New ETFs Face Nasty, Brutish and Short Lives

An article from Bloomberg columnist Barry Ritholtz shares insights he gathered from industry professionals at the Inside ETFs conference held in February.

“New exchange-traded funds must endure a brutal Darwinian struggle for attention and assets,” he wrote, adding, “To attract enough capital to survive amid the competition, new ETFs need a good investment idea and a catchy marketing approach.”

Ritholtz shares Bloomberg Intelligence data showing that, over the past five years, 1,050 ETFs have launched and during the same period, more than 900 have folded. “Their average life span,” he notes, “is just 3.4 years.” It helps to have a ticker that people can remember and pronounce, he says—research has shown that these tend to have higher valuations. [The article lists several tickers that Ritholtz heard mentioned at the conference as well as some of his own tongue-in-cheek ideas for future ETF tickers.]

According to Ritholtz, ETFs represent a growth sector in the financial services industry, but he adds, “My pet theory is that for a new ETF to succeed, it needs more than luck, deep-pocketed backers and a rational, defendable methodology for assembling assets into a bundle.”