Finalists Announced For 2016 ETF.com Awards

January 17, 2017

ETF.com and Inside ETFs are pleased to announce the finalists for the 2016 ETF. com awards. The awards are designed to recognize the people, companies and products that are driving the ETF industry forward and delivering new value to investors.

ETF.com Award winners are selected in a three-part process designed to leverage the insights and opinions of leaders throughout the ETF industry.

Step 1

The awards process began with an open nomination period running from Dec. 5, 2016, through Jan. 4, 2017. We received hundreds of nominations from participants in all corners of the ETF space.

Step 2

Following the open nominations process, the ETF.com Awards Nominating Committee—made up of senior leaders at ETF.com, Inside ETFs and FactSet—voted to select up to five finalists in each category. Votes were tallied on a majority basis, and concluded this past weekend. The members of the nominating committee were:

  • Matt Hougan, CEO, Inside ETFs (Chair)
  • Paul Britt, Senior Analyst, FactSet
  • Elisabeth Kashner, Director of ETF Research, FactSet
  • Dave Nadig, CEO, ETF.com
  • Drew Voros, Editor-in-Chief, ETF.com

Step 3

Winners from these finalists will be selected by a majority vote of the ETF.com Awards Selection Committee, a group of independent ETF experts. Committee members will recuse themselves from voting in any category in which they or their firms appear as finalists. Ties will be decided where possible with head-to-head runoff votes.

Members of the 2016 Awards Selection Committee Include:

  • Kim Arthur, Founding Partner, Main Management
  • Eric Balchunas, ETF Analyst, Bloomberg Intelligence
  • Ben Blaisdell, US Trust
  • Rob Glownia, RiverFront
  • Ben Johnson, Director of Global ETF Research, Morningstar
  • Tom Lydon, Editor, ETF Trends
  • Phil Mackintosh, Managing Director, KCG
  • Jason Nicastro, Senior Research Analyst, LPL Financial
  • Tyler Mordy, President & CIO, Forstrong Global Asset Management
  • Todd Rosenbluth, Director of ETF & Mutual Fund Research, CFRA
  • Jim Wiandt, Founder, ETF.com

Voting will be complete by Jan. 20, 2017, but results will be kept secret until they are announced at the ETF.com U.S. Awards Dinner on March 30, 2017.

AND THE NOMINEES ARE …

 

 

Lifetime Achievement Award

Awarded annually to one living individual for outstanding long-term contributions to ETF investor outcomes, whether from a position of media, regulation, product provider, investor or other category. Previous winners are not eligible.

  • Rob Arnott, Founder & Chairman, Research Affiliates: One of the central drivers of the smart-beta revolution, nominations noted that Arnott has “consistently challenged conventional wisdom” and “pioneered the concept of Fundamental Indexing” while “looking out for investor results.”
  • Reggie Browne, Senior Managing Director, ETF Group, Cantor Fitzgerald: Dubbed “The Godfather of ETFs” by Forbes, Browne has been at the center of providing liquidity in the ETF industry for many years. More than that, however, nominations noted how he “has consistently expanded the user base of ETFs through education and outreach.”
  • Henry Fernandez, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, MSCI: 99% of ETF assets today track an index. With Fernandez at the helm, MSCI has consistently led the charge on creating new and innovative exposures, playing a key role in the evolution of factor ETFs, ESG and other critical themes.
  • Jim Ross, Executive Vice President, SSGA; Chairman of Global SPDR Business; Chairman of the Board, SSGA Funds Management: Multiple heartfelt nominations poured in for Ross, who has been at the center of the ETF industry since its inception, having worked on the launch of the original ETF, SPY. Nominations held out his “leadership,” “character,” “integrity” and “overall contributions,” including not just leading the SPDR, Select Sector SPDR and Diamonds efforts, but acting as chairman of the ICI’s ETF Committee and more.
  • Gus Sauter, former Chief Investment Officer, Vanguard: Sauter was a legend at Vanguard. He arrived at the firm when it had $1.4 billion in assets, and left when it had $615 billion, and played a key role in bringing Vanguard into the ETF world.

ETF of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the ETF that has done the most to improve investor opportunities and outcomes in 2016, by providing access to interesting areas of the market, lowering costs, delivering new exposures or otherwise creating better results for investors. There is no requirement for this award regarding when this fund was launched.

  • Fidelity Total Bond Fund (FBND): The nomination case for Fidelity’s actively managed total bond fund was simple: It crushed its benchmarks and its peers, outperforming 97% of its peer group in 2016.
  • Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta U.S. Large Cap Equity ETF (GSLC): The cheapest smart-beta ETF on the market, GSLC attracted nominator attention by offering quant-active exposure for just 0.09% in annual fees. Investors rewarded it with more than $1 billion in net flows.
  • iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG): With more than $3 billion in net inflows, HYG is the poster child for the massive rise in interest in bond ETFs in 2016, particularly among institutional investors.
  • VanEck Vectors Fallen Angel High Yield Bond ETF (ANGL): Nominees loved the simple investment rationale for ANGL … and the fact that it worked wonders. The fund, which buys debt that has recently been downgraded from investment grade to junk, performed beautifully in 2016.
  • Vanguard Total Market Index Fund (VTI): A perennial favorite of the nominating committee, VTI wins plaudits for being a near-perfect ETF, offering broad exposure, excellent tracking, extreme liquidity and a low price.

 

Best New ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important ETF launched in 2016.

Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible.

  • Deutsche X-trackers USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYLB): HYLB got the nod from nominators who applauded Deutsche Bank for adding fee competition into the ETF space: HYLB is priced at just 0.25% compared with 0.50% for its top peers.
  • Fidelity Dividend ETF for Rising Rates (FDRR): This intriguing new ETF, which selects firms that have strong dividend payments and returns that are correlated with rising rates, was described as “the perfect ETF for today’s market.”
  •  JPMorgan Diversified Alternatives ETF (JPHF): “Finally a big name and well-thought-out entrant to the liquid alts space,” wrote one nomination entry, echoing a popular sentiment about an ETF some have called “the hedge fund killer.”
  • NuShares Enhanced Yield U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (NUAG): NUAG solves one of the biggest concerns facing investors: what to do with their bond portfolios. It offers a sensible, rules-based tweak to traditional bond exposure, increasing yield without going crazy.
  • SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE): This well-received ETF was the second-fastest growing ETF launched in 2016. It offers, per one nomination, “a unique opportunity to seek a financial return on gender diversity and create change with capital by providing a transparent, relatively low-cost way to invest in companies that have achieved greater levels of gender diversity at the senior management level.”
  • Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF (VYMI): VYMI won plaudits for offering broad-based exposure to high-yielding companies at a very reasonable fee of just 0.30%. The fund looks not at historical dividend yield, but at expected future yield, to select components.

Most Innovative New ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most groundbreaking and disruptive ETF launched in 2016. This is an ETF that is pushing the envelope in terms of what kinds of exposures can be packaged into an ETF.

  • American Customer Satisfaction Core Alpha ETF (ACSI): Nominators loved that this ETF took a different approach to smart beta. Rather than weighting companies by traditional fundamentals, it weights those with the highest customer satisfactions scores within each sector, the idea being that that will lead to long-term success.
  • REX VolMAXX Long VIX Weekly Futures Strategy ETF (VMAX): The first ’40 Act fund to offer exposure to VIX futures. More than that, it uses weekly futures in an attempt to achieve a higher correlation to benchmark VIX than traditional products.
  • SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE): This extremely popular product won plaudits for translating societal good—investing in companies that achieve high levels of gender diversity among executives—into financial results.
  • BUZZ US Sentiment Leaders ETF (BUZ): Take social media, run it through a big data engine, add in a sprinkling of artificial intelligence and package it in an ETF. Innovation? Yeah, it’s got that.
  • VelocityShares VIX Tail Risk ETN (BSWN): This unique product pairs positive exposure to leveraged long-dated VIX futures with inverse exposure to short-term VIX, trying to hedge tail risk while mitigating the massive decay that hits most VIX products.

 

Best New U.S. Equity ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important U.S. equity ETF launched in 2016. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible. ETF must be classified by FactSet as a U.S. Equity ETF to qualify.

  • Columbia Sustainable U.S. Equity Income ETF (ESGS): ESGS was one of the first ETFs to combine ESG factors with traditional fundamental investing factors (in this case, selecting companies with strong dividends and cash flows). Double sustainable!
  • Elkhorn Lunt Low Vol / High Beta Tactical ETF (LVHB): It was only a matter of time before someone brought out a true factor rotation strategy, and LVHB is it. The fund rotates between low-vol and high-beta positions, using a strategy developed by the RIA firm Lunt Capital.
  • Global X Conscious Companies ETF (KRMA): KRMA caught the Nominating Committee’s eye for its combination of traditional ESG factors and a holistic look at who a company impacts. The fund tracks an index that considers a company’s impact on customers, employees, suppliers, stock and debt holders, and communities in which the company operates.
  • NuShares Short-Term REIT ETF (NURE): In an age in which bonds are challenged, a short-term REIT ETF—focused on REITs with short payment resets, like hotels—provides income-based exposure that should be isolated from rising rates. “Clever,” said one nomination.
  • SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE): This extremely popular product won plaudits for translating societal good—investing in companies that achieve high levels of gender diversity among executives—into financial results.

Best New International/Global Equity ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important international or global equity ETF launched in 2016. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible. ETF must be classified by FactSet as an Equity ETF, but not a U.S.-focused Equity ETF, to qualify.

  • Fidelity Dividend ETF for Rising Rates (FDRR): This intriguing new ETF, which selects firms that have strong dividend payments and returns that are correlated with rising rates, was described as “the perfect ETF for today’s market.”
  • iShares Adaptive Currency Hedged MSCI EAFE ETF (DEFA): DEFA offers broad-based international exposure (in fact, it buys the EFA ETF for its exposure) and hedges the currency. But rather than offering a 100% hedge, it varies the hedge amount depending on dynamics in the currency markets. Think of it as smart currency hedging.
  • iShares MSCI Global Impact ETF (MPCT): ESG is a big theme for 2016, and MPCT offered a major contribution. To paraphrase a nomination, the fund holds companies that get a majority of their revenue from products and services addressing one of the world’s major social/environmental challenges, as identified by the United Nations. It’s not just SRI-screening; it’s searching for impact.  
  • Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIGI): “It’s nice to see Vanguard stepping up with this,” said one nominations paper. The fund captures international dividend growers in a low-cost package.
  • WisdomTree Dynamic Currency Hedged International Equity Fund (DDWM): Like DEFA, DDWM packages international exposure with a variable currency hedge, using a trio of factors to determine when to hedge or not. The fund is the most successful dynamically hedged ETF launched in 2016.

 

Best New U.S. Fixed-Income ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important fixed-income ETF launched in 2016. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible. ETF must be classified by FactSet as a U.S. Fixed-Income ETF to qualify.

  • Deutsche X-trackers USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYLB): HYLB got the nod from nominators who applauded Deutsche Bank for adding fee competition into the ETF space: HYLB is priced at just 0.25% compared with 0.50% for its top peers.
  • Goldman Sachs Treasury Access 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL): To quote the nomination: “In response to money market regulatory reform here in the U.S., GSAM launched an ultra-short Treasury ETF for investors looking for slightly more duration than traditional government money market products at a lower fee.” Goldman quality at 0.14%/year? Not bad.
  • IQ Enhanced Core Plus Bond U.S. ETF (AGGP): A true smart-beta bond ETF, AGGP captures the core parts of the market plus U.S. high-yield and dollar-denominated emerging market debt. What’s cool, however, is its momentum overlay, which tops-up allocations to top-performing segments of the market in a bid to enhance returns.
  • NuShares Enhanced Yield U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (NUAG): NUAG solves one of the biggest concerns facing investors: what to do with their bond portfolios. It offers a sensible, rules-based tweak to traditional bond exposure, increasing yield without going crazy.
  • WisdomTree Fundamental U.S. High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (WFHY): “While investors may have recognized the shortcomings associated with cap-weighted fixed income,” writes one nominator, “there hasn’t been urgency for an alternative.” WHFY offers one, screening bonds for fundamentals and liquidity and then tilting toward bonds that will probably actually pay their debts instead of those that owe the most.

Best New International/Global Fixed-Income ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important international or global fixed-income ETF launched in 2016. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible. ETF must be classified by FactSet as a Fixed Income ETF, but not a U.S.-focused Fixed Income ETF, to qualify.

  • Cambria Sovereign High Yield Bond ETF (SOVB): The nomination for SOVB called it out as the first high-yield sovereign debt ETF. We’d note that a savvy quant model tries to suss out attractively valued bonds too.
  • Deutsche X-Trackers Barclays International Corporate Bond Hedged ETF (IFIX): Investment-grade international corporate bond exposure that is currency-hedged and charges just 0.30% a year? That’s a nice addition to the ETF product lineup.
  • Janus Short Duration Income Fund (VNLA): Aside from the awesome ticker, VNLA won plaudits for its simple active mandate to outperform Libor without reaching too far out the duration curve. It’s a sensible product for investors looking to park cash.
  • RiverFront Dynamic Unconstrained Income ETF (RFUN): Another awesome ticker, RFUN harnesses the active wisdom of former ETF Strategist of the Year RiverFront in a go-anywhere fund that seeks to achieve a high total return.
  • SPDR DoubleLine Short Duration Total Return Tactical (STOT): If you liked TOTL, the Jeff Gundlach go-anywhere ETF, you might wonder how he does managing a short-term fund. STOT lets you park one- to three-year money with DoubleLine for a fee of just 0.45%.

 

Best New Commodity ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important commodity ETF launched in 2016. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible. ETF must be classified by FactSet as a Commodity ETF to qualify.

  • Elkhorn Commodity Rotation Strategy ETF (DWAC): The first purely tactical commodity ETF in the market, DWAC uses Dorsey, Wright & Associates’ Relative Strength score to choose five commodities positioned to outperform. Its roll methodology accounts for contango as well.
  • Elkhorn Fundamental Commodity Strategy ETF (RCOM): If relative strength is not your thing, RCOM uses an active strategy to select commodities that will beat the broader Dow Jones RAFI Commodity Index … without massive tracking difference. As a bonus, it’s structured as an open-ended fund, so there’s no K-1.
  • iPath Series B S&P GSCI Crude Oil ETF (OILB): OILB just offers traditional crude oil futures exposure in an ETN wrapper. But that’s saying something! By using an ETN instead of direct futures exposure, you avoid futures tax treatment and never get a K-1. For taxable accounts, it’s a winner, and at 0.45% in fees, a relatively cheap one.
  • ProShares K-1 Free Crude Oil Strategy ETF (OILK): The name kind of gives this one away: Like OILB, it offers crude oil exposure without the K-1 you get with traditional ETFs. Unlike OILB, it’s an ETF, which means different tax treatment, but no credit risk from the issuer.
  • VelocityShares 3x Inverse Crude Oil ETN (DWT): DWT replaced the beloved DWTI, which as shut down in December. It offers a way to punt on oil’s price collapse. The new product has a different underwriting bank than DWTI (Citigroup instead of Credit Suisse), and a higher fee, but has still proved popular.

Best New Currency ETF – 2016

There were no currency ETFs launched in 2016, so this category will not be awarded this year.

Best New Alternatives ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important alternatives ETF launched in 2016. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible. ETF must be classified by FactSet as an Alternatives ETF to qualify.

  • First Trust Alternative Absolute Return Strategy (FAAR): FAAR won plaudits for taking a direct view on the alternatives space: Be active. The actively managed fund provides broad-based, long/short exposure to the commodities patch. Thanks to clever structuring, it doesn’t distribute a K-1 at tax time, and is treated as a ’40 Act ETF.
  • JPMorgan Diversified Alternatives ETF (JPHF): “Finally a big name and well-thought-out entrant to the liquid alts space,” wrote one nomination paper, echoing a popular sentiment about an ETF some have called “the hedge fund killer.” The fund is the most popular new alternatives ETF launched this year.
  • ProShares Managed Futures Strategy ETF (FUT): The FactSet write-up perfectly encapsulates this fund: “The ProShares Managed Futures Strategy ETF provides exposure to commodity, currency and Treasury futures, weighted by risk contribution to the portfolio. Price momentum determines whether the actively managed fund takes long or short positions in each contract.” At 0.76% fees, it’s priced right for this market.
  • REX VolMAXX Long VIX Weekly Futures Strategy ETF (VMAX): The first ’40 Act funds to offer exposure to VIX futures. More than that, it uses weekly futures in an attempt (and historically, a result) to achieve a higher correlation to benchmark VIX than traditional products.
  • VelocityShares VIX Tail Risk ETN (BSWN): This unique product pairs positive exposure to leveraged long-dated VIX futures with inverse exposure to short-term VIX, trying to hedge tail risk while mitigating the massive decay that hits most VIX products.

 

Best New Asset Allocation ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important ETF launched in 2016 that combines exposure to multiple asset classes. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible. ETF must be classified by FactSet as an Asset Allocation ETF to qualify.

  • Aptus Behavioral Momentum ETF (BEMO): All or nothing, baby: That’s BEMO’s approach. The fund is either 100% invested in U.S. equities or 100% invested in Treasurys, depending on how the market’s doing. When it’s in equities, it chooses stocks with strong price momentum.
  • iSectors Post-MPT Growth ETF (PMPT): You gotta love funds that go full-geek. To quote FactSet, PMPT is an actively managed fund-of-funds that employs a “proprietary optimization algorithm based on post-modern portfolio theory to make allocation decisions between nine different sectors and asset classes.” It seeks to beat the S&P while controlling downside risk “through a quantitative model [that] considers macroeconomic factors such as interest rates, GDP, unemployment rates, inflation rates and money supply.” It charges 1.55% (including assumed fees).
  • Premise Capital Frontier Advantage Diversified Tactical ETF (TCTL): TCTL is another fund that a quant could love, using modern portfolio theory and a Black-Litterman-like approach to create a diversified portfolio across U.S. equity and fixed-income ETFs. It also considers intermediate trends in building its portfolio.
  • PowerShares DWA Tactical Multi-Asset Income Portfolio (DWIN): DWIN relies on Dorsey, Wright & Associates’ Relative Strength model in an attempt to identify outperforming income assets. The fund can hold U.S. Treasurys, other bonds, preferred stock, MLPs, real estate and high-yield equity, and chooses them by considering price momentum and yield.
  • REX Gold Hedged S&P 500 (GHS): Compared with PMPT and TCTL, GHS is simple: It packages long gold and long S&P 500 exposure into a single fund. The result is gold-hedge commodity exposure, capturing the “real” real in real return.

Best New Smart-Beta or Factor ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important new ETF launched in 2016, regardless of asset class, that uses a quantitative, research-driven approach to attempt to deliver superior long-term risk-adjusted returns. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible. ETF must be classified as a Smart-Beta strategy by FactSet to qualify. (Please note: Despite the FactSet categorization, currency-hedged exposures do not qualify.)

  • Elkhorn Fundamental Commodity Strategy ETF (RCOM): RCOM uses an active strategy to select commodities that will beat the broader Dow Jones RAFI Commodity Index … without massive tracking difference. It relies on a three-factor model to select those commodities. As a bonus, it’s structured as an open-ended fund, so there’s no K-1.
  • Fidelity Dividend ETF for Rising Rates (FDRR): This intriguing new ETF, which selects firms that have strong dividend payments and returns that are correlated with rising rates, was described as “the perfect ETF for today’s market.”
  • Fidelity Low Volatility Factor ETF (FDLO): The new fund “tracks an index of large-cap U.S. stocks selected for low volatility of returns and earnings,” to quote FactSet. One nice tweak is that it remains sector-neutral against the broader market, so you’re not making big bets on any one area of the market.
  • iShares Edge MSCI Min Vol USA Small Cap ETF (SMMV): Take one of the most popular factor ETFs—USMV—and apply the same theory to the small-cap market. Add in a low fee (0.20% a year). You end up with a pretty nice new ETF.
  • Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF (VYMI): VYMI won plaudits for offering broad-based exposure to high-yielding companies at a very reasonable fee of just 0.30%. The fund looks not at historical dividend yield, but at expected future yield, to select components.

 

Best New Active ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important new actively managed ETF launched in 2016, regardless of asset class. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible. ETF must be classified as “Active per SEC” by FactSet to qualify.

  • Amplify YieldShares CWP Dividend & Option Income ETF (DIVO): The first actively managed covered-call ETF, DIVO owns blue chip dividend-paying stocks and enhances the income by writing covered-call options on the underlying positions. The fund uniquely tactically writes those calls on the underlying stocks, rather than systematically writing them on the S&P 500 like other ETFs. The combination of dividends and option income leads to a nice total yield.
  • Guggenheim Total Return Bond ETF (GTO): Like TOTL and BOND, GTO is a go-anywhere, actively managed fixed-income fund run by a blue chip manager at a decent fee (0.50%). We love active managers embracing ETFs and transparency.
  •  Janus Short Duration Income Fund (VNLA): Aside from the awesome ticker, VNLA won plaudits for its simple active mandate to outperform Libor without reaching too far out the duration curve. It’s a sensible product for investors looking to park cash.
  • JPMorgan Diversified Alternatives ETF (JPHF): “Finally a big name and well-thought-out entrant to the liquid alts space,” wrote one nomination paper, echoing a popular sentiment about an ETF some have called “the hedge fund killer.”
  • SPDR DoubleLine Short Duration Total Return Tactical (STOT): If you liked TOTL, the Jeff Gundlach go-anywhere ETF, you might wonder how he does managing a short-term fund. STOT lets you park one- to three-year money with DoubleLine for a fee of just 0.45%.

Thematic ETF of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the most important “thematic” ETF of 2016, as measured by its ability to capture important macro plays that can lead to specific portfolio outcomes. There is no requirement for this award regarding when this fund was launched.

  • 3D Printing ETF (PRNT): 3D printing is super cool, and PRNT is the first ETF to focus on that market. It tracks a tiered, equal-weight index of companies involved in the 3D printing industry, including hardware, software, scanners, measurers and 3D printing centers.
  • Spirited Funds/ETFMG Whiskey & Spirits ETF (WSKY): More than just a great ticker, WSKY offers direct exposure to the hottest trend in spirits. With whiskey consumption growing faster than the price of a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, maybe WSKY is a good bet.
  • PureFunds ISE Cyber Security ETF (HACK): Hacking stole the headlines in 2016, whether it was Yahoo, the DNC or Donald Trump. HACK offers pure-play exposure to the firms that fight the hackers, and you have to think that business is doing well.
  • PureFunds Video Game Tech ETF (GAMR): Video game contests are now attracting bigger audiences than many professional sports leagues. GAMR offers you a way to “play” that theme, holding companies operating in and around video games and virtual reality.
  • SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE): This well-received ETF was the second-fastest-growing ETF launched in 2016. It offers, according to one nomination, “a unique opportunity to seek a financial return on gender diversity and create change with capital by providing a transparent, relatively low-cost way to invest in companies that have achieved greater levels of gender diversity at the senior management level.”
  • Summit Water Infrastructure Multifactor ETF (WTRX): Infrastructure spending is top of mind in the U.S., and climate change seems to be putting a premium on water. WTRX captures the trend by finding global firms with water-related equity exposure, choosing the best of the best based on a series of fundamental factors.

 

ETF Issuer of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the ETF issuer that has done the most to improve investor outcomes through product introductions, product performance, fund management, asset gathering, investor support and innovation in 2016.

  • Charles Schwab: The nominations for Schwab noted that its assets grew by 50% in 2016, hitting $59 billion, while the company continued to offer the lowest-cost ETFs in the business. Combined with its efforts on robo-advising and Schwab’s OneSource platform, Charles Schwab has become a giant in the ETF industry.
  • Goldman Sachs: Goldman Sachs pulled in $1.6 billion in net inflows for the year, more than doubling its AUM. It also brought innovative new product to the market, including a clever, low-cost, short-term fixed-income ETF, even as it continued to lead the low-cost smart-beta movement.
  • iShares by BlackRock: iShares led all ETF issuers for net inflows in 2016, pulling in a stunning $105 billion. At the same time, nominators highlighted its role at the forefront of factor ETFs, fixed-income ETFs, and increasing institutional ETF use. By any measure, it was a good year for BlackRock.
  • State Street Global Advisors: SSgA finished the year with a strong $50+ billion in net flows, and continued to bring innovative product to market, including the oft-nominated SHE and the suite of active bond ETFs with DoubleLine.
  • Vanguard: Vanguard pulled in $95 billion in net inflows while persistently lowering fees and bringing out new low-cost product in much-needed areas (think international dividends). Not bad!
  • VanEck: VanEck had a truly impressive year, pulling in almost $8 billion. While a lot of that was in its bread-and-butter gold miner ETFs, a big chunk was in fixed income, including $1.2 billion into its emerging market debt fund. VanEck has branched out of its historical niche, and is now a serious contender in multiple asset classes.

Most Innovative ETF Issuer of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the ETF provider that has launched the most innovative and groundbreaking group of ETFs in 2016.

  • Elkhorn Investments: The little innovation-engine-that-could launched two smart-beta commodity ETFs that skip the K-1, the first high-quality preferred ETF, and the first-ever factor rotation ETF in 2016.
  • Global X: The New York-based firm won recognition for bringing funds like KRMA to market in 2016, pushing the boundaries of what ESG investing can be. But KRMA wasn’t an isolated launch: The firm launched a total of eight thematic ETFs in 2016, including the first millennials-focused ETF and a new Catholic values fund. 
  • iShares by BlackRock: iShares won innovation plaudits for launching 23 new funds during the year, including novel ESG products like MPCT, ESGU and others, smart-beta fixed-income ETFs like FALN and HYXE, and an array of multifactor solutions.
  •  J.P. Morgan: J.P. Morgan justly received praise for the oft-nominated novel alternatives ETF, JPHF. It also gained notice for launching a series of smart-beta ETFs that use risk-weighting. “It’s always refreshing to see a focus on risk and not just returns,” noted one nomination.
  • PureFunds: It’s hard to argue with PureFunds as an innovator; the company is regularly bringing new thematic ETFs to market. New themes for 2016 included drones, fintech and video games.
  • SSGA: The nominations for SSGA noticed that, while it launched just 4% of the new ETFs brought to market in 2016, it gathered 9% of all new-fund assets. Highlights includes innovations in ESG and active/tactical fixed income, including the oft-nominated SHE, the DoubleLine expansions (STOT and EMTL), Dorsey Wright collaborations (DWFI) and more.

 

New ETF Issuer of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the new ETF issuer that has done the most to improve investor outcomes through product introductions, product performance, fund management, investor support and innovation. Issuer must have launched its first ETF in 2016. ETF.com considers “issuer” to mean the “brand” of the ETF, as classified by FactSet.

  • ACSI Funds: ACSI Funds successfully launched a first-of-its-kind ETF in 2016, the American Customer Satisfaction Core Alpha ETF. The fund weights individual companies within each sector of the U.S. large-cap equity market by their American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) scores, the only cross-industry measure of customer satisfaction.
  • Aptus: Aptus garnered favor for adding a new ETF to the market—BEMO—that goes all-or-nothing: The fund is either 100% invested in U.S. equities or 100% invested in Treasurys, based on momentum signals. When it’s in equities, it chooses stocks with strong price momentum.
  • Nuveen: Nuveen made waves in the ETF market by bringing a number of clever funds to investors, including the AGG-replacing NUAG and the bond-replacing NURE. It’s shaping up to be a serious player.
  • OppenheimerFunds: Although it bought RevenueShares in 2015, we’ll count 2016 as the first year OppenheimerFunds was an “issuer,” as it launched its first ETFs that year (ESGL and ESGF). The firm is making waves in the ETF space by aggressively growing its legacy product (revenue-weighted AUM up 100%) while launching into the ESG space.
  • REX Shares: “REX,” according to one nominator, “creates innovative alternatives ETFs that help investors navigate turbulent markets.” The firm launched two gold-hedged equity ETFs and two novel VIX ETFs in its first year. It gained particular kudos for managing to package those ETFs inside the 1940 Act, thereby avoiding K-1s.

Index of the Year – 2016
Awarded to the index that has done the most to provide new ways of considering investment strategies, opportunities or ideas, or which has simply delivered for investors in a meaningful way.

  • FTSE Emerging Markets All-Cap China-A Inclusion Index: Nominations noted that this index serves as the underlying index for the world’s largest emerging market ETF. It’s also unique and forward-looking, in that it covers all parts of the cap spectrum (as opposed to excluding small-caps, as many EM indexes do) and mainland Chinese A-shares.
  • INDXX Millennials Thematic Index: This new index offers broad-based exposure to companies that are aligned with the unique consumption patterns of the massive millennial generation, the largest generation in history and one that will dominate consumer trends for the next 40 years. Several millennial ETFs launched in 2016; this index was one of the broadest-based millennial indexes we saw.
  • S&P 500: It’s hard to argue against the S&P 500. No other index is as widely used globally by wealth managers—20% of ETF flows targeted the index in 2016, and it remains the benchmark for the world’s largest ETF. It’s also now the parent index for a plethora of factor ETFs, and is the official circuit-breaker measure for the NYSE.
  • SSGA Gender Diversity Index: “State Street Global Advisors’ first foray into self-indexing for SPDR ETFs, the SSGA Gender Diversity Index was created to provide investors with access to U.S. large-cap companies that are leaders in advancing women through gender diversity on their boards of directors and in senior leadership positions,” wrote one nomination. The index—born out of conversations with a large public pension fund—looks at the ratio of female execs and board members within a company in selecting companies.
  • STOXX Global ESG Impact Index: With ESG taking center stage with many investors, the new family of STOXX indexes—launched in 2016—are well-positioned. They track companies with the highest sustainability indicators while putting additional emphasis on criteria that lower single-stock volatility. The funds look at a variety of factors aligned with the UN Global Compact.

 

Index Provider of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the index provider that has done the most to improve investor outcomes through index introductions, research, advisor support and more.

  • Indxx: “Easy to work with,” wrote one nominator, “and keen to do innovative strategies.” Indxx is a significant player in the rising thematic ETF market, acting as the “single largest issuer of emerging thematic indexes in 2016.” From millennials to the internet of things, they’ve got you covered.
  • Markit iBoxx: "To cater to the rising inflationary environment, Markit launched ‘breakeven inflation’ indices for U.S. and euro inflation markets in February 2016,” one nomination reads. The fixed-income indexing giant is clearly trying to push the envelope in the “rising rate” space, and its new indexes feature a number of clever tweaks, like incorporating rebalancing cost considerations in index construction.
  • Morningstar: Morningstar won notice for two major 2016 initiatives. First, its Open Indexes Project, which provides global equity indexes to financial services firms for benchmarking purposes at no cost. Secondly, the Morningstar Sustainability Index Series took a big stab at setting a global standard for environmental, social and governance-based (ESG) investing. The sustainability indexes highlight companies adhering to high ESG standards, while maintaining a similar risk/return profile to that of the overall market.
  • MSCI: A giant in the index world, with more than $10 trillion benchmarked against its indexes, MSCI continues to be an innovation leader in the space, pushing forward new initiatives around factors, ESG and other items. The firm won praise for its hard-hitting white papers, interesting research and aggressive innovation.
  • Standard & Poor’s: “S&P has really upped its game in 2016,” wrote one nominator. “It launched a new blog, hosted events for advisors around the country, hosted webcasts and was much more visible talking about the market.” Indeed, the firm has been an aggressive innovator in the smart-beta space, helping to lead the factor revolution.

ETF Liquidity Provider of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the ETF liquidity provider (including market maker, authorized participant, agency broker, etc.) that has done the most to improve investor outcomes through education, support, services, innovation and outreach.

  • Bloomberg Tradebook: Bloomberg Tradebook is leading the charge vis-a-vis the rise of electronic RFQ quoting for large block trades of ETFs. “The Tradebook ETF-RFQ platform anonymously sources block liquidity from multiple providers. The platform electronically aggregates ETF liquidity with solutions that range from semi-automated solutions, such as the RFQ, to algorithmic solutions to dynamically source the best prices and liquidity,” said one nominator. 
  • Cantor Fitzgerald: A “top-notch firm,” writes one admirer, when discussing the company, with the ETF-focused business run by industry legend Reggie Browne. Nominations noted that the firm “jumped in as LMM and has been aggressive growing its book” and is willing to provide core education on ETFs to clients.
  • Jane Street: Last year’s winner in this category continued to gain fans among nominators. The write-ins noted significant growth in the firm’s institutional book, up 70% year-over-year; a $95 billion/month run-rate in ETF trades; an automated RFQ process; lead market maker activity on 45 new ETFs; significant growth in electronic trading; and aggressive work helping institutional clients convert portfolios of individual bonds into ETFs.
  • KCG: As lead market maker in over 500 ETFs, KCG is an industry giant, with more than 22% of total market share in U.S.-listed ETFs. They process +/- 15% of the ADV in ETFs, per one nomination, and work extensively with partners throughout the system to help the ETF industry continue to grow. “With access to industry-leading buy- and sell-side order flow, an execution advisory that can make measurable difference in portfolio performance and much more, KCG is a unique partner for ETF investors and providers alike,” wrote one nominator.
  • Susquehanna International Group: Susquehanna won praise for a world-class team covering all aspects of the ETF market, from competitive liquidity to client education, product innovation, LMM activity and ETF research. The firm provided $135 million in new seed capital to ETFs in 2016, serving as LMM on 42 ETFs. The firm received significant plaudits for its increase in research output, including its popular Fixed Income Fridays note.

 

Best Online Broker for ETF-Focused Investors – 2016

Awarded to the online brokerage offering the best package for ETF-focused investors. This award will consider commission-free trading options, education materials, supporting services and other factors.

  • Charles Schwab: Schwab received multiple nominations for being the “leader,” with more no-commission ETFs than any other firm. Add in robo advice and low-cost house-brand ETFs, and you have a formidable nominee.
  • Fidelity: Fidelity won kudos for having an extensive platform of 90+ commission-free ETFs, and an industry-leading fee of just $7.95 for all other funds. The firm is also noted for its strong ETF research and online tools.
  • Interactive Brokers: As one nominee put it, “IB is the cheapest, period.” The no-gimmicks broker offers rock-bottom rates and some sophisticated service and tools, including securities-lending capabilities.
  • TD Ameritrade: TD was praised for its wide variety of commission-free ETFs and its willingness to add more, along with its nonconflicted and independent approach to choosing which ETFs go on that list.

Best ETF Offering: Wire House

Awarded to the wire house that offer its reps and advisors the best total offering in the ETF space, including research, data, tools, trading capabilities and education.

  • Merrill Lynch: Merrill Lynch once again received widespread praise for its overall ETF efforts, including sophisticated ETF due diligence. More than anything, though, people called out ETF strategist Jon Maier’s highly followed model portfolios.
  • Morgan Stanley: Morgan Stanley was applauded in the nominations for having the “best rep-as-PM” ETF program in the industry, plus a stellar research team.
  • UBS: The nominations said that UBS’ ETF research had “grown tremendously” and that it does a spectacular job aligning its ETF-specific recommendations with the overall macro view of UBS.

Best ETF Offering: Independent Regional Broker-Dealer

Awarded to the independent broker-dealer offering its reps and advisors the best total offering in the ETF space, including research, data, tools, trading capabilities and education.

  • LPL: With a strong ETF research team and a solid approach to ETF strategists, LPL deserved its nomination. Interestingly, folks noted the firm’s “willingness to embrace volatility ETFs” and “trusts its reps” as key points.
  • Raymond James: Raymond James got another callout this year for offering solid ETF-only portfolios and exploring what ETFs can mean to other clients.

 

Best ETF Research Paper – 2016

Awarded to the published paper from 2016 that most increased our understanding of how ETFs and/or index-based investments affect investor outcomes, whether in portfolios, markets or broader economic context.

Best ETF Issuer Website – 2016

Awarded to the most informative and user-friendly website by an ETF issuer.

  • db X-trackers: Recommended for its very clear presentation of data, and the depth of that data on every fund. https://etf.deutscheam.com/GLOBAL/ENG/Entry
  • KraneShares: Our nominators noted that kraneshares.com presented unique, differentiated research in a user-friendly way. www.kraneshares.com
  • IndexIQ: Nominations noted that the newly relaunched website featured unique commentary from a wide variety of experts, and highly detailed information on individual ETFs. www.nylifeinvestments.com/IQetfs
  • iShares: A perennial nomination in this category, users called out the fact that iShares provides clear information for investors at all levels of sophistication, from individual investors to the savviest institutions. www.ishares.com
  • Vanguard: Users noted that Vanguard is extremely consumer-friendly, with detailed information presented in a simple way, all aimed at helping investors make wise decisions. www.vanguard.com
  • WisdomTree: Nominators noted that WisdomTree excels not just at providing information about its ETFs, but at providing research on how those ETFs can be used in portfolios. www.wisdomtree.com

 

Best Index Provider Website – 2016

Awarded to the most informative and user-friendly website by an index provider.

  • ERI Scientific Beta: This indexing website powerhouse actually lets users create their own benchmarks, emphasizing the factors that matter to them. http://www.scientificbeta.com
  • MSCI: One nomination noted: “MSCI’s website stands above other index providers by combining cutting-edge research with analytical tools and timely market insights. From its RiskMetrics forecasting models to its single-country index heatmap, MSCI’s web experience is a wealth of information offering everything an investor needs to know about its indexes.” www.msci.com
  • S&P Dow Jones: One nominator wrote: “To increase investor knowledge regarding index benchmarking and investing, S&P DJI is leveraging digital thought leadership through its website, www.spdji.com. From its easy access to its multitude of data, including index returns, its website offers investors the opportunity to readily access the breadth and depth of S&P DJI’s index analysis, downloadable index data and local content including videos, research papers, educational materials and market commentaries in its own languages.” http://us.spindices.com/
  • STOXX: Stoxx got a hat tip for creating a dynamic, responsive website that both provides information and ideas investors can use when considering different investment strategies. https://www.stoxx.com/

Best ETF Issuer Capital Markets Desk – 2016

Awarded to the ETF issuer providing the most useful support to advisors for ETF trading.

  • Deutsche Bank: Nominations noted that Deutsche Bank made great strides in its capital markets desk this year, to become a true leader in the space. One nominator wrote: “Great partner, incorporated feedback, improved processes, handled complex products smoothly, communicated well, innovative, etc.”
  • FlexShares: “Available anywhere, anytime, for analysis, competitive positioning, context or working with a trading desk of another firm,” wrote one nomination, adding that it always “tells it like it is.”
  • Goldman Sachs: “Goldman Sachs' Capital Markets team, led by Steve Sachs, helps clients navigate the ETF marketplace through product education and by ensuring the highest-quality market for the firm's ETFs,” wrote one entry. They’ve successfully placed a number of large block trades in the firm’s new ActiveBeta suite.
  • J.P. Morgan: Nominations called out J.P. Morgan’s desk for being ‘extremely helpful,” and also noted that it was “not afraid to tell market makers what to do.” That sounds like the kind of desk you want on your side.
  • SSGA: With a deeply knowledgeable team, nominators called out SSGA’s unique ability to respond to market crises, guide clients, and put things in perspective even in tumultuous times. “A world-class organization from bottom to top,” wrote one nominator.

 

ETF Strategist of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the ETF strategist or model portfolio provider that has done the most to improve investor outcomes in 2016. Automated investment services are eligible for this award, as they provide managed portfolios en masse to investors.

  • Beaumont: Beaumont Capital is a leading quantitative, ETF-based investment manager. It boasts a deep research bench and pairs rules-based quantitative strategies with a firm understanding of fundamentals to create unique portfolios.
  • Cambria Investments: “Meb Faber is the best,” wrote one nominator, while others gave credit for his “great communication” and “solid offerings” that help investors of all stripes build portfolios.
  • CLS: CLS provides “everything an advisor would need to allocate client portfolios across investment mandates,” said one nomination. “This ranges from quasi-automated investment services (CLS Autopilot) to highly customized tax management strategies.” Others noted its risk budgeting tools, significant writing on ETFs and continued innovation to stay at the forefront of this industry.
  • Newfound: The firm received multiple nominations, including one that wrote: “It provides top-quality research freely to the public and takes deeper dives for anyone who requests it. With the introduction of its open-architecture Durable Model portfolios, it has taken robust portfolio construction to the next level while providing investors with best-in-class solutions for the tough years ahead.”
  • Sage Advisory: The leader in fixed-income ETF portfolios in the ETF strategist space, Sage’s services seem more important than ever in a world of rising rates and potential inflation.

ETF Lawyer of the Year – 2016

Awarded annually to the law firm that has done the most to push the ETF industry forward, including driving new and innovative products through the Securities and Exchange Commission, advocating for the industry and the rights of investors, and improving outcomes for investors.

  • Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer: Nominations noted one thing: It brought on board Kathleen Moriarty, the legendary ETF lawyer who helped shepherd the very first ETF through the SEC.
  • Chapman & Cutler: Chapman & Cutler won a nomination for being the “nicest, most intelligent people you’ll ever work with” and “helping people innovate new products and structures with the SEC.”
  • Dechert: Dechert received praise for having a comprehensive understanding of the ETF space and offering a variety of services, thought leadership and more.
  • Ropes & Gray: Ropes & Gray was nominated with citations of its “extremely deep experience” in all manner of the ETF approval process.
  • Thompson Hine: “In an era of ever-changing regulation,” one paper wrote, “Thompson Hine has been invaluable in helping keep us on the cutting edge.”

 

ETF Advisor of the Year – 2016

Awarded to an individual financial advisor or advisor team that is using ETFs to deliver high-quality portfolios to clients in an innovative way.

  • Chudom Hayes Wealth Management: “Consistently at the forefront of innovation in the industry, this group was one of the first ETF-based portfolio managers,” wrote one nomination paper. Others called out its overall leadership in ETFs within MSSB, where it is “one of the largest users of ETF portfolios.”
  • Edelman Financial Services: Regularly ranked the No. 1 independent advisor in the nation by Barron’s, Edelman is a giant, providing high-quality ETF-focused portfolios to the masses (including, admirably, clients with relatively low assets under management).
  • Stocker Woods Financial: A heartfelt nomination for Mike Woods called out his 20-year service to Carl Stocker, where he rose from a low-level advisor to become president and CEO this year. In the past year, Woods’ ETF book—managed through a relationship with CLS—has grown dramatically (up 198%).
  • Ritholtz Wealth Management: Led by the inimitable Barry Ritholtz and Josh Brown, Ritholtz Wealth offers steady ETF-focused portfolios to a growing client list. Nominations noted the “huge role” the firm plays in the media and its recent decision to reward clients who “don’t monkey around with their portfolios” by lowering fees for clients with good behavior.
  • The Veteran Financial Freedom Initiative: This unique partnership offers free or discounted financial planning and portfolio management to veterans, including ETF-only portfolios. The effort is a partnership between Agile Capital, a veteran-owned firm, and Capital Wealth Planning, which funds and covers the operational cost of the effort as a service to veterans.

Institutional ETF User of the Year – 2016

Awarded to an institutional investor that is using ETFs to deliver high-quality portfolios in an innovative way.

  • Houston Firefighters’ Relief And Retirement Fund: A nomination wrote: “In 2016, the Houston Firefighters' Relief And Retirement Fund, led by Ajit Singh, became an early adopter and innovative user of numerous ETF-only investment solutions. As an example, Ajit and his team implemented a "Long and Lend" strategy using ETFs to take advantage of lucrative securities lending revenue. HFRRF is also an advocate for factor investing and thus implemented a solution to four diversified multifactor ETFs across various exposures.”
  • Lazard Asset Management: Lazard developed the "Lazard Capital Allocator Series" in 2004, and became an early and leading institutional user of ETFs to provide investors with attractive returns using an innovative investment approach. At a time of continued turmoil in the ETF strategist space, Lazard has been a rock of stability, delivering sensible and solid returns.  
  • Rockefeller University: Rockefeller has quietly become a major user of ETFs, leveraging the products for transition management for its $2 billion endowment.
  • Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System: Tennessee was nominated for its sophisticated understanding of ETFs and its quant-driven approach to sector investing using ETFs.
  • USAA: “One of the biggest users of factor ETFs in the world,” wrote one nominator. “USAA has been on the forefront of leveraging ETFs to transform how institutional money managers deliver returns.”

New ETF Ticker of the Year – 2016
Awarded to the ETF with the best new ETF ticker. The ETF must have launched in 2016 to qualify.

  • BUZ: Buzz US Sentiment Leaders ETF
  • MENU: USCF Restaurant Leaders Fund
  • OLD: The Long-Term Care ETF
  • VNLA: Janus Short Duration Income ETF
  • WSKY: Spirited Funds/ETFMG Whiskey & Spirits ETF

 

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