2021 ETF Flows Shattering Records

Year-to-date inflows stand at $245 billion.

Senior ETF Analyst
Reviewed by: Sumit Roy
Edited by: Sumit Roy

The records piled up after a blazing-hot start for ETFs in the first quarter of 2021. According to the latest data from FactSet, U.S.-listed ETFs pulled in $245.4 billion in new money during Q1, the largest sum ever for any quarter.

Within the quarter were three very strong months, including inflows of $65.7 billion in January, $88.7 billion in February and $90.4 billion in March. In fact, March and February now stand as the second- and third-largest months for ETF inflows, respectively, behind only the $91.2 billion pulled in last November.

With one quarter in the books, 2021’s year-to-date inflows (equal to the Q1 figure) are more than triple the $71.9 billion seen at this same time a year ago. At the current pace, 2021 inflows would approach $1 trillion by year end, more than double the standing annual record of $476.1 billion set in 2017.

Strong Backdrop

2021’s inflows are no doubt being fueled by a roaring stock market and economy. The S&P 500 jumped 6.2% in the first quarter, while the Russell 2000 surged 12.9% in the same period.

Stocks are looking ahead to a stimulus-fueled economy that may expand by 11.7% on an annualized basis in Q2, and by 5.7% for the year as a whole, according to economists’ latest projections. That makes 2021 potentially the strongest year for growth since 1984.

Likewise, that strong GDP growth is expected to translate into stellar earnings growth for corporations. Profits for S&P 500 companies may surge 25% this year, exceeding pre-COVID levels, according to FactSet estimates. And they’re expected to jump another 15% next year.

With that backdrop, it’s not surprising to see investors so enthusiastically putting money to work in ETFs, including $119.9 billion in U.S. equity ETFs during the first quarter. Investors have also been bullish on international equities, where they’ve put $82.5 billion into related ETFs.

The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO), the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) and the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF) are the top asset gatherers of the year so far, each with inflows of more than $9 billion.

Fixed Income’s Tepid Year

Meanwhile, U.S. fixed income ETFs are having a relatively tepid year by recent standards. Only $31.3 billion flowed into the space during Q1—though in the context of the market environment, that’s not too bad. Treasury prices tumbled between the start of the year and the end of March; the yield on the benchmark 10-year note rose from 0.91% to 1.74% (bond prices and yields move inversely).

The iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEF), the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) and the iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) shed 5.7%, 13.9% and 3.4%, respectively, during the quarter.

At the same time, the iShares iBoxx USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) and the iShares iBoxx USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG) found themselves on the top outflows list for the year, with year-to-date redemptions of $10.4 billion and $4.6 billion, respectively.

The SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), another interest rate sensitive fund, had outflows of $7.5 billion in the same period.

Growth Stock Turbulence

Though stocks broadly marched higher during the first quarter, the indices masked over volatility in certain pockets of the market. In particular, growth stocks took a dive from their high point in mid-February to their low point in March.

The ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK), one of the most popular high-growth funds on the market today, dropped 29.6% peak-to-trough in just three weeks.

Yet interestingly, investors never lost confidence in the ETF. ARKK has actually been one of the most in-demand funds of the year, pulling in $6.5 billion of new money on a year-to-date basis.

Certainly, there was a rough patch in which ARKK had five straight days of outflows, but it didn’t put a significant dent in the fund’s assets. And now investors are back in buying mode; on Wednesday, investors added $717 million to ARKK—the fund’s largest daily inflow ever.

Investors’ confidence in ARK has extended not just to ARKK, but across the issuer’s suite. Each of ARK’s eight ETFs has seen year-to-date inflows, totaling $16.1 billion.

That includes an impressive $281 million inflow for the ARK Space Exploration & Innovation ETF (ARKX), ARK’s newest fund, which launched on Tuesday.

Total assets under management for ARK ETFs now stand at $43.8 billion, making ARK the tenth-largest ETF issuer.

For a full list of the top inflows and outflows for the year so far, see the tables below:

Top Gainers (Year-to-Date)

TickerNameIssuerNet Flows ($,mm)AUM ($M)% of AUMMarch 2021 Net Flows($,M)
VOOVanguard S&P 500 ETFVanguard17,072.12205,260.478.32%4,142.00
VTIVanguard Total Stock Market ETFVanguard9,744.13222,910.404.37%4,342.04
XLFFinancial Select Sector SPDR FundState Street Global Advisors9,106.5538,499.3323.65%1,947.49
IVViShares Core S&P 500 ETFBlackrock8,758.70260,617.683.36%2,748.77
IEMGiShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETFBlackrock7,434.1678,103.469.52%3,482.02
ARKKARK Innovation ETFARK6,483.9321,308.2530.43%897.63
IUSBiShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETFBlackrock6,397.6112,081.0652.96%1,952.27
BNDVanguard Total Bond Market ETFVanguard5,668.3171,031.837.98%1,034.44
VWOVanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETFVanguard4,689.8278,268.355.99%2,799.53
VTVVanguard Value ETFVanguard4,641.7773,139.496.35%2,268.76


Biggest Losers (Year-to-Date)

TickerNameIssuerNet Flows ($,mm)AUM ($M)% of AUMMarch 2021 Net Flows($,M)
LQDiShares iBoxx USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETFBlackrock-10,437.5341,738.61-25.01%-2,725.10
GLDSPDR Gold TrustState Street Global Advisors-7,516.7356,151.41-13.39%-3,081.44
USMViShares MSCI USA Min Vol Factor ETFBlackrock-5,581.9328,374.59-19.67%-1,233.80
HYGiShares iBoxx USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETFBlackrock-4,621.2321,031.54-21.97%-927.31
QUALiShares MSCI USA Quality Factor ETFBlackrock-2,889.6619,580.95-14.76%-381.56
SPYSPDR S&P 500 ETF TrustState Street Global Advisors-2,794.38343,730.26-0.81%-160.10
XLPConsumer Staples Select Sector SPDR FundState Street Global Advisors-2,432.1810,983.45-22.14%-47.82
TLTiShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETFBlackrock-2,260.2414,308.10-15.80%843.30
JNKSPDR Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond ETFState Street Global Advisors-2,113.7310,345.78-20.43%589.39
SHViShares Short Treasury Bond ETFBlackrock-1,914.1615,917.89-12.03%-351.45


Asset Classes (Year-to-Date)

 Net Flows ($, mm)AUM ($, mm)% of AUM
U.S. Equity119,889.003,423,444.403.50%
International Equity82,543.001,166,506.117.08%
U.S. Fixed Income31,291.47974,873.293.21%
International Fixed Income9,663.05129,412.557.47%
Asset Allocation940.5014,500.046.49%


Top Gainers (March 2021)

TickerNameIssuerNet Flows ($,mm)AUM ($M)% of AUMYTD 2021 Net Flows($,M)
VTIVanguard Total Stock Market ETFVanguard4,342.04222,910.401.95%9,744.13
VOOVanguard S&P 500 ETFVanguard4,142.00205,260.472.02%17,072.12
IEMGiShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETFBlackrock3,482.0278,103.464.46%7,434.16
VWOVanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETFVanguard2,799.5378,268.353.58%4,689.82
IVViShares Core S&P 500 ETFBlackrock2,748.77260,617.681.05%8,758.70
RSPInvesco S&P 500 Equal Weight ETFInvesco2,337.6924,294.229.62%3,968.74
VTVVanguard Value ETFVanguard2,268.7673,139.493.10%4,641.77
IWDiShares Russell 1000 Value ETFBlackrock2,170.4951,266.074.23%2,394.33
VSSVanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Small-Cap ETFVanguard2,160.448,582.9025.17%2,514.88
IUSBiShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETFBlackrock1,952.2712,081.0616.16%6,397.61


Biggest Losers (March 2021)

TickerNameIssuerNet Flows ($,mm)AUM ($M)% of AUMYTD 2021 Net Flows($,M)
GLDSPDR Gold TrustState Street Global Advisors-3,081.4456,151.41-5.49%-7,516.73
LQDiShares iBoxx USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETFBlackrock-2,725.1041,738.61-6.53%-10,437.53
USMViShares MSCI USA Min Vol Factor ETFBlackrock-1,233.8028,374.59-4.35%-5,581.93
SLViShares Silver TrustBlackrock-1,051.4313,989.99-7.52%590.04
HYGiShares iBoxx USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETFBlackrock-927.3121,031.54-4.41%-4,621.23
TIPiShares TIPS Bond ETFBlackrock-919.4626,071.26-3.53%151.16
IYRiShares U.S. Real Estate ETFBlackrock-898.564,686.43-19.17%-1,027.65
HYLBXtrackers USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETFDeutsche Bank-883.216,741.99-13.10%-684.10
IAUiShares Gold TrustBlackrock-858.3727,272.01-3.15%-1,145.80
GEMGoldman Sachs ActiveBeta Emerging Markets Equity ETFGoldman Sachs-637.461,325.64-48.09%-550.47


Asset Classes (March 2021)

 Net Flows ($, mm)AUM ($, mm)% of AUM
U.S. Equity59,098.123,423,444.401.73%
International Equity19,953.311,166,506.111.71%
U.S. Fixed Income10,819.25974,873.291.11%
International Fixed Income2,303.78129,412.551.78%
Asset Allocation313.7114,500.042.16%


March 2021 ETF Issuer League Table

IssuerNet Flows ($,M)AUM ($,M)% of AUMYTD 2021 Net Flows($,M)
State Street Global Advisors9,850.79901,418.781.09%18,416.90
Charles Schwab4,103.16220,058.841.86%10,400.34
First Trust2,410.35115,421.532.09%6,263.25
JPMorgan Chase2,532.4255,965.164.52%9,280.72
Mirae Asset1,477.1628,098.325.26%7,643.45
Goldman Sachs-533.6222,267.66-2.40%-347.84
Deutsche Bank-758.9620,753.00-3.66%-4.58
Northern Trust415.2616,447.432.52%1,232.49
Franklin Templeton-253.128,824.83-2.87%33.92
Exchange Traded Concepts110.746,459.781.71%878.63
Aberdeen Standard Investments-58.466,407.21-0.91%264.34
Victory Capital-27.386,278.42-0.44%260.81
Pacer Advisors173.866,245.032.78%188.32
American Century Investments594.325,265.2911.29%1,087.86
Grace Partners of Dupage LP7.964,997.270.16%471.85
Amplify Investments104.074,637.172.24%1,191.10
John Hancock33.414,621.500.72%-764.08
New York Life347.114,486.397.74%550.98
US Commodity Funds-443.484,372.56-10.14%-1,470.71
US Global Investors132.924,157.013.20%509.94
Janus Henderson-40.854,144.26-0.99%223.37
The Hartford19.733,846.990.51%51.97
Nuveen Securities76.183,471.562.19%680.43
Barclays Capital Inc.75.742,901.132.61%914.57
Toroso Investments34.021,919.491.77%424.97
O’Shares Investments-33.911,498.59-2.26%45.30
Columbia Management Investment Advisers, LLC48.661,448.913.36%204.45
Defiance ETFs-8.561,286.01-0.67%255.19
Davis Advisers15.951,246.401.28%58.24
Aptus Capital Advisors15.491,109.351.40%114.95
Dimensional Holdings203.001,036.1619.59%620.01
Virtus Investment Partners87.411,012.558.63%96.69
EMPIRICAL FINANCE LLC34.13876.183.90%193.10
Main Management128.04855.1714.97%155.04
Credit Suisse Group AG61.30832.187.37%141.58
Transamerica Funds-6.74758.09-0.89%-29.97
BNY Mellon49.48704.267.03%184.49
Renaissance Capital-184.06690.25-26.67%-11.41
Roundhill Investments56.96647.178.80%342.46
The Motley Fool12.79595.832.15%56.19
Timothy Plan0.31425.160.07%3.50
Strategy Shares69.52389.5517.85%176.55
SRN Advisors4.35378.711.15%62.95
Al Marketing LLC-9.01363.85-2.48%-17.58
Redwood Investment Management45.31347.5513.04%-91.33
Sprott, Inc.2.58339.550.76%20.76
Distillate Capital30.69324.329.46%81.95
Liquid Strategies-25.13319.53-7.87%22.54
Howard Capital Management11.37312.863.63%19.29
Regents Park Funds17.84291.926.11%30.46
ClearShares LLC-5.00273.94-1.83%-2.52
Tuttle Tactical Management, LLC-17.41268.45-6.49%120.97
Simplify Asset Management Inc.78.28252.3431.02%135.93
OBP Capital LLC2.61246.591.06%115.57
Swedish Export Credit1.52239.230.64%-12.80
T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.23.43221.9210.56%66.27
Intangible Capital-0.02179.70-0.01%-0.02
EntrepreneurShares, LLC-1.08175.10-0.62%3.22
Donald L. Hagan LLC6.11172.033.55%26.54
Core Alternative Capital-0.05159.12-0.03%16.79
Little Harbor Advisors19.82127.8415.50%67.84
Syntax Advisors20.08112.0917.91%19.79
Arrow Funds0.56109.860.51%0.56
Cboe Vest Financial LLC10.11108.839.29%14.86
TrueMark Investments6.87106.016.48%38.28
CornerCap Investment Counsel, Inc.10.9797.2311.28%27.48
RBS Securities18.0293.7219.22%105.05
Exponential ETFs0.0092.230.00%1.49
Wahed Invest LLC6.0389.916.70%20.05
Pettee Investors-5.6258.96-9.54%9.92
Metaurus Advisors1.9558.143.35%2.47
Advisors Asset Management4.6557.478.09%9.32
Pacific Life0.0057.070.00%0.00
Change Finance7.4452.3414.21%17.62
iM Global Partner1.3750.952.70%-6.83
Absolute Investment Advisers LLC4.5546.119.86%7.10
Beyond Investing2.6844.566.01%7.11
Toews Corp.-1.8844.22-4.26%-4.51
Impact Shares0.0143.830.02%6.51
Premise Capital-0.7843.65-1.78%-7.66
Highland Capital Management-1.6143.52-3.69%-9.78
Infusive Asset Management0.0041.270.00%5.04
Emles Advisors LLC-12.3641.05-30.11%-26.65
Cabot ETF Partners LLC6.5638.9916.82%35.11
Swan Global Investments8.2430.6426.88%28.85
MCCM Group LLC-8.3830.00-27.92%38.37
Neil Azous Revocable Trust8.2628.6928.80%8.26
ETF Series Solutions-0.0227.16-0.09%1.18
AlphaMark Advisors0.0025.230.00%-1.41
Guinness Atkinson Asset Management0.8921.184.20%12.96
WisdomTree Investments, Inc.5.5616.4533.77%18.05
Changebridge Capital LLC2.7215.6417.42%8.94
Inverdale Capital Management LLC3.3415.0822.15%10.41
The Leuthold Group LLC0.7314.485.02%1.43
Counterpoint Mutual Funds LLC-0.6011.37-5.25%-1.20
GAMCO Investors, Inc.0.4811.044.37%5.54
Rayliant Investment Research0.0010.33-0.02%8.17
Alternative Access Funds LLC0.0010.040.00%0.00
Point Bridge Capital-1.719.49-18.00%-1.71
Mairs & Power, Inc.7.757.7699.88%7.75
2nd Vote Value Investments, Inc0.686.5710.35%0.68
Water Island Capital Partners LP0.006.410.03%0.00
Ridgeline Research LLC0.005.280.00%2.14
Global Beta Advisors0.524.2612.16%-3.57
New Age Alpha Advisors LLC-0.633.50-18.05%1.94
Gotham Asset Management Holdings0.523.2016.23%1.03
Reflection Asset Management, LLC0.593.0619.41%0.59
Whitford Asset Management0.003.000.00%0.00
Wilshire Phoenix Funds LLC0.001.700.00%0.00
Eaton Vance Corp.
Humankind USA LLC0.000.000.00%0.00


Disclaimer: All data as of 6 a.m. Eastern time the date the article is published. Data is believed to be accurate; however, transient market data is often subject to subsequent revision and correction by the exchanges.

Sumit Roy is the senior ETF analyst for etf.com, where he has worked for 13 years. He creates a variety of content for the platform, including news articles, analysis pieces, videos and podcasts.

Before joining etf.com, Sumit was the managing editor and commodities analyst for Hard Assets Investor. In those roles, he was responsible for most of the operations of HAI, a website dedicated to education about commodities investing.

Though he still closely follows the commodities beat, Sumit covers a much broader assortment of topics for etf.com, with a particular focus on stock and bond exchange-traded funds.

He is the host of etf.com’s Talk ETFs, a popular video series that features weekly interviews with thought leaders in the ETF industry. Sumit is also co-host of Exchange Traded Fridays, etf.com’s weekly podcast series.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he enjoys climbing the city’s steep hills, playing chess and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe.