Exchange Reflections -- Sarah Alexander | ETF Trends

Exchange: An ETF Experience took place earlier in April. Evan Harp got the opportunity to sit down with Sarah Alexander, chief engagement officer at VettaFi, to discuss the conference.

Evan Harp: What is one memory that stands out to you from Exchange?

Sarah Alexander: The first full day of the conference was a whirlwind. Actually, just getting to the first day of the conference was a whirlwind! But that first day, I was working the registration desk; meeting, greeting, and registering hundreds of people. The moments that have stayed with me: head buried in my laptop, myopically focused on the task at hand, to look up and meet a friendly face, an old coworker, someone I’ve only known through a Zoom screen. Popping from behind the registration desk to give a quick hug to those I haven’t seen in years. Meeting a smile with a smile to those who are just as excited as I am to see friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers, to deepen their knowledge and broaden their mindset, to connect. 

My most prideful moment of the conference — the moment that made all the blood, sweat, and literal tears worth it — was walking out of the hotel after that first day, standing on the balcony overlooking the Ocean Lawn, and observing a thousand people enjoying the opening night party. It was humbling to see the amount of people that believed in us, took time out of their lives, and decided to join us to learn, network, and have fun.

That’s a memory that will stay with me for years. 

Evan Harp: What’s one thing that surprised you about the experience?

Sarah Alexander: I’m surprised by how much I didn’t get to see. I knew I’d be put to work during those four days, but I have a newfound deep appreciation for what goes into making an event of this scale run smoothly. I didn’t attend as many speakers or sessions as intended — I had a short list and everything (Pippa Malgrem, the advisor panel, the ETF nerds, etc.). It’s important to me to stay informed of market, product, and advisor trends, so I’ll have to make it work next year. 

Evan Harp: What is something you learned at Exchange?

Sarah Alexander: I really enjoyed meeting financial advisors at the conference. Everyone was so gracious and kind; it was a genuine pleasure getting to know them. It was valuable to hear what they’re looking for at this conference — to meet and network with other financial advisors. They want learnings beyond investments. They’re entrepreneurs and business owners. They want insights from their peers: “What’s the right tech stack for me?” “How do I grow my business from the first five clients to the first hundred clients?” “How did you scale your business?” “How do you handle compliance?” Seeing them bouncing ideas off of one another reminded me that there’s so much more knowledge being shared than just what’s on the various stages.

Evan Harp: Now that Exchange is over, what are some of the key themes, trends, or stories you think will be impactful in the ETF industry for the remainder of 2022?

Sarah Alexander: The asset management space is primed for consolidation; you’ll continue to see providers and services buy vs. build capabilities to more quickly adapt to changing investor needs. We’re seeing it firsthand with VettaFi bringing the collective teams, expertise, and capabilities of Alerian, S-network, ETF Trends, and ETF Database together to form a one-stop resource for everything asset managers need. I suspect you’ll continue to see M&A activity ramp up in the financial services industry. 

Evan Harp: What are you looking forward to in Exchange 2023?

Sarah Alexander: Everything! I’d love to see more sessions, meet more people, participate more, and have more of an opportunity take in the whole experience. This is our first time holding this event, so I anticipate everything getting smoother and better from here. If our first time out of the gate doing a conference of this magnitude can be this successful, I can’t wait for what happens in 2023 when the foundation is already in place.

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