2017 ETF Lifetime Achievement Award: David Abner

April 01, 2018

What do you think you’ve contributed over that time?
I really feel that my influence coming from the trading side to the issuer side, even in 2008, had a large impact on driving spreads tighter across the whole industry. I helped so many of the largest product users understand the pricing mechanism and what they should expect from the trading community. Moreover, tighter spreads and a better understanding of liquidity really helped the industry as a whole to grow.

Not long after I joined WisdomTree, I realized that investors—mostly institutions and advisors—were starting to use the products more, but really didn’t understand how the products were priced, why spreads had a particular width and where ETF liquidity came from. It was a lightbulb moment when I decided I could write all this down in a book and it would become an important investing tool.

I had one of the easiest routes to publishing a book, because I brought the idea for “The ETF Handbook” to Wiley, and they immediately wanted to publish it. That book, first published in 2010, has now been used by thousands of industry participants, on all sides, to really understand how the products work. I get amazing feedback from readers all the time, and I have trouble sometimes believing I’m already working on the third edition for its upcoming tenth anniversary in 2019.

In 2012, I licensed the “ETF Implied Liquidity” function to Bloomberg and they then made the function available on their terminals. It’s fantastic that the ETF Implied Liquidity function that I developed is now made available by all major data providers and used by ETF investors every day to plan their investments.   

What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the ETF industry in the next 10 years?
Technology is completely uprooting every industry, and financial products are definitely being impacted. This is going to be a major challenge, and also presents an incredible opportunity. The creation of new, innovative products, and advances in blockchain technologies, could completely change the industry as we know it today.

Methods of distribution and the way investors put money to work in the market are also undergoing dramatic changes. Continually keeping up with these technological advances to be providing innovative, transparent and easy-to-use products for investors is always a challenge, but even more so in a world where the ground’s constantly shifting under our feet.

I really feel we’re in the early stages of the changes that are coming. New technologies being applied to our industry are just starting to gain scale and have an impact. It’s very exciting.

What are you looking forward to accomplishing next?
I really feel that the next decade is going to be led by technologically heavy innovation in the creation and delivery of financial products, and I’m going to continue to try to be on the leading edge of these advances. I’ve got a lot of ideas about educating new and existing consumers of financial products and helping all people to manage their financial lives in an easier and more seamless fashion with everything else they do. I think the ETF industry is really focused on helping investors have a better investing experience, and that’s something I have passionately believed in for many years.


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