BrightScope announced the Top 20 exchange-traded funds on Tuesday in the 401(k) and defined contribution industries. The investment research firm said the information was gleaned from 50,000 plans, representing 90% of all 401(k) assets and tallied by the total number of plans in which the ETFs were offered.

"ETFs are off to a slow start in terms of their distribution in 401(k) plans but we expect their prevalence to grow dramatically in the future as plan sponsors begin to understand the benefits of including them on plan menus," said Mike Alfred, co-founder and CEO of BrightScope. "The risks of ETFs have been wildly exaggerated. In many ways, ETFs are actually less risky than other instruments if the focus is on long-term returns."

The Top 20 ETFs by plan inclusion are:

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