Subscribe and receive the investor Info
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Behind the scenes at EXCHANGE: Innovation and advanced strategies in the ETF Space

March 12, 2024

EXCHANGE: An ETF Experience Conference, held in Miami Beach, Florida, was back again this February and has emerged as a landmark event in the financial industry. The event convenes a diverse group of experts and leaders to explore the evolving dynamics of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and alternatives (ALTs). The event highlights emerging trends, innovative strategies, and the expanding role of education within the ETF and financial services sector.

Structured to offer a panoramic view of the ETF/ETP ecosystem, the conference unfolded a rich tapestry of discussions, from the intricacies of emerging markets and ESG integration to the cutting-edge domain of cryptocurrency ETFs. Through a blend of keynote addresses, panel discussions, and interactive sessions, the event facilitated a deep dive for advisors into both the strategic and operational aspects of ETF management and investment.  

Innovations Driving the ETF Space

In the realm of finance, the landscape of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) is experiencing a surge of innovation, reshaping the way portfolio managers and financial professionals approach market opportunities. The infusion of advanced strategies into the ETF space, particularly the rise of thematic, actively managed frameworks, is a testament to the industry’s relentless pursuit of growth and adaptability. From sophisticated sector funds offering granular exposure to nuanced market trends, to the integration of smart beta strategies and ESG considerations, these innovations signify a pivotal evolution in ETFs. They reflect a broader shift towards bespoke investment solutions, designed to meet the complex demands of a rapidly changing global market. This transformative wave, fueled by technological advancements and regulatory developments, is not just redefining the investment vehicles themselves, but also the very fabric of asset management.

BTV sat down with a few of the innovators attending the conference for some behind-the-scenes insights into the future of the ETF investing in North America and beyond.

Tailored Investment Solutions, Market Volatility and ETF Strategy

Ethan Powell, Principal and Founder of Impact Shares, reflected on the burgeoning interest in thematic, actively managed strategies, especially around medical advancements, highlighting the industry's shift towards more targeted investment solutions. "Some of the more exciting ETF ideas that I've seen deal with thematic, actively managed strategies... particularly of interest around medical developments where you can get more nuanced exposure to different macro trends and as well niche asset classes through an ETF wrapper, which is very efficient and cost effective," remarked Powell, emphasizing the conference's focus on innovation. ESG was also top of mind and Impact Shares is a unique initiative that invests in change and is committed to changing the world of impact investing, one socially conscious ETF at a time. They help organizations translate their social values into an investable product that is traded on the NYSE.

Jonathan Needham, Vice President and Director, Lead of ETF Distribution at TD Asset Management, highlighted the robust growth trajectory of ETFs and their broadening appeal across investor segments. "Investors are voting with their dollars...we've seen continued double-digit growth year over year of ETFs," Needham stated, reflecting on the diverse applications and growing significance of ETFs in contemporary investment portfolios.

One of the critical discussions at the conference revolved around the evolving regulatory landscape for ETFs. As the market for ETFs expands, regulatory frameworks are adapting to ensure transparency, protect investors, and foster innovation. "Regulatory changes are shaping the future of ETFs, creating both challenges and opportunities for issuers and investors alike," noted a panel of regulatory experts.

Christopher Lo, Senior Portfolio Manager at Columbia Threadneedle Investments further elaborated on the theme of investor education and the criticality of understanding ETF products. "If I'm new to an ETF, I would seek out more information about the portfolio, and speak with the portfolio manager if you can, to understand more," he advised, underscoring the value of transparency and informed investing.

He also shared the strategic nuances of their iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ex China ETF (XCEM ETF), underscoring the importance of precision in emerging market investments. "We like to have the fund available for investors to have exposure in EM (emerging markets), but allocate China independently," Lo explained. He further delved into tax efficiency as a pivotal aspect of ETF management, "We do not fully replicate the index; we actually sample to loss harvest within the fund," highlighting innovative approaches to maximizing tax efficiency.

The transformative impact of technology and the growing emphasis on passive strategies within the ETF landscape sparked discussions on market evolution and the shift towards indexing.

"The benefits of indexing come down to a few key reasons; one is cost – understanding the costs and the low cost and transparency that indexing offers relative to active... The concept of Skewness…really makes the case for diversification," stated Anu Ganti, Senior Director, Index Investment Strategy at S&P Dow Jones Indices. She emphasizes the importance of a steady, diversified approach to growth - much like the tortoise's strategy in the age old Aesop’s fable. You can read more about this approach in recently published S&P research here - The Hare the Tortoise: Assessing Passive’s Potential in Bonds

The digital transformation of financial services has significantly impacted how ETFs are accessed, traded, and managed. Fintech innovations are making ETFs more accessible to a broader audience, democratizing investment opportunities. "The advent of robo-advisors and digital platforms has lowered the barrier to entry, allowing more individuals to participate in the ETF market," mentioned a fintech panelist. This trend towards digitalization is enhancing the efficiency and appeal of ETFs, contributing to their growing popularity among retail investors.

Erik Sloane, Global Head of Corporate Listings and Chief Revenue Officer at CBOE Canada, delved into strategic market insights, highlighting the increasing investor appetite for yield and the innovative use of options within the ETF framework. "There's a drive for yield in the business...more covered call type strategies or options and better optionality are stealing the theme," Sloan elaborated, providing a peek into CBOE Global Markets forward-looking perspective on ETF market trends. Cboe Global Listings, the first-of-its-kind, global listing network facilitating worldwide access to capital and secondary liquidity for companies and ETFs, launched in June 2023. One of the many benefits include Cboe-listed stocks in the U.S. and Canada can also be made available for trading in the Netherlands and the UK, with Australia to follow. Cboe's end goal is to enable corporate and ETF listings across all its exchanges, providing issuers with best-in-class global investor exposure, global account and product and standardized operational support. In summary, a seamless "intralisting" experience within a single exchange group.

The Future of Cryptocurrency ETFs

"We believed that bitcoin could change the world, and we were and remain excited at the prospect of democratizing access to this asset," - Grayscale CEO Michael Sonnenshein to Reuters

Timing is everything, and after the US SEC approved bitcoin ETFs in a watershed crypto market moment in January, positive sentiment around the institutionalization of bitcoin as an asset class abounds. It’s been a long time coming, but investors can now get exposure to the world’s largest cryptocurrency without actually holding it. Bitcoin’s market cap at the time of writing was just over a trillion dollars!

Krista Lynch, VP, ETF Capital Markets from Grayscale,  illuminated the advancements in cryptocurrency ETFs, marking a pivotal moment in the ETF sector with the uplisting of their Bitcoin product. "We're really excited to be running the world's biggest line of ETFs democratically... It started this journey ten years ago," Lynch shared, aligning with the conference's exploration of the expanding cryptocurrency ETF realm.  

Grayscales Drone show at the closing event

That’s a wrap!

EXCHANGE underscored the dynamic and evolving nature of the ETF industry, showcasing a commitment to innovation, strategic investment practices, and the importance of education. From the rise of thematic ETFs and the critical role of tax efficiency to the burgeoning domain of cryptocurrency ETFs, the event offered a comprehensive overview of the current state and future prospects of the ETF/ETP market. The insights shared by industry leaders not only reflected the complexity of the market but also charted a path forward, emphasizing the need for adaptability, informed decision-making, and strategic diversification.

2024 will be a pivotal year in the space - Explore the Future of Finance with BTV's Expert Insights and Investment Perspectives at

You might also like

Gold - A Solution for Persistent Inflation and Volatile Markets

As interest rates began to climb in 2022, and markets became increasingly volatile, more and more investors started looking for alternative investments to help insulate their portfolios. Many of them found what they were looking for in what is generally known as a “safe haven” investment - gold.

TD Asset Management Inc. Unveils the Next Stage in the Evolution of Fixed Income ETFs

To take advantage of this opportunity, TD Asset Management Inc. (TDAM) recently launched a suite of Target Maturity Bond Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) - new fixed income investment solutions designed to act like individual bonds, with regular income and final payouts on defined maturity dates.