In-person conferences may still be a long way off, but that didn’t stop ETF industry experts and insiders from convening virtually for the New York Stock Exchange’s NYSE ETF Industry Summit on Tuesday, September 29th. What follows are some key takeaways from the event, which featured discussions on marketing virtually, best practices for brand expansion globally, as well as some interesting updates on semi-transparent active ETFs.
The pandemic is forcing marketing teams to adjust
The pandemic has upended so many aspects of daily life, and ETF marketing is no exception. Traditional ETF wholesalers, who often spend much of their time traveling around visiting clients and potential investors, attending conferences, and going out to dinners, are essentially “grounded” because of the pandemic. In response, marketing budgets are changing, pivoting towards content, but not just any kind of content.
Be sure to see our related guide on Communicating with Retail Investors
As one participant observed, to be effective, ETF marketing content needs to be hyper-targeted and customized based on what an investor needs, and it needs to reach them where they are. This involves tailoring a marketing piece in terms of its message, but also in terms of the vehicle it utilizes (whitepaper, blog article, animated video, etc). Once the content is created, many marketers have found success with using social media to distribute their content, in particular on LinkedIn.
Content must not only be hyper-targeted, but should ideally take a storytelling format, focusing on what problem the ETF is solving for the prospective investor. By taking a problem-solution approach, the content bridges the gap between a prospective investor’s potential needs in an investment product and the features and benefits of the ETF being marketed.
Digital ads and social media both have roles to play in the new reality of ETF marketing. Their job is primarily to drive traffic to pieces of hyper-targeted marketing content, to bring the prospective investor along in the storytelling journey. The financial advisor community, especially the groups active on Twitter, have been very forward-looking and may be open to looking at new products. If an arrangement can be reached with compliance, ETF issuers may wish to engage with these FAs directly on social media, which can help raise awareness and drive additional traffic to marketing content.
The Semi-transparent ETF revolution is just getting started
Also known as active nontransparent ETFs (ANTS), a number of semi-transparent ETFs have launched in 2020, and have already begun garnering substantial investor interest. These actively managed ETFs seek to shield holdings from public view while still enabling close tracking of the underlying holdings. These new structures offer the “best of both worlds” for many asset managers, who have active strategies they would like to deploy in an ETF structure, but do not want to reveal their underlying holdings to public view. It’s still early days for this unique category of ETFs, but investor education on the benefits and unique characteristics of these funds is sure to be crucial to attracting further investor interest.