Patrick Eng addresses the exponential growth of ETFs.

The advent of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) took place a little more than 25 years ago with the creation of the SPDR S&P 500 Trust (SPY) in January 1993.  Yet, ETFs remained an obscure and little noticed trading vehicle for many years before it was embraced as a widely accepted investment choice by retail investors. An emphasis on passive investing and low-cost investment products in the past 10 years has driven the exponential growth of ETFs.

In the early 2000s, there was less than $100 billion in assets under management in ETF form. Today, that figure approaches $5 trillion. By comparison, the mutual fund industry now has about $19 trillion in assets, according to Investment Company Institute.

ETFs trade like stocks and are primarily passive investments that endeavor to replicate the performance of an index. In the case of the SPY, it is the S&P 500 index with 500 stocks bundled into a trust that trades on the exchange as if it was just one stock. ETFs are generally more tax-efficient than stocks, because they tend not to distribute a lot of capital gains and passive tracking of an index usually doesn’t require frequent trading.

There is plenty of room for the ETF market to continue to grow. In fact, ETFs have eclipsed the hedge fund market, which grew to $3.22 trillion globally in 2018, according to a report by Hedge Fund Research. Projections by BlackRock estimate ETF assets will grow to $12 trillion in the next five years.

As a potential investor in ETFs, knowing what resources you currently have and what resources you still need to reach a specific financial planning goal is critical. Picking the investment product that will help you reach that goal is the last step in the process – a step with which your advisor can assist.

Along with mutual funds and hedge funds, ETFs are investment vehicles that may help you get where you want to go.