Crypto Gives Way to Vanguard as ETFs Get 'Back to Basics'

For the nearly 2,000 attendees of the ETF Exchange conference, a lot has changed in a year.

Industry professionals and financial advisors who gathered once again in Miami, Florida, this week noticed a slight vibe shift — away from risky areas of the market. While speculative assets like Cathie Wood’s funds rallied at the start of this year, the impact of 2022’s rout was evident.

Panels about cryptocurrency, conversations around growth-oriented strategies like environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and single-stock ETFs, as well as Wood’s ARK Investment Management were all missing from the conference. In their place were industry heavyweights like Vanguard Group — the world’s second-largest ETF manager. There was even a panel celebrating the industry’s oldest product: the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (ticker SPY).

This year was more “back to the basics” said Athanasios Psarofagis, ETF analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “2022 was all crypto. This year the booths for the thematic products were definitely smaller.”

Psarofagis noted the absence of Wood, who “was on a bunch of panels,” in 2022. ARK, which did not have a booth or sponsor the four-day event after being a top sponsor last year, declined to comment.

Other notable no-shows were speakers and booths from firms like Grayscale Investments and Valkyrie Funds, which had huge presences last year, when many crypto enthusiasts extended their stays in Miami for a week and there were debates over when the US Securities and Exchange Commission would approve a spot Bitcoin ETF in the US. This year one of the only event booths with a crypto focus was in the back corner of the conference hall.

A Grayscale spokesperson said the firm’s ETF team was in Miami, but other members of the team are spending time in Washington DC ahead of oral arguments in March for Grayscale’s lawsuit against the SEC to convert GBTC to an ETF. Valkyrie declined to comment.