ProShares and iShares Win Big
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Friday, March 20, 2015

ProShares and iShares Win Big

Last night ProShares [profile] and BlackRock (and BlackRock's iShares [profile] unit) won big at an awards shindig in New York City. gathered more than 150 ETF industry insiders for its second annual awards dinner, at the Lighthouse at Manhattan's Chelsea Piers to celebrate the best the industry had to offer in 2014. By the numbers, the trade publication's team handed out 26 awards in 25 categories (there was one tie), attendees ate three courses (roasted beet and arugula salad, grilled tournedo of beef, and chocolate triple raspberry dome), and it all went down on Pier 61, with views of the Hudson and New Jersey. The whole show, complete with dinner, took about an hour and a half (three hours, including the pre-dinner, open-bar cocktail reception).

The ProShares team took home the most hardware, four awards in total. Its ProShares CDS North American HY Credit (TYTE) and CDS Short North American HY Credit (WYDE) ETFs won both the "most innovative new ETF" and "best new fixed-income ETF" awards. ( president Matt Hougan and conference content director John Swolfs revealed that the two ETFs are called "tighty" and "whitey" around the trade publication's offices.) The ProShares Morningstar Alternatives Solution ETF (ALTS) won "best new alternative ETF", and ProShares as a whole won "most innovative ETF issuer of the year."

BlackRock and iShares won three awards. The iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF (DGRO) won "best new U.S. equity ETF." And BlackRock won "best ETF issuer website" and "best ETF issuer capital markets desk."

Morgan Stanley won two awards: "best ETF research broker-dealer team" (tied with Wells Fargo) and "best wirehouse ETF offering."

And Lee Kranefuss, executive chairman of Source and founder of iShares, received the "lifetime achievement award" from founder, CEO, and publisher Jim Wiandt. Kranefuss was also the only winner to be allowed to give an acceptance speech, albeit a short one. (Other attendees were limited, in Hougan's words, to acceptance speeches of "0 words", though some stretched that to two words, "thank you," and Hougan mused that by the end of the night the speeches might be haikus.)

Kranefuss shared a taste of the story of creation of iShares within Barclays Global Investors 15 years ago, when the internet bubble was bursting. He clarified that, although he's a big proponent of ETFs and an industry insider, he personally "had nothing to do with creating them." He praised the people who worked with at BGI and said that it's "a great loss to investing that BGI's gone."

Kranefuss compared ETFs to the democratizing forces of the internet, mass literacy, and even iTunes.

"ETFs are very popular because they really empower people to take control and they break down a lot of barriers," Kranefuss told celebrants. "It breaks the compromises of the traditional mutual fund."

Other winners included:

-the WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund [profile] (HEDJ) won "ETF of the year";

-Van Eck's [profile] Market Vectors ChinaAMC China Bond ETF (CBON) won "best new ETF";

-the Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 500 China A-Shares Small Cap ETF [profile] (ASHS) won "best new international/global equity ETF";

-the AdvisorShares Gartman Gold/Euro [profile] (GEUR) and Gartman Gold/Yen (GYEN) ETFs won "best new commodity ETF";

-the Global X | JP Morgan Efficiente Index ETF [profile] (EFFE) won "best new asset allocation ETF";

-First Trust [profile], which sponsored a gift, car chargers for USB cords, that was at each attendee's dinner seat, won "ETF issuer of the year";

-Reality Shares won "new ETF issuer of the year";

-MSCI won "index provider of the year";

-the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index won "index of the year";

-Jane Street won "ETF liquidity provider of the year";

-TD Ameritrade won "best online broker for ETF-focused investors";

-Charles Schwab won "best ETF offering for RIAs";

-Edhec Scientific Beta won "best index provider website";

-RiverFront Investment won "ETF strategist of the year"; and

-the PureFunds ISE CyberSecurity ETF [profile] (HACK) won "ETF ticker of year," which Swolfs described as his "personal favorite category."

"I think coming up with those ticker symbols is the best job in the ETF industry," Hougan quipped.

Jeffrey Cruttenden, co-founder and chief operating officer of robo-advisor Acorns, gave a keynote speech after dinner, before the awards. Acorns charges individual investors $1 per month to use its app, and puts them into one of five risk-based portfolios built out of six ETFs. The startup's tagline is "invest the change", and users of the app can round up their purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the rounded up bit.

"Investing for the future is going to be done in small amounts and frequently," Cruttenden said. The app helps "reduce the emotional friction associated with investing, especially with investing for the first time."

About 600,000 people have signed up for Acorns accounts in the past six months, Cruttenden said, and about half of those are investing with the app. He pitched the service to the attending industry insiders as a way of "engaging new audiences", especially young millennials ages 18-22.

"They are some of our best customers. We're starting the relationship early," Cruttenden said. "In five to ten years they're going to make phenomenal customers."

"We look to the industry to help innovate on products," Cruttenden added. "The game isn't always around lower fees and more complicated financial engineering. Often it's around a user experience, a transparent experience, that really engages people."

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