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An ETF Nerd’s Exchange Conference Preview

The long-awaited spot bitcoin ETFs are trading after a decade of waiting. So now the ETF and advisor community has some available brain capacity to look forward. In a month, many will be in Miami, Florida to kick off the Exchange conference. I can’t wait.  

From February 11-14, I expect close to 2,000 people will be part of Exchange. This advisor-focused event will cover much more than ETFs. We have veteran diplomat Richard Haase, global market strategist Dr. David Kelly, political expert Amy Walter, behavioral finance expert Neil Bage, Carson Coaching, and a range of advisors sharing best practices on the agenda. However, I’m an ETF nerd at heart. And that’s where my eyes are focused on the agenda.   

ETF Study Hall Kicks Off the Event 

On Sunday, before the Super Bowl starts, I’ll be leading a four-hour ETF study hall. Marguerita Cheng will be providing ethics training for the first half. Then with the help of fellow ETF nerds, VettaFi will dive into ETF education.  

If you are attending a conference partially focused on ETFs, you know the basics. However, the range of ETFs available can be daunting. We will be joined by Eric Balchunas of Bloomberg Intelligence, Nate Geraci of the ETF Store, and Elisabeth Kashner of FactSet. They will offer due diligence tips to sort through the more than 3,000 ETFs. What metrics should you focus on? What mistakes to avoid? And so much more.

In addition, advisors likely want to understand how to build portfolios using ETFs from people who are doing it themselves. John Davi of Astoria Advisors and Katie Stockton of Fairlead Strategies will be joined on stage by Cinthia Murphy of ETF Think Tank. Davi and Stockton manage ETFs that own other ETFs – the Astoria US Quality Kings (ROE) and the Fairlead Tactical Sector ETF (TACK). Davi uses fundamental analysis, while Stockton’s expertise is in technical analysis. Together they will bring great insights to the advisor community. We are also going to have some fun playing a trivia game with our friends in the ETF community. 

Fixed Income Remains in Focus 

Despite the above, many consider Monday the official start of the Exchange conference. In the afternoon, there will be some great ETF sessions. Vanguard’s Jeff Johnson will be on hand for a session “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Bond ETFs.” The Vanguard Total Bond Index ETF (BND) is the largest fixed income in the U.S. aided by $17 billion of net inflows in 2023. However, the firm also recently expanded its bond ETF lineup to include actively managed core and core plus fixed income products. Given consensus expectations the Fed will be cutting rates in 2024, this is a must-attend session for me. 

Following this session, we will pivot to thematic investing. In 2023, artificial intelligence was the theme of the year. Could the trend persist, or could health care be in focus? Thankfully, we will have Jay Jacobs of BlackRock and Ryan McCormack of Invesco to work through it with us. Their firms offer a suite of thematic and industry ETFs like the iShares Biotechnology ETF (IBB) and the Invesco Biotechnology and Genome ETF (PBE).   

The Bitcoin ETF Showdown 

On Tuesday morning, we will dive into cryptocurrency. Even after a month of trading, we expect spot bitcoin ETFs to be topical. By then we will know more about investor demand than we do today. Yet there are still questions many will have. Matt Hougan of Bitwise Asset Management and Steve Kurz of Galaxy will be talking with Eric Balchunas. It should be a lot of fun and educational, too.  

We will also have sessions on model portfolios featuring experts from State Street Global Advisors and equity investing experts from Morgan Stanley and T. Rowe Price. Plus, between now and then more sessions are likely to be added in response to market developments.   

So, if you are not signed up for Exchange, take the time to do so. If you are attending, look for me in Florida and say hi. 

For more news, information, and analysis, visit VettaFi | ETF Trends.

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