The Next Big Financial Firms That May Issue ETFs

Prudential and Wells Fargo, among others, lining up to be fund issuers.

Reviewed by: Drew Voros
Edited by: Drew Voros

Over the last year or so, we’ve seen more large financial institutions enter the ETF industry as issuers, names like Goldman Sachs, John Hancock; Principal Financial Group; Oppenheimer, Legg Mason, USAA and Franklin Templeton.

Other large financial institutions have filed for exemptive relief requests with the SEC to begin offering their own ETFs. While only a few have specific funds in registration, the intent to enter the market is certainly genuine. Short of proposing funds that deviate far from the norm, it’s rare for firms to be denied exemptive relief.

So here are four large financial firms lining up to be the next to dive into the ETF pool.

Wells Fargo
It doesn’t get much bigger than Wells Fargo, the largest bank by market cap ($248 billion) and the third-largest U.S. bank by assets ($1.85 trillion). Wells is familiar with ETFs by way of providing indexes for funds like the SPDR Wells Fargo Preferred Stock ETF (PSK), the Etracs Monthly Pay 2xLeveraged Wells Fargo MLP Ex-Energy ETN (LMLP) and the Etracs Linked to the Wells Fargo Business Development Company Index ETN (BDCS).

Wells had filed for an active short-term bond fund under a different exemptive relief request a while back and has yet to move further ahead. But certainly as an index and mutual fund provider, Wells is in a good position to begin offering both passive and active funds.

Like Wells, Nuveen is no stranger to the ETF space, but rather than provide indexes, the firm is an ETF subadvisor in an area where it specializes: municipal bonds. The company, which has nearly $300 billion in assets under management, subadvises on multibillion SPDR funds such as the SPDR Nuveen Barclays Municipal Bond ETF (TFI) and the SPDR Nuveen Barclays Short Term Municipal Bond ETF (SHM).

While the SPDR funds are index-based, Nuveen has filed for active transparent equity and fixed-income funds. And again, like Wells, with its experience in the ETF space, it would seem a matter of time before the financial giant makes a splash.


Prudential Financial
The $35 billion company offers insurance, financial services and financial products, and has filed to offer an active ETF and has a bond fund that, like Wells, has been sitting in registration for awhile. And despite dozens of mutual funds, it doesn’t subadvise or provide indexes in the ETF space.

The firm has similar characteristics to USAA in terms of its insurance roots and the client base that comes with that, and it has grown to manage $1.2 trillion in assets.  

While Voya may not be a household name like the others above, it has the financial wherewithal—$500 billion in assets under management—to make some serious inroads. The firm began in 1991 as ING U.S., as the operating subsidiary here for ING Group, and was spun off in an IPO in April 2014 and rebranded as Voya Financial.

The company has no specific fund in registration. Like Prudential, it has its roots in financial and insurance services, but has a market cap of $5.5 billion compared with Prudential’s $35 billion. It’s made a pronounced marketing effort of late—think of the TV commercials with the orange rabbits hopping about.

Advisory Firms Coming Too
While not the behemoths that are mentioned above, there are many advisory firms that have also filed for exemptive relief, usually with the intent of wrapping their portfolios into an ETF wrapper. Some of those firms include Rational Advisors, Csat Investments, which just filed for its first ETF,  as well as robo-advisory Wealthfront.

Keep in mind that filing for exemptive relief doesn’t necessarily mean an ETF from that firm is assured. But the bigger the company, the safer it is to assume the intent is real.

At the time of writing, the author held none of the securities mentioned. Drew Voros can be reached at [email protected].


Drew Voros has nearly 30 years' experience in financial journalism. He was a longtime business editor for the Oakland Tribune and sister papers of the Bay Area News Group, and finance writer for the Hollywood trade publication Variety. Voros' past roles have also included editor-in-chief at and ETF Report.