10 Reasons To Be Excited For Inside ETFs

Here's why you should attend the largest ETF conference in the world next month.

Reviewed by: Matt Hougan
Edited by: Matt Hougan

This Sunday is the start of Inside ETFs, the world’s largest ETF conference, and I’m getting really excited. The conference, which takes place January 24-27 in Hollywood, Florida, is shaping up to be a must-attend event.

Here are the top 10 reasons I’m looking forward to Inside ETFs:

1. This Is One Of The Most Exciting Years In The History of ETFs … And I Need Help
2015 will go down as one of the most exciting years in the history of ETFs, and also one of the most challenging. Just think of everything that’s happened. We’ve seen:

  • More than 20 new firms enter the ETF market … including big names like Goldman Sachs and John Hancock
  • Fixed-income ETFs tested … and pass
  • New frontiers open in the fee wars … for traditional and smart-beta ETFs
  • Currency hedging go from novelty … to mainstream
  • Regulatory threats emerge … and intensify
  • Smart beta go from theory … to real assets

With a record number of ETFs in the pipeline, and new innovations like exchange-traded managed funds coming soon, it’s hard to keep up. Inside ETFs is a one-stop shop for doing just that. With 3 1/2 days of content, you can quickly learn what’s going on, what new products are worth considering, and what issues might be coming down the pike.

I follow this industry every day and even I need a refresher. Inside ETFs is just that.

Related Article: Inside ETFs 2016 In Pictures

2. Finding Out Where The Market Will Go Next

ETFs allow investors to make macro bets on the market, and we’ve assembled some of the best macro minds in the world for the conference. Jeffrey Gundlach, Jeremy Siegel, Liz Ann Sonders, John Mauldin, Marc Faber, Dennis Gartman, Richard Bernstein, Mark Yusko, and on and on. It’s an embarrassment of riches. With the markets on edge, I want to know what’s next. This lineup should tell me.

3. Catching Up With 2,000+ Colleagues

If there is anyone you want to speak with in the world of ETFs, they’ll be at Inside ETFs 2016. We had 1,973 people register for the event last year, and we’re running well ahead of that this year. From Vanguard CEO Bill McNabb to the smallest financial advisor, everyone who is anyone is there. This networking opportunity is probably the single most valuable thing about the conference at this point.

4. Listening To Former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill

We always try to find keynote speakers who will be insightful, funny and/or inspirational at our lunches. It breaks up the day between all the hard-hitting ETF sessions. This year, we have Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner and futurist-investor John Mauldin speaking at our Monday and Tuesday lunches. Both will be great.

But of all the speeches, I’m most excited about Robert O’Neill, who closes the day on Monday, Jan. 25. O’Neill is a former Navy SEAL, and one of the most highly decorated combat veterans of our time. Talk about an American hero; let’s just say that he and his teams have done some amazing things. I’ll let you Google his bio to find out what I mean.

5. Learning How To Compete With Robo Advisors

We kick off the conference on Sunday, Jan. 24, with ETF University, an in-depth, five-hour refresher course on how ETFs work and the biggest risks and opportunities ETFs investors face. This year, we’ve invited Bill Bachrach of Values Based Financial Planning to deliver the closing keynote.

Bill is an amazing speaker—one of the best in the financial world—but he’s also perfectly pitched for the single biggest challenge advisors face today. In an age where robo advisors are offering portfolio management, where can advisors add real value to clients? Bill’s speech will tell you, and get you fired up to deliver for clients.

6. Partying With CNBC And The Grammy Award-Winning Rebirth Brass Band

Tuesday is always one of the biggest days of the conference, and our Tuesday agenda ends with a bang: CNBC anchor Bob Pisani moderates a panel on the outlook for emerging markets with Dennis Gartman, Marten Hoekstra, Richard Bernstein and Marc Faber. It should be fireworks.

But the day only gets better from there. As we move into our Tuesday night cocktail reception, CNBC will be broadcasting its “Fast Money” TV show live from our poolside party. To dial things up another notch, we’ve booked the Grammy Award-Winning Rebirth Brass Band to provide the entertainment.

Rebirth is inarguably the best New Orleans jazz band working right now. If you saw the movie “Chef,” you know Rebirth. If not, take the word of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who did a tour with Rebirth and describes them way:

“Unbelievable. Hard as hell, free as a ray of light. There is not a band on Earth that is better. Stunning.”

Enough said.

7. Digging Into The Next Big Risks In ETFs
Everyone knows we love ETFs at ETF.com, but we also don’t shy away from their flaws. We were the first media outlet to warn about contango in commodity ETFs; compounding in leveraged ETFs; and tracking error in a number of products.

There are currently some big issues circling around in the ETF space, including liquidity concerns, fixed-income ETFs, regulatory overreach and more. One of my main goals for the conference is to tackle these head-on and figure out what’s real, what’s fake and what I should be worried about.

8. Visiting Our Sweet New Exhibit Hall
We have 106 exhibitors coming to Inside ETFs this year, which is great. If there’s an ETF or ETF service you want to know about, you’ll have the opportunity to walk up to that company and have a face-to-face conversation on your terms about what you want to know.

106 exhibitors is also a record for us … by far. To accommodate all the growth, we’ve expanded the size of the exhibit hall by 50% from last year and made it much more dynamic. This year’s hall will feature:

  • An exclusive networking cafe with high-quality coffee (think lattes, cappuccinos, etc.) and sofas for meetings
  • More “superbooths” with exciting activities
  • A “fin-tech alley” with advisor-focused fin-tech companies
  • A stage for mini-presentations on hot topics
  • Shoeshines, enhanced signage and great food

It should be 50% more exciting than last year. I can’t wait to see it and learn from what’s on offer.

9. Upgraded Technology

The team at ETF.com has a reputation for putting on world-class events. This year, we’re making a number of behind-the-scenes investments to make the user experience at Inside ETFs even better than ever.

That includes a superslick new registration system, which should bring registration lines down to zero; more room blocks at more hotels, with a shuttle bringing people to and from the conference hotel; increased signage; presentations that are downloadable by attendees in advance of each session, so you can see the details of the presentations on your device; massively upgraded Wi-Fi to help you stay in touch; and an even bigger screen at the main stage to enhance the overall experience.

We want Inside ETFs to be the single best event you attend all year. If it’s not, let me know ([email protected]).

10. Talking About What’s Next

The theme of this year’s conference is What’s Next, and we’re going to be spending a lot of time looking ahead at what’s coming for ETFs and advisors in the market. A few sessions I’m looking forward to on this end are:

  • Dave Nadig and my keynote, kicking off the day Monday, talking about everything coming down the pike
  • Betterment CEO Jon Stein’s keynote on how to work with … rather than compete against … robo advisors
  • Josh Brown’s keynote on social media and financial advisors, teaching you how to grow your practice
  • Panels on “The Best New ETFs of 2015” and “ETFs 2.0,” looking at what’s hot and what’s coming, including nontransparent active ETFs.

I know I’ll leave the conference with new ideas about where the ETF market is today and where it’s heading tomorrow.

If you haven’t registered yet for Inside ETFs, there’s still time. Registration is just $395 for ETF investors, and gets you 3 1/2 days of content, all the networking parties and more. We recently opened up a new room block at the nearby Beachwalk Resort, so there are reasonably priced rooms available near the conference. I hope to see you in Florida!

Matt Hougan is CEO of Inside ETFs, a division of Informa PLC. He spearheads the world's largest ETF conferences and webinars. Hougan is a three-time member of the Barron's ETF Roundtable and co-author of the CFA Institute’s monograph, "A Comprehensive Guide to Exchange-Trade Funds."