Bond Is Back ... In the ETF Biz
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Friday, December 08, 2017

Bond Is Back ... In the ETF Biz

Bruce Bond and John Southard are back in the ETF business, and they're expanding their new team.

This week the Wheaton, Illinois-based duo confirmed that they've taken over what is now Innovator Capital Management. Watch for them to hire and to launch more ETFs down the line.

Bond and Southard are rolling out their rebranded ETF shop (formerly called Innovator Management) after signing the deal in May. They bought Innovator from an accounting firm, Clifton Larson Allen (CLA), which was a part owner. CLA's existing Innovator team did not come over with the deal, but Bond and Southard have already built up a team of about 10 people and counting, and some of the old Innovator team stayed on temporarily to help with the transition.

Tony Hallada, managing principal of CLA Wealth Advisors, did not immediately return a call for comment on the sale.

"It gave us a platform to accelerate our entrance into the industry and to introduce some products more quickly," Bond tells MFWire.

Pricing and terms of the deal were not disclosed, and neither side worked with an investment bank, Bond says. Innovator now has about $300 million in AUM and already offers a mutual fund and an ETF.

"We're going to be continuing to grow the team as we introduce new products into the market and as the asset levels dictate," Bond says. "We'll definitely add some operations-type people as well as people on the sales force."

"We're always open to working with or even acquiring other franchises or complexes to the degree that it really makes sense," Bond adds. "We're going to try to grow it organically here initially ... For the foreseeable future we're going to just stick to our knitting here."

U.S. Bank is handling fund accounting and custody for Innovator's funds, Foreside is the funds' distributor, and Investor's Business Daily (IBD) is an index provider. Their current ETF is listed on the NYSE. In the future, Bond says, they'll have ETFs listed on Bats, too, and they'll also use indexes from S&P and CBOE. Milliman's financial risk management group will also work with Innovator as a subadvisor.

Innovator's second ETF, also powered by IBD, will debut next week on the NYSE, and more will come soon.

Bond points to two reasons in particular "to be excited about" taking over Innovator. First, Innovator has an exclusive partnership with IBD, which Bond sees as helping Innovator get the word out to investors. Second, Innovator's teaming up with Milliman on "defined outcome" ETFs, a strategy that traditionally has been available much less broadly in more expensive product structures, Bond says.

Bond and Southard worked together nearly 15 years ago when they co-founded Powershares in 2003, which Invesco (then Amvescap) bought in 2006 and which is now the fourth biggest ETF shop in the business. Prior to the creation of PowerShares, Bond and Hallada worked together at Nuveen.

As for Innovator's history, the firm was created in 2014. Yet recently CLA decided it was "better to use other managers for their investing," so they decided to sell Innovator. So Hallada went to Bond.

"He came to me for advice on 'Who do you think would have an interest?' or 'Who should I talk to?'" Bond says. "The timing was just perfect. It really worked out well for both of us."

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