30 ETF Milestones Over 30 Years

January 20, 2023

This article is part of an ongoing series celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first ETF listed on U.S. exchanges. 

 

 

Read more from our 30th anniversary coverage:

‘SPDR Woman’ Helped Drive ETF Innovation

Jim Ross Looks Back Over SPY’s 30 Years

ETF Industry’s Next 30 Years of Twists and Turns 

Vanguard Zeros in on BlackRock’s ETF Crown

 

The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) hit U.S. exchanges 30 years ago this week with roughly $6.5 million in assets and to little fanfare. Three decades later, the launch has become one of the most successful to date, with an industry-leading $354.6 billion in assets.  

It would have been hard to imagine in 1993 that assets in the ETF industry globally would be approaching $10 trillion in 2023. In fact, last year’s more than $505 billion intake was the second largest on record, according to data from the research firm ETFGI. 

That’s not all that’s happened over 30 years of ETF investing.  

While SPY certainly leads the way, there have been dozens of evolutions and iterations of ETFs worth revisiting. From actively managed ETFs that first got the green light in 2008 to single-stock funds that hit markets last year, there has been plenty to keep investors busy. 

ETF.com has compiled a list of 30 milestones in the ETF industry. While it’s not an exhaustive one by any means, it helps put into context all of the progress that has happened over the past three decades of ETF investing. 

 

 

1993 

The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) makes its debut as the first U.S.-listed ETF in January. 

1995 

The SPDR S&P Midcap 400 ETF Trust (MDY) launches in May. 

1996 

iShares, then owned by Morgan Stanley, debuts international ETFs with international exposure for the first time. 

SPY crosses $1 billion in assets. 

1998 

The Select Sector SPDR ETFs debut some of the first to track S&P 500 sectors. 

1999 

The Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) launches. 

2000 

Small cap ETFs debuted with the launch of the iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR)

Factor-based ETFs debuts with an iShares launch. 

The dot-com bubble bursts. 

2001 

The Sept. 11 attacks sends SPY into bear territory. 

2002 

iShares rolls out the iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF (SHY), the first bond ETF, in July. 

2004 

The SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) launches in November. It is the first physical gold ETF. 

iShares debuts a China-focused ETF for direct access to Chinese markets. 

2005 

iShares debuts sustainable ETFs incorporating an environmental, social and governance strategy. 

2006 

ProShares launches the first leveraged/inverse ETFs in June. 

2007 

The subprime mortgage crisis starts in April, precipitating the Global Financial Crisis. 

2008 

Active ETFs are approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the first time. 

2009 

Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, begins trading in January. 

2010 

Term-maturity ETFs debut with bonds that all mature in the same year. 

The Flash Crash in May brings high-frequency trading under scrutiny. 

2012 

SPY crosses $100 billion in assets in January. 

2016 

Bond ETF AUM skyrockets to $500 billion globally. 

SPY crosses $200 billion in assets in August. 

2018 

The first defined outcome ETFs launch in August. 

2019 

The Securities and Exchange Commission passed the ETF Rule in September, streamlining the process for new ETF launches. 

ETFs reach a total of $4 trillion globally. 

2020 

The COVID-19 pandemic in March triggers a 34% drawdown in the market. 

2021 

The first bitcoin futures ETF launches in October. 

2022 

Single-stock ETFs debut for the first time in the U.S. in July. 

2023 

SPY turns 30 in January. 

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