ETF Movers & Shakers: Michael Crinieri

An industry veteran steers a financial services giant through the launch of its first ETFs.

Reviewed by: Cinthia Murphy
Edited by: Cinthia Murphy

[This is part of an 11-part series we will be publishing each weekday until it is complete. The ETF Movers & Shakers feature appears in the March edition of ETF Report: Previously published: Reggie Browne; Nadig & Balchunas]

Goldman Sachs Asset Management entered the ETF market in the role of issuer in a big way in 2015. The firm launched its first lineup of smart-beta strategies last year, and it did that in a splashy way by making them extremely low cost—the Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta U.S. Large Cap Equity ETF (GSLC) is just 9 basis points, the same as the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY | A-98).

Movers and Shakers

Michael Crinieri

Behind the aggressive push by the Wall Street giant was Michael Crinieri. As global head of ETF strategy for GSAM, Crinieri brings with him 20-plus years of ETF experience that extend back to the early days of the ETF wrapper itself, and the seeds of what eventually became iShares.

The West Virginia University grad, who studied finance, first realized his heart was in the stock market during high school. As he told ETF Report, "I remember taking a trip with a good friend, and visiting the NYSE in high school. I decided at that point I wanted to go to Wall Street. That's what did it for me: that trip to the NYSE."

His first job saw him working in the global custody area for Chase Manhattan Bank. After a few years, he moved to Morgan Stanley, where his expertise in the operational aspects of international markets landed him a position working with the team that was putting together "some of the first- generation ETFs" for the firm in the mid-1990s.

These ETFs, called WEBS (World Equity Benchmark Shares) were a series of 17 individual country funds based on MSCI indexes. "They're now called iShares," Crinieri mused. "That's how iShares got started."

That experience in product development was great, but Crinieri was really interested in trading, so he moved to the ETF trading desk at Morgan Stanley. What followed was a job offer from Goldman Sachs. The firm was looking to start an ETF trading business, and in 2000, asked Crinieri to head that effort.

Fast-forward to today: Crinieri is at the helm of GSAM's ETF plans, and its noteworthy entry into the ETF market—and smart-beta ETF segment, in particular—last year is just the beginning.

"We have big ambitions in the ETF space," he said. "We have a big pipeline of products we're working on right now that tap into our core competencies. Smart beta is just one of them. We're also focused on liquid alternatives, fixed income and other areas of the market where we have expertise."

For many, Goldman Sachs' entry into the ETF space may seem fashionably late, but if Crinieri's vision for this industry is correct, it's still "early days" in the evolution of the ETF market.

There's plenty of room to grow, he says, plenty of areas to tap into, and plenty of investors to be reached by the ETF wrapper. In fact, GSAM's driving force behind its effort to launch ETFs has been client demand. As he put it, "Increasingly, our clients have asked for ETFs—they like the features of ETFs." This is just the beginning.

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.