ETF Names: The Long & Short Of Them

May 12, 2016

When it comes to individuals stocks, most investors are usually quite familiar with corporate names, from Apple to Coca-Cola to Ford to Walt Disney, because they are all familiar with the products they sell.

But start asking investors who are familiar with the names mentioned above what the trading tickers are for—say, those four companies—and I would bet dollars to donuts few could rattle off the four correct tickers: AAPL, KO, F and DIS.

In the world of exchange-traded products, it’s just the opposite. Tickers rule the ETF landscape. The names behind those tickers, not so much.

Anyone familiar with ETFs recognizes tickers such as SPY, GLD, QQQ, BOND, etc. But ask those same investors what the proper names of those funds are, and you would most likely get a description of the exposure they offer than the correct names: SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust, SPDR Gold Trust, PowerShares QQQ Trust and PIMCO Total Return Active ETF.

The Long Of It

Because ETFs are selling investment exposure rather than consumer goods or services, you could argue the actual name of a fund isn’t that important.

Nonetheless, our friends at FactSet, which powers ETF.com’s analytics and fund reports, sent me an Excel sheet this week that listed the character count of 1,884 exchange-traded products listed in the U.S.

What struck me was the disparity between the lengths of names, from a low of 14 characters to the longest name, which employs 79 characters.

Deutsche Bank has the lion’s share of long names by virtue of its ETF brand, “Deutsche X-trackers.” That brand is already longer than many of the shortest-length ETF names by character count.

The issuer that has the longest ETF name in the market today is the Deutsche X-trackers MSCI Emerging Markets High Dividend Yield Hedged Equity ETF (HDEE | F-77), and the second-longest is the Deutsche X-trackers MSCI All World ex US High Dividend Yield Hedged Equity ETF (HDAW | F-76). The funds, which target dividend-paying companies outside the U.S. and include a hedge overlay, have only between $2 million and $3.3 million in assets under management (AUM). They are also less than one year old.

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