Biggest ETF Launches Of The Year

Biggest ETF Launches Of The Year

Luck, circumstances or magic, these newcomers have had great debuts.

Reviewed by: Cinthia Murphy
Edited by: Cinthia Murphy

Launching an ETF is very much like planting a seed—a new fund takes time to bloom and grow. But every once in a while, we run into true magic beans that go from seed to billion-dollar trees almost overnight.

In 2018, we’ve had a handful of these magic beans hit the market.

Here are the 10 most successful launches of the year:


Top Asset Flows For New-To-Market ETFs

TickerFundLaunch DateYTD Flows ($M)AUM ($M)
XLCCommunication Services Select Sector SPDR Fund06/18/20183,461.113,133.20
BBJPJPMorgan BetaBuilders Japan ETF06/15/20183,251.883,049.87
BBCAJPMorgan BetaBuilders Canada ETF08/07/20182,342.552,135.64
BBEUJPMorgan BetaBuilders Europe ETF06/15/20181,899.641,754.46
FIYYBarclays ETN+ FI Enhanced Global High Yield Exchange Traded Notes Series B03/15/20181,445.231,416.76
BBAXJPMorgan BetaBuilders Developed Asia ex-Japan ETF08/07/2018801.28750.14
FFEUBarclays ETN+ FI Enhanced Europe 50 Exchange Traded Notes Series C03/15/2018766.65635.29
GLDMSPDR Gold MiniShares Trust06/25/2018302.22330.79
JHEMJohn Hancock Multifactor Emerging Markets ETF09/27/2018281.44282.71
IGPrincipal Investment Grade Corporate Active ETF04/18/2018229.07223.72


Each of these ETFs has an interesting story behind their quick success.

The first thing we can say about them is that none of them is exactly your run-of-the-mill new launch, coming from a small new issuer trying to carve a niche into a crowded market. These are all new funds by well-established brands—brand recognition goes a long way in helping distribute a new strategy.

More importantly, these funds each benefited from unique circumstances that translated into massive asset growth in a short amount of time. Their magic is in the details.

New GICS Sector

Starting at the top, the Communication Services Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLC) wasn’t like any other telecom ETF. It was the telecom ETF.

XLC represented an entirely new sector following changes to the Global Industry Classification Standard used by S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI that took effect in September. GICS changes don’t come about all that often, so XLC came to market with fanfare and plenty of attention.

XLC, which pulled from the technology and consumer discretionary sectors to create a portfolio deemed more purely telecom, gained, while the Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLK) and the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLY) lost in the reshuffle.

Successful launch? No doubt. But not entirely magic.

‘BYOA’ Becomes A Thing

Five of the ETFs in this top-10 list relied on another recipe for overnight success. It’s one we’ve come to call “BYOA” (bring your own assets).

J.P. Morgan and John Hancock both brought to market competitively priced, core-type strategies that weren’t particularly innovative, and that competed in segments densely populated by some serious heavyweights from firms like iShares and Vanguard.

But these newcomers found immediate following in the form of in-house client assets. J.P. Morgan, in its BetaBuilder lineup of ETFs, and John Hancock, in the John Hancock Multifactor Emerging Markets ETF (JHEM), became their own biggest buyers. These firms put their own clients’ money into their proprietary funds, with asset flows so swift and impressive that these ETFs landed among the year’s most successful new launches.

Bespoke Products

In a similar vein, the Barclays ETNs in this list—the Barclays ETN+ FI Enhanced Global High Yield ETN Series B (FIYY) and the Barclays ETN+ FI Enhanced Europe 50 ETN Series C (FFEU)—didn’t come to market in hopes of finding investor demand, they did so as bespoke products used by Fisher Investments for its in-house strategies.

Again, they are the type of new launch that has its asset pool waiting, and an approach to bringing new products to the market we’ve seen before.

Barclays actually started off the year announcing 50 closures in a massive revamp of its ETN lineup, later bringing to market strategies that found themselves among the year’s biggest debuts.

Cost Advantages

Finally, two of these top-10 funds brought on some innovation at competitive prices.

The first is the SPDR Gold MiniShares Trust (GLDM). GLDM effectively is a mini version of the massively popular SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), with each share representing 1/100 of an ounce of gold, or 1/10th as much gold per share as GLD.

That smaller, more accessible price handle also comes with one of the lowest expense ratios in the segment—0.18%, or $18 per $10,000 invested. That compares with 0.40% for GLD, and it’s also cheaper than the 0.25% fee for the iShares Gold Trust (IAU), which offers similar access to gold as GLDM.

GLDM’s launch was so price-aggressive, it triggered a fee war in the gold ETF space this year.

The second, the Principal Investment Grade Corporate Active ETF (IG), brought cost-competitive active management to the investment-grade corporate bond space—a segment that’s led by passive ETFs such as the $30 billion iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD).

IG, Principal’s 13th ETF, and second-cheapest, costs 0.26% in expense ratio versus LQD’s 0.15%. For an actively managed fixed-income fund, it’s hardly cost-prohibitive. But IG's success story goes beyond cost. The fund's quick asset gain is also linked to in-house assets, according to FactSet data, as 90% of IG's shares outstanding are owned by Principal.

Stacking Up New Launches By Assets

As we approach the end of 2018, here’s how these magic beans stack up in total assets. Ranging from $230 million to $3.4 billion, this is certainly not too shabby a debut for these newcomers standing out among the 230-plus new ETFs launched this year.


Biggest New ETF Launches In 2018 By Assets

TickerFundLaunch DateYTD Flows ($M)AUM ($M)
XLCCommunication Services Select Sector SPDR Fund06/18/20183,133.203,461.11
BBJPJPMorgan BetaBuilders Japan ETF06/15/20183,049.873,251.88
BBCAJPMorgan BetaBuilders Canada ETF08/07/20182,135.642,342.55
BBEUJPMorgan BetaBuilders Europe ETF06/15/20181,754.461,899.64
FIYYBarclays ETN+ FI Enhanced Global High Yield Exchange Traded Notes Series B03/15/20181,416.761,445.23
BBAXJPMorgan BetaBuilders Developed Asia ex-Japan ETF08/07/2018750.14801.28
FFEUBarclays ETN+ FI Enhanced Europe 50 Exchange Traded Notes Series C03/15/2018635.29766.65
GLDMSPDR Gold MiniShares Trust06/25/2018330.79302.22
JHEMJohn Hancock Multifactor Emerging Markets ETF09/27/2018282.71281.44
IGPrincipal Investment Grade Corporate Active ETF04/18/2018223.72229.07

Tables data:, FactSet


Contact Cinthia Murphy at [email protected]

Cinthia Murphy is head of digital experience, advocating for the user in all that does. She previously served as managing editor and writer for, specializing in ETF content and multimedia. Cinthia’s experience includes time at Dow Jones and former BridgeNews, covering commodity futures markets in Chicago and Brazil equities in Sao Paulo. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.