VettaFi Voices On: Basking in the Exchange Afterglow | ETF Trends

Exchange lived up to its potential as the most important industry conference of 2023. As ETFs continue to become the wrapper of choice, the convergence of thought leaders and experts created an unforgettable week in Miami. This week, the VettaFi Voices share their highlights from the Exchange conference, which panels stuck out to them, and what they find themselves still thinking about.

Todd Rosenbluth, head of research: Great topic, as the feedback I have been hearing from advisors and people within the ETF industry is that the content at Exchange was excellent and not just a commercial for the ETF industry.

I am going to offer up three — one I helped moderate, one I was the broader host of, and one I attended.

1) I moderated a panel on fixed income investing with David Braun of PIMCO and Mike Arone of State Street Global Advisors. While I moderated it, the stars were David and Mike, who shared why fixed income ETF demand is likely only beginning, but also disagreed on the direction of Fed policy. It showcased to me why there is a market for both short-term and long-term bond ETFs as well as the role active management can play. ETFs like the PIMCO Active Bond ETF (BOND) and the SPDR Bloomberg 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) were discussed.

2) I introduced the “Be a Better Advisor” series but really got to watch Vance Barse, Brian Portnoy, and Dr. Preston Cherry share tools for advisors that go beyond the investment world that I tend to focus on. The importance of relating to your clients, being vulnerable to open the door to facilitate better conversations, and offering services like helping limit taxes became clearer to me.

3) Lara did a session showcasing what ETFs and what ETF categories advisors are doing research on using VettaFi tools. It was funny and informative by showing people that it is not just ETF flows that matter. I know about the VettaFi tools, but Lara made it easy to interpret the tea leaves.

Roxanna Islam, associate director of research: I really loved all the panels that focused on showcasing data. Like Todd mentioned above, that includes Lara’s session on Tickers, Themes, and Trends, Oh My! Top Research Insights in 2023. Even the title of the session is amazing! Also loved Sunday’s opening presentation, The Future of Distribution, which was led by Jon Fee and Tom Hendrickson. It was very interactive and discussed how data is used and how people approach data (and obviously there were several music metaphors). I think these two presentations were really effective in showing attendees how fun data can be!

I also really liked the energy on the Dream stage on Monday morning. Tom Lydon and Katie Greifeld did a great opening. (I think cats were even discussed — I’m trying to convince people that there needs to be a cat café in addition to a puppy lounge next year.) Then, Ian Bremmer’s session on Geopolitical Recession followed, which was very thought-provoking and high-energy. I thought this was the perfect opening cadence for a Monday morning, and it really grabbed my attention.

Stacey Morris, head of energy research: I agree with Roxanna. I really enjoyed Ian Bremmer’s Exchange keynote discussion — very timely and insightful.

Dave Nadig, financial futurist:  I could go on about my own sessions (still buzzing and thinking from the Future of Finance session)… or the puppies… (same), but if I came back to one, it would be Brian Portnoy and Dr. Cherry on the Stream stage. I think it’s very easy to forget that ultimately the financial advisor gig is very little about investing and very much about coaching and storytelling. Portnoy’s session really helped drive home that it’s often the stories we tell about money that trip us up — not the realities of money.

And Dr. Cherry brought some phenomenal real world perspective. I loved hearing his anecdotes about how he uses his own family stories to help connect with clients.

Islam: I’m legitimately upset that I couldn’t make it to your sessions, Dave!  I heard great things from a lot of people!

Nadig: (I mean, it’s all archived here.)

Rosenbluth: I’m sorry, Dave, I missed your Future of Finance session, which I heard from people was an amazing display of expertise within the financial services world not normally found at an ETF conference. I also missed Roxanna’s panel on thematics and was backstage when Stacey was talking about energy infrastructure and needed subtitles on the monitor. VettaFi Voices were indeed quite visible.

Islam: But I did see Dave interview Rodney Mullen! That was really fun. I don’t know anything about skateboarding, but I liked some of the statements he made on relearning things at different stages of his life and adapting to injuries — thought that was very relatable on both a work and personal level.

Rosenbluth: I also caught the Roy Williams/Invesco/Nasdaq session, which included cool stories about Michael Jordan and how Coach used a setback in one year to motivate his team the next year. Anna Paglia did a great job leading the discussion on innovation. I’m a basketball fan, not a skateboard fan, but I heard Rodney was a great speaker.

Morris: I caught the first 20 minutes or so of the Future of Finance session and then felt bad for taking up a seat/set of headphones in a packed room. It was really interesting. (I keep thinking about the ants and the Pop Tart illustration.) I also caught Lara’s session on research trends and learned for the first time about her astronomy background! She shared lots of great insights into what advisors were searching for as the year progressed.

Rosenbluth: I feel like this is a good place to note that Roxanna, Stacey’s colleague Phil, and I all did recaps of some of the sessions we were leading. So people can get a sense for what they might have missed.

For more coverage of the Exchange conference, please visit VettaFi | ETF Trends.