Big Shifts In ETF Ownership

A deep dive into the biggest changes in institutional ETF owners in Q1 2021.

Reviewed by: Emil Tarazi
Edited by: Emil Tarazi

[Editor’s Note: The following originally appeared on Logicly. Emil Tarazi is co-founder and CEO of ETFLogic.]

We love diving deep into 13F holdings to better understand the shifting landscape of ETF ownership amongst the biggest institutional owners.

Generally, institutions have 45 days after the end of the quarter to report their holdings. May 15, 2021 marked that day for the first quarter of 2021. In the following, we analyse the biggest shifts in ETF ownership as reported between the last two quarters.

Q1 2021 highlighted continued impressive growth in the ETF space as ETF share ownership grew by over 6% in a single quarter. ESG ownership increased by more than 50% of that baseline with a more than 12% increase in ESG shares held.

Gold positioning decreased, highlighting the general “risk on” bull-mentality that pervaded into the new year and through most of Q1 and early Q2.

Reading The Tea Leaves

Obviously, 13F data should always be taken with a grain of salt. Institutions tend to pare assets into quarter end and especially year end to keep their balance sheets looking slim. Also, the standard 45-day lag means that institutions have sufficient time to reposition their portfolios since last reporting publicly.

Here are some more interesting stats in institutional ETF ownership for Q1 2021. Any growth numbers are based on the Q4 2020 lookback:

13F data can vary significantly across dates and institutions due to different reporting standards as well as the timing of corporate actions. Every effort was made to normalize these differences. If you notice any errors in the data, please reach out to the team on engineering at

Largest Institutional Positions & Ownership Change

SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) reigns supreme as the major S&P 500 positioning tool. However, Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) wins in terms of growth in shares held, followed by iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV). VOO and IVV have lower expense ratios than their older sibling, SPY.

iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG) +10% and Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) +4.9% growth win out over the developed market iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF (IEFA), -1.6% and iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) -0.7%.


Largest Institutional Positions & Ownership Change
 TickerFundAsset Class$bn HeldQ4->Q1
1SPYS&P 500 ETF TRUST ETFEquity$152.511.5%
2IVViShares Core S&P 500 ETFEquity$145.079.3%
3VOOVanguard S&P 500 ETFEquity$72.0220.6%
4IWMiShares Russell 2000 ETFEquity$53.1111.6%
5IEFABTC iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETFEquity$52.07-1.6%
6VEAVanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETFEquity$51.991.7%
7IEMGiShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETFEquity$48.4910.5%
8QQQInvesco QQQ Trust Series 1Equity$46.547.4%
9VTIVanguard Total Stock Market ETFEquity$46.471.9%
10AGGiShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETFFixed Income$42.703.6%
11VWOVanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETFEquity$34.784.9%
12LQDiShares iBoxx USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETFFixed Income$32.18-17.1%
13VCITVanguard Intermediate-Term Corporate Bond ETFFixed Income$31.509.6%
14IJRiShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETFEquity$31.163.6%
15IJHiShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETFEquity$31.03-0.7%
16IWFiShares Russell 1000 Growth ETFEquity$30.64-3.0%
17VUGVanguard Growth ETFEquity$28.69-2.7%
18VTVVanguard Value ETFEquity$27.436.4%
19BNDVanguard Total Bond Market ETFFixed Income$27.209.9%
20EFAiShares MSCI EAFE ETFEquity$27.05-0.7%


Largest Equity ETF Ownership Change In Equity-Focused ETFs With Over $1Bn In Notional Held

Here we look at equity-focused ETFs with more than $1bn in notional holdings. A large ETF model portfolio shift into iShares U.S. Energy ETF (IYE) was seen in Q1 2021, driving much of the assets into this US energy sector-focused name.

VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH) and SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) saw big swings in opposite directions, highlighting the increased need for semiconductors and the decrease in fortunes of retail shopping.

An increase in positioning of SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) by end of Q1 is also quite impressive, as that bet has paid off handsomely with recent price action.


Largest % Ownership Change In Equity-Focused ETFs With Over $1bn In Notional Held
 TickerFundAsset Class$bn HeldQ4->Q1
1IYEiShares U.S. Energy ETFEquity$1.34665.1%
2FXRFirst Trust Industrials/Producer Durables AlphaDEX FundEquity$1.04575.3%
3JPHYJPMorgan High Yield Research Enhanced ETFEquity$1.35323.3%
4EFVBTC iShares MSCI EAFE Value ETFEquity$7.07147.2%
5VTWOVanguard Russell 2000 Index ETFEquity$1.0067.9%
6RDVYFirst Trust Rising Dividend Achievers ETFEquity$1.4360.8%
7IJJiShares S&P Mid-Cap 400 Value ETFEquity$4.2356.3%
8KBESPDR S&P Bank ETFEquity$1.3350.3%
9RSPInvesco S&P 500 Equal Weight ETFEquity$10.3749.2%
10KRESPDR S&P Regional Banking ETFEquity$3.3648.9%
11XLEThe Energy Select Sector SPDR FundEquity$9.8239.6%
12SUSAMSCI USA ESG Select ETFEquity$1.1738.9%
13EWCiShares MSCI Canada ETFEquity$2.1138.3%
14SMHVanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETFEquity$3.0335.0%
15ARKKARK Innovation ETFEquity$3.9232.9%
16XLFFinancial Select Sector SPDREquity$19.6632.6%
17ARKGARK Genomic Revolution ETFEquity$1.0931.5%
18XRTSPDR Retail ETFEquity$1.10-30.3%
19XSOEWisdomTree Emerging Markets ex-State-Owned Enterprises FundEquity$1.8429.9%
20XHBSPDR Homebuilders ETFEquity$1.0829.1%


Largest Ownership Change In Fixed Income ETFs

Here we look at fixed income ETFs with more than $1bn in notional holdings. The continued inverted yield curve and its ever-steepening slope have investors focused on expectations of increased inflation. We see big share ownership growth in Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) names like iShares 0-5 Year TIPS Bond ETF (STIP), Vanguard Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities ETF (VTIP) and Schwab U.S. TIPS ETF (SCHP).

High yield was a bit unloved, as we saw iShares 0-5 Year High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (SHYG) and iShares iBoxx USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG) positions pared down. Positioning on the medium-to-longer end of the Treasury curve was strong, with names like SPDR Portfolio Long Term Treasury ETF (SPTL), iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT), SPDR Portfolio Intermediate Term Treasury ETF (ITE), iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEF) increasing.


Largest % Ownership Change In Fixed Income-Focused ETFs With Over $1bn In Notional Held
 TickerFundAsset Class$bn HeldQ4->Q1
1FALNiShares Fallen Angels USD Bond ETFFixed Income$1.22748.5%
2IUSBBTC iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETFFixed Income$8.06121.7%
3SPTLSPDR Portfolio Long Term Treasury ETFFixed Income$2.1384.9%
4SRLNSPDR Blackstone Senior Loan ETFFixed Income$2.0472.9%
5STIPiShares 0-5 Year TIPS Bond ETFFixed Income$1.9253.3%
6BKLNInvesco Senior Loan ETFFixed Income$3.1940.7%
7SHYGiShares 0-5 Year High Yield Corporate Bond ETFFixed Income$1.83-37.5%
8SCHPSchwab U.S. Tips ETFFixed Income$11.7027.0%
9TLTBTC iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETFFixed Income$6.92-25.0%
10MBGSPDR Portfolio Mortgage Backed Bond ETFFixed Income$2.8923.5%
11IEFBTC iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETFFixed Income$7.9022.3%
12VTIPVanguard Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities Index FundFixed Income$4.5219.3%
13FLOTBTC iShares Floating Rate Bond ETFFixed Income$2.3817.4%
14LQDiShares iBoxx USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETFFixed Income$32.18-17.1%
15FIXDFirst Trust TCW Opportunistic Fixed Income ETFFixed Income$2.2616.2%
16ITESPDR Portfolio Intermediate Term Treasury ETFFixed Income$1.7815.6%
17VCSHVanguard Short-Term Corporate Bond ETFFixed Income$19.3514.2%
18SUBiShares Short-Term National Muni Bond ETFFixed Income$1.9914.2%
19VTEBVanguard Tax-Exempt Bond ETFFixed Income$6.0413.9%
20HYGiShares iBoxx USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETFFixed Income$13.32-13.1%


Largest New ETF Entrants On Holders Filings

New entrants are defined as ETFs that did not show up in Q4 2020 filings but made it to Q1 2021. Many names appear to be thematic in nature. Main Thematic Innovation ETF (TMAT) is similar to the innovation-focused ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK) fund. AdvisorShares Alpha DNA Equity Sentiment ETF (SENT) is focused on sentiment analysis through leveraging alternative data sets, perhaps like scraping Reddit.

Many new entrants are in the growing field of options-embedded strategies that offer structured-product like returns. Fairly recent players here are AllianzIM and Cboe Vest. By definition, these ETFs will expire as they come to term, and new ETFs will take their place further out in the calendar.


Largest New ETF Entrants on Holders Filings
 TickerFundAsset Class$bn Held 
1CLDSDirexion Daily Cloud Computing Bear 2X SharesEquity$1.172 
2PSFFPacer Swan SOS Fund of Funds ETFEquity$0.172 
3IMFLInvesco International Developed Dynamic Multifactor ETFEquity$0.133 
4HCRBHartford Core Bond ETFFixed Income$0.130 
5FUNLCornerCap Fundametrics Large-Cap ETFEquity$0.097 
6FJANFT Cboe Vest U.S. Equity Buffer ETF - JanuaryEquity$0.058 
7SENTAdvisorShares Alpha DNA Equity Sentiment ETFEquity$0.055 
8TMATMain Thematic Innovation ETFEquity$0.051 
9JSCPJPMorgan Short Duration Core Plus ETFFixed Income$0.050 
10KNGFT Cboe Vest S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Target Income ETFEquity$0.049 
11AZBJAllianzIM U.S. Large Cap Buffer20 Jan ETFEquity$0.049 
12UMIUSCF Midstream Energy Income Fund ETFEquity$0.044 
13EUCGEuclid Capital Growth ETFEquity$0.043 
14AZAJAllianzIM U.S. Large Cap Buffer10 Jan ETFEquity$0.032 
15ONOFGlobal X Adaptive U.S. Risk Management ETFEquity$0.031 
16JEMAJPMorgan Emerging Markets Equity Core ETFEquity$0.029 
17ISWNAmplify BlackSwan ISWN ETFEquity$0.029 
18HYMUBlackRock High Yield Muni Income Bond ETFFixed Income$0.021 
19KEMXKraneShares MSCI Emerging Markets ex China Index ETFEquity$0.021 


Emil Tarazi is co-founder and CEO at ETFLogic, creators of the Logicly platform, which empowers advisors globally with deep-dive analytics, backtesting and holdings analysis on portfolios. Emil can be reached at emil at

Emil is CEO and co-founder of ETFLogic. He has over 15 years of financial markets experience, having been at the crossroad of trading and technology. Previously, at Cantor Fitzgerald, he ran the firm’s ETF Lead Market Making book, working closely with ETF issuers to list and trade their products. In 2017, with the intention of bringing increased transparency to the world of ETFs, he helped start ETFLogic. The focus is on delivering high-quality tools and analytics he developed throughout his career as a professional trader to a wider audience.