Kristen Capuano on How Cryptocurrency Changed ETF Marketing

The social media platform X has played a pivotal role in engaging with investors.

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Finance Reporter
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Reviewed by: etf.com Staff
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Edited by: etf.com Staff

Kristen Capuano PictureAfter spending 17 years on the marketing team at VanEck, Kristen Capuano has seen the ETF industry evolve since its infancy. 

But the recent entrance of the spot bitcoin ETFs has shaken up the marketing world of ETFs and changed the game, she says. 

"Crypto, in general, has added a different dimension to everybody’s job," she explained. 

Capuano joined VanEck in 2007, and in 2018 became the firm's Chief Marketing Officer. She is also now the co-Chief Operating Officer at VanEck, a role she took on in 2022. 

Capuano and I spoke about how and why Twitter (now called X) has been crucial to spot bitcoin ETF marketing and how the ETF industry can become more inclusive. 

This interview is part of a series highlighting women to watch in ETFs. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

How have you seen the marketing side of the ETF industry evolve since you joined VanEck [in 2007]?

I regard the ETF as a vehicle as the biggest proliferation in the investment world during my career. When launching [our first ETFs], the product strategy at the time was really going after markets that didn’t have an access vehicle via ETFs. A lot of ETF education had to take place. 

Fast forward to today, it’s now super competitive. It’s more about doing something clever or in a more interesting way that appeals to investors, because the white space is pretty much gone in the equity market. How do you be more thoughtful about an investing concept? How do you be a little different than what is out there? A lot of it is about the ticker and the simplicity of message because you can just get lost in all these messages.

We spent a fair amount of our marketing spend on promoting funds at certain times of the market cycle.

How did you develop the marketing strategy for the spot bitcoin ETF?

Crypto, in general, has added a different dimension to everybody’s job. I am not the smartest or most educated on every topic in the industry, so the best I can do as a leader is hire good people, and so that was my strategy.

I’m not even on Twitter in my personal life, but in terms of building a brand, education and awareness, it is a critical piece of the crypto product offering. So we decided as a tenet of our strategy was to be aggressive and very informal on Twitter. So we created the persona of the VanEck intern and we post frequently and we post playful sort of content. We created a following that way.

Yes, it's interesting to see these Wall Street legacy finance firms that are traditionally so buttoned up making memes or just posting more casually on Twitter.

Exactly, and I think we were a leader in that marketing tactic conceptually. We were sort of losing the earned media game a couple of months ago when we realized BlackRock Inc. was coming in and we were going to be in the market with [a dozen or so] competitors. We got lucky with the CNBC closing bell spot on the day the SEC was approving the funds.

It was a three-pronged approach, earned media, social media and education. I draw the comparison to the early days of ETF education, and VanEck is at the forefront of that education process.

How have you seen the industry progress, or not progress, in terms of opportunities for women in the finance industry?

I feel like there’s still a long way to go. I think some firms have made more progress than others. Absent a widespread push to bring in a more flexible work environment, it’s an impossible choice women have to make. It’s hard for me to see real change until something fundamentally shifts in the way that we work.

What are some ways that the industry can be more welcoming and diverse?

One of the things we do well is bring in a large and diverse intern group every year. We’ve been doing it for years, and people at the most senior levels at the firm have interns. 

The pool is very diverse, not just in terms of hiring women but across other tenets of diversity. We try to convert many of those interns into full time employees. At the entry level, I think the industry can make real progress.

Contact Lucy Brewster at [email protected]

Lucy Brewster is a finance reporter at etf.com covering asset managers, emerging technologies, and regulation. She hosts etf.com webinars and appears on Exchange Traded Fridays, etf.com’s flagship podcast. She previously was a finance fellow at Fortune Magazine where she covered markets, investment strategy, and venture capital. She has also been a freelancer writer at the publication Mergers & Acquisitions and a research fellow at the Historic Hudson Valley. 

She graduated from Vassar College in 2022 with a degree in History and was an editor of The Miscellany News, the college's award winning student run newspaper. 

Lucy lives in Brooklyn, NY, and in her free time she loves to run and find new recipes to cook.