10 Fastest Growing ETFs

10 Fastest Growing ETFs

Each of these products more than tripled its assets under management this year.

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

ETFs may be gathering assets at a record pace, but not all funds are thriving. A record 42 exchange-traded funds are scheduled to close in September as issuers throw in the towel on products that failed to gain traction with investors.

It goes without saying, as competition is fierce in the ETF world. Unless a fund is large, liquid and cheap, it's an uphill battle to attract new money.

A midyear report from FactSet showed that a mere 20 ETFs with a median expense ratio of 0.07% took in half of the $250 billion in new assets through the first six months of 2017.

It's hard to imagine flows could get even more concentrated than that, but they did. A more recent report from FactSet revealed that only 10 ETFs garnered half of all inflows in the month of August.

Assets Tripled

In the face of numbers like that, it's an uphill battle for smaller and more expensive ETFs to survive, let alone thrive. The 42 ETF closures in September is testament to that.

But surprisingly, there are a number of funds with those characteristics that are indeed thriving. Eric Balchunas, ETF analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, recently pointed out 10 ETFs whose assets more than tripled this year despite having above-average expense ratios.

The list can be found below, and includes high-flyers like the ROBO Global Robotics and Automation Index ETF (ROBO), the KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF (KWEB) and the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (LIT).

The group, which has a median expense ratio of 0.66%, is ranked based on growth in assets under management from the beginning of the year through Sept. 12 (inflows plus price appreciation). ETFs with AUM of less than $100 million at the start of the year were screened out.


ROBORobo Global Robotics and Automation Index ETF134.71,128.50738.1
SVXYProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF227.41,351.60494.2
KWEBKraneShares CSI China Internet ETF203.2927.4356.5
FDTFirst Trust Developed Markets ex-US AlphaDEX Fund158.2571.0261.0
LVHDLegg Mason Low Volatility High Dividend ETF108.5383.9253.7
LITGlobal X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF114.0399.3250.4
VIGIVanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF 163.8550.9236.4
EEMAiShares MSCI Emerging Markets Asia ETF154.5499.8223.6
VYMIVanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF157.2503.6220.3
FDDFirst Trust Stoxx European Select Dividend Index Fund157.9499.8341.9

Source: Bloomberg


Replacement For Active Funds

Balchunas believes investors are using these ETFs to try to outperform the broader stock market.

"Not everybody in the world is going to be satisfied with three Vanguard index funds," he said. "There will always be a need to try to be better, to try and outperform, to play a hot story. It used to be you'd use active mutual funds for that. Now you have a lot more choice."

One of those choices is theme ETFs. Balchunas says investors may be using these ETFs―such as ROBO, KWEB and LIT―in the way they might have used active mutual funds before.

"Their new role is going to be on the outskirts of the portfolio―the supporting actors. Out there, you want high active-share; you want something that's more volatile," Balchunas remarked.

For investors in these funds, costs don't matter so much as performance. By ETF standards, ROBO's 0.95% expense ratio is steep, but is "in the ballpark of an active fund or hedge fund," he adds.

ROBO is up close to 33% this year, while KWEB is up 68% and LIT is up 49%.

With performance like that, it's understandable why investors aren't as concerned about the expense ratio.

In addition to their strong performance, Balchunas points out that each of these funds has a simple, compelling story that resonates with investors and plays a large part in their success.


Smart But Dangerous Product

One product on the list that is distinct from the rest is the ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (SVXY), which is up a whopping 82% year-to-date. While the other nine ETFs can be considered replacements for actively managed equity funds, SVXY is in a class of its own because it uses derivatives.

"SVXY is a smart product," Balchunas said. "It turns roll costs into yield, which has helped it clean up in this low-volatility market. But we've seen cases where the short-volatility trade can go down 20-30% in a day or week."

Bring Your Own Assets

Another interesting product that Balchunas points out is the Legg Mason Low Volatility High Dividend ETF (LVHD).

"LVHD is an example of 'BYOA'―bring your own assets," explained Balchunas. He says that a lot of the inflows into ETF products from Legg Mason, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Fidelity may be from existing clients of those firms.

"Even though these issuers have bright futures, a lot of the assets you see in their products are current clients who may have thought of leaving a mutual fund and going to a competitor, but instead simply moved over into one of the firm's ETFs," he noted.

Out of all the ETFs on the list, LVHD has the smallest year-to-date return, at 8.3%. Gains for the rest range from 16% to 82%, as can be seen from the table below:


TickerYTD Return


Contact Sumit Roy at [email protected]


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.