantage of the prospectus delivery exemption provided by Section 4(a)(3) of the Securities Act. Firms that incur a prospectus delivery obligation with respect to shares are reminded that, under the Securities Act Rule 153, a prospectus delivery obligation under Section 5(b)(2) of the Securities Act owed to a broker-dealer in connection with a sale on the applicable Exchange is satisfied by the fact that the prospectus is available from the applicable Exchange upon request. The prospectus delivery mechanism provided in Rule 153 is available with respect to transactions on a national securities exchange, a trading facility or an alternative trading system.
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First Trust
Exchange-Traded Fund VIII


First Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETF
First Trust TCW Unconstrained Plus Bond ETF
For More Information
For more detailed information on the Funds, several additional sources of information are available to you. The SAI, incorporated by reference into this prospectus, contains detailed information on the Funds' policies and operation. Additional information about the Funds' investments is available in the annual and semi-annual reports to shareholders. In the Funds' annual report, you will find a discussion of the market conditions and investment strategies that significantly impacted the Funds' performance during the last fiscal year. The Funds' most recent SAI, annual and semi-annual reports and certain other information are available free of charge by calling the Funds at (800) 621-1675, on the Funds' website at www.ftportfolios.com or through your financial advisor. Shareholders may call the toll-free number above with any inquiries.
You may obtain this and other information regarding the Funds, including the SAI and the Codes of Ethics adopted by First Trust, FTP and the Trust, directly from the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"). Information on the SEC’s website is free of charge. Visit the SEC’s online EDGAR database at www.sec.gov. You may also request information regarding the Funds by sending a request (along with a duplication fee) to the SEC by sending an electronic request to publicinfo@sec.gov.
First Trust Advisors L.P.
120 East Liberty Drive, Suite 400
Wheaton, Illinois 60187
(800) 621-1675
www.ftportfolios.com
SEC File #: 333-210186
811-23147