Inside Exchange - Tom Lydon | ETF Trends

Every week, Evan Harp sits down with one of the founders of Exchange to learn more about them, their perspective on life, and what they hope Exchange can bring to the industry. This week, he sits down with Tom Lydon.

Tom Lydon, CEO of ETF Trends and ETF Database. With more than 30 years experience in asset management, Mr. Lydon began his career with Fidelity Investments Institutional Division prior to launching Global Trends Investments and ETF Trends. Mr. Lydon is a frequent contributor to major print, radio, and television media. He is one of the most recognized and well-respected commentators in the ETF industry. Mr. Lydon has been a high-profile presenter at the largest investment conferences, and a moderator of educational ETF webinars.

Evan Harp: What is something surprising about you?

Tom Lydon: My parents ran a restaurant, and fortunately, I was able to work behind a bar at age 11. I was a barback, not a bartender, but I was able to earn money and learn how to communicate with a variety of people at a very young age. I grew up in a family that didn’t have much money. My parents worked hard. My brother and sister could always feel the monetary pressures my parents were going through. Giving us that opportunity to work was great because we had our own money at an early age. But also, we were exposed to adults in all different types of situations. And you can imagine, when people are having fun, they’re seeing their friends, they’re seeing their family, and alcohol is introduced, you get the best and the worst people.

So I also, through that experience, became very comfortable with people, especially adults, at a young age, which helped me through my career. Most importantly, I was able to appreciate the importance of being financially independent while at the same time doing something that I really enjoy.

Harp: What inspires you creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Lydon: My parents taught me early on to value family, friends, and people that you don’t even know – the reward of personal caring and interaction is invaluable.

As I’m in the latter part of my career, I’m in a position where I can help people more and be able to have more influence by giving them emotional support, career support, guidance, and all that, especially for somebody who’s in the early stages of their life and career. I had a lot of people in the early stages of my career that stepped up, maybe just because we got along well, and it really gave me a leg up in my career and the path that I took. When I think about that today, especially in this crazy world that we’re in, a little bit of that goes a long way. More importantly than ever, even though we can’t connect face to face, being able to connect remotely, even for 10 minutes, can be hugely impactful.

Harp: What other interest would you like to spend more time on? 

Lydon: I moved from Boston to California in my mid-20s. Fortunately, I could reconnect with a childhood friend – one of my best friends ever. We ended up working and getting an apartment together. When we were in first to fourth grade, we collected baseball cards together.

One summer, we both went home, grabbed our baseball cards, and brought them to California. We re-engaged our enthusiasm over baseball cards, and we started collecting again. This was the late 80s. Really, since that time, we’ve had starts and stops of adding to our collection. Fast forward to today, during COVID. I’ve upped my game in collecting cards. Where crypto and NF T’s have spiked tremendously in the past three to five years, so has card collecting. I’ve got my oldest son involved, he helps with inventory, and it’s been an excellent way for us to connect differently, too.

But on top of that, with all the respect I have for crypto – and I’ve got crypto – I’d much rather hold a Mickey Mantle rookie card than know that I own Lebron James Top Shot NFT. Maybe I’m old, but being able to hold that in your hand, to be able to share that with somebody knowing that there’s a finite amount intrinsically, feels more valuable over time, and I trust it. But most importantly, it brings me back to those early years watching the Boston Red Sox, watching World Series games. Being able to go back and get a Jackie Robinson rookie card that I never imagined I could own, having that today is huge.

Harp: Why did you want to launch Exchange?

Lydon: The ETF industry has grown tremendously over the years. I feel very fortunate to have been along for the ride. We’ve developed wonderful professional relationships and personal relationships with ETF issuers, exchanges, service providers, media, and the financial advisor community. Even though it’s a wonderful growing business and there’s a favorable economic impact, it’s a people business. By getting everyone together in one place where we can talk about all the innovation, benefits, growth potential, and current strategies – it really is all about the people.

Being able to connect with people that you like and respect and develop friendships with was key and critical. There are many companies who’ve done some excellent work over the years of producing in-person investment conferences. Still, our team collectively felt that there was an ability to put together something that had never been created before. We were encouraged by the advisor community to create an experience where yes, we’re going to dive into all the key and important aspects of what advisors are concentrating on, but the overwhelming aspect is going to be about connecting with people. And we need that so much more today based on what we’ve all experienced with COVID.

We’re just a week away, and every day I hear from friends in the industry how excited they are to be attending. And I think my arms are going to be sore from hugging so many people.

Harp: What are you most looking forward to about Exchange: An ETF Experience?

Lydon: I’m looking forward to friendships reconnecting and new friendships being formed. The speakers, programming, social environment, and resort will be excellent, and we hope to exceed people’s expectations. 

The ETF industry has thrived during COVID, but there’s been a huge void from a personal standpoint, and we’re hoping to help close that void a little bit. We hope everyone will enjoy getting together, having some laughs, walking away with some real strategy ideas, and making great memories. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to losing my voice and having sore arms from all the hugs.

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