Exchange traded funds had a breakout year in 2017, pulling in more than $475 billion in net new money from investors. That crushed the previous record of $288 billion, and pushed U.S. ETF assets above the $3.4 trillion mark.
That sets the scene for our annual Inside ETFs conference, the largest ETF conference in the world, which takes place January 21-24 in Hollywood, Florida, and is designed exclusively for financial advisors. With an expected 2,200 in attendance, the conference is also on pace to set a new record.
With just three weeks until the kick-off of Inside ETFs 2018 (register today – prices go up January 6), here are 10 things I’m the most excited to see, hear and experience at the event.
- Incredible Keynote Speakers
Inside ETFs always brings together great keynote speakers, but we’ve taken things to a different level in 2018. We have Mohamed El-Erian, Serena Williams, General Stanley McCrystal, Quincy Jones, The Daily Show correspondents, Jeffrey Sherman, and Tim Buckley in his first-ever speech as Vanguard’s CEO. And the list goes on from there: Rob Arnott, Michael Kitces, Tom Farley, Hardeep Walia, Richard Bernstein, Dennis Gartman, Larry Swedroe ... it’s beyond belief.
- The Best New ETF of 2017
One of my favorite sessions at the conference each year is our Best New ETF session. We gather eight of the world’s best ETF analysts and duke it out to decide what was the best new ETF launched in 2017. Each expert gets to pick one ETF to argue for and the audience gets to choose the winner. While the session is a lot of fun, it’s also relevant. There were 275 new ETFs launched in 2017, including some real gems. Finding the best new funds before everyone else can help an advisor stay one step ahead of the game.
- The Hidden Gem ETFs Session
In a similar vein, our Hidden Gems panel on Tuesday should be amazing. To create this session, the Inside ETFs editorial staff selected 12 ETFs with less than $250 million in assets under management that we think should get more attention. We give each fund company exactly three minutes to make their pitch to advisors. Our goal? Once again, to help advisors find funds that their clients need as they navigate 2018.
- ETF University
Each year, on the opening Sunday of the conference, we host our ETF University. It’s roughly four hours of content, providing a deep-dive introduction to ETFs. If you want to learn the basics—the pros, cons, risks and opportunities that ETFs offer—there’s no better place. And the speaking faculty this year is ridiculous.
- The Best of Bitcoin
Love it or hate it, bitcoin and cryptoassets stormed the scene in 2017 and clients are asking questions. The conference features two incredible bitcoin sessions that aim to separate hype from reality. First, on Sunday, we bring one of the world’s leading crytpoasset lawyers to explain when a bitcoin ETF will launch. Then, on Tuesday, we pull together a brilliant panel—Bain Capital’s Matt Harris, Van Eck’s Jan Van Eck, and Bitwise Asset Management’s Hunter Horsley—to explore whether you should buy cryptoassets in the first place. You’ll leave better prepared to answer your clients’ questions, guaranteed.
- Debating Whether 2018 Is “The Year of Active ETFs”
There’s a rising belief that 2018 is the year for active ETFs, particularly with non-transparent ETFs inching closer to approval. The 2018 Inside ETFs agenda puts active front and center. Among the multiple active panels, I especially can’t wait for Tuesday afternoon when I sit down with Chris Davis—the CEO of Davis Funds, and one of the smartest active managers I know—to grill him on whether active can really regain its mojo … and to find out how to separate good active managers from bad.
- Exploring the Future of Financial Advice
Advisors tell us they’re worried about competing in the new age of digital advisors. That’s why I’m so excited for two key sessions at our Sunday ETF University: First, uber-advisor and technology expert Michael Kitces examines “5 Industry Trends That Are Reshaping Financial Advice” and secondly, in a demo-only format, we profile five of the “Coolest Ideas in Advisor Technology … New Tools That Will Change Your Business Forever.” These are can’t miss sessions.
- Networking with Other Attendees
One thing we realized a few years ago is that, with 2,200+ people attending Inside ETFs, a lot of the best ideas and insights are held by our attendees, not just our speakers. To help connect people to these ideas, we’ve made a major investment in an attendee networking tool called Brella, which helps you discover and set up meetings with other people at the conference. I can’t wait to use it.
- Smooth Technology
We’ve made a massive investment in technology for this year’s conference, with improved apps, signage and social functionality. But the one I’m most excited about is for the CE credits. Thanks to RFID technology, attendees will no longer have to fill out cumbersome paper forms to qualify for CE credits. We’ll do it all seamlessly on the back end.
- Warm Weather (Knock on Wood)
You never know what the weather is going to be like in Florida in January, but as I write this, the projected high today in Hollywood, Florida is 73 degrees, compared to 21 degrees in New York. That’s an arbitrage that’s easy to get on the right side of.
With close to 200 speakers and 78 different sessions, there’s so much more I could highlight. And with ETFs on the rise, gathering $475 billion in net new assets in 2017, you can’t afford to miss the world’s largest ETF conference. Check out the full agenda and register today.
Matt Hougan is the CEO of Inside ETFs. Both Inside ETFs and Wealthmanagement.com are owned by Informa PLC.