Last night, VettaFi received the Best U.S. ETF Research award from ETF Express, a dedicated ETF news outlet, at an awards reception in New York. The recognition is a major achievement for VettaFi, which was first formed in mid-2022, bringing four established ETF- and index-focused companies together: Alerian, ETF Database, ETF Trends, and S-Network Global Indexes.
VettaFi offers a comprehensive suite of products and services, including ETF data, insights, indexing, and distribution, backed by a team of industry veterans and entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, and data scientists. To give you a sense of how we are greater than the sum of our parts, we asked four VettaFi research colleagues to share more about their efforts.
1) Tell us about your area of focus for research.
Todd Rosenbluth (head of research): My focus is providing advisors and end clients with insights to connect their investment preferences with the range of available ETFs worthy of consideration. VettaFi asks advisors over 300 questions about their views on the markets and where they see the greatest opportunities or risks. We recently published research on emerging markets ETFs like the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG) and ultra-short-bond strategies like the JPMorgan Ultra-Short Income ETF (JPST).
Stacey Morris (head of energy research): My research is largely focused on energy infrastructure and MLPs. I want to help investors better understand the fundamentals of this space and make informed investing decisions. To that end, my research covers macro energy themes, industry trends, and key company developments, as well as the nuances of different energy infrastructure investment options.
Roxanna Islam (associate director of research): I focus on research for VettaFi’s thematic indexes, which include areas like electric vehicles, crypto/blockchain, e-commerce, travel and leisure, disruptive tech real estate, and space. ETFs tied to these include the First Trust S-Network Future Vehicles & Technology ETF (CARZ) and the Invesco Alerian Galaxy Crypto Economy ETF (SATO). My research topics can vary broadly between comparing indexes/ETFs, diving deep into individual constituents, industry trends, and analyzing current events.
Dave Nadig (financial futurist): With the provocative (some might say goofy) title of “Financial Futurist,” my research focuses on helping advisors and institutions understand what’s going on in the wide world of finance while helping the asset management community better understand the needs and behavior of financial advisors and institutions. First and foremost, that means going and staying deep in the weeds on the regulatory environment, market structure, developments in academic and quantitative finance, and current research on the actual business of providing and implementing financial advice.
2) What makes the VettaFi research you do distinct?
Rosenbluth: VettaFi has its finger on the pulse of what advisors are focused on. In addition to the poll questions, we are attuned to the investment topics that garner the most attention on our websites. We combine these insights with fund flows to understand investor sentiment and publish related research to either continue or push back against a market narrative.
Morris: VettaFi is fortunate to have several ETF experts that can speak to a wide range of products and trends, but my expertise is specific to energy and related investment options. My research draws on more than a decade of experience in energy, including roles in sell-side equity research and in the industry working for an oil refiner. Whether I’m writing about oil prices, company news, or the tax treatment for an MLP investment, my goal is to write research that simplifies complex issues and is user-friendly for a generalist audience.
Islam: I spent most of my career in research, including fixed income research, ETF research, and sell-side equity research. Because of this background, I tend to focus on both macro and micro research. I use economic data to identify broader trends and shifts in behavior, while performing more detailed micro research than the typical index/ETF analyst, including earnings and other company-specific news.
Nadig: My focus tends to be much further out than what’s happening in the market at the moment, looking at the technologies, trends, and market influences that will drive the investor experience for the next two to 10 years. Hopefully, this gives advisors and asset managers a unique map — or at least a travel blog — for the territory they’re traversing step by step.
3) What should advisors know more about ETFs/index investing?
Rosenbluth: For many busy advisors, cost is the most important factor in their ETF selection process. But cheaper is not always the better, and with a little bit of homework using VettaFi’s research and data, advisors can understand what is inside a fund they know most about as well as a few similar-sounding ETF peers. An informed advisor is a better advisor.
Morris: VettaFi owns and administers the Alerian energy infrastructure index family, which includes the underlying indexes for the Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP) and the JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN (AMJ). Investors sometimes do not realize that our indexes follow a rules-based methodology that is publicly available and may overlook the transparency around how our indexes are constructed and maintained.
Islam: I often hear debates on whether it is better to invest in a single stock versus an ETF. Neither is wrong nor right, and both may have places in a client’s portfolio. Single stocks are useful to capture company-specific returns, but ETFs can help express a conviction toward a broader theme/investment thesis or provide a diversified way to invest when you are uncertain about a single stock’s performance.
Nadig: Overwhelmingly this: ETFs are just a wrapper, and they’re just the best one we happen to have for the vast majority of any investor’s needs. But they’re neither an asset class nor a monolith. They can be neither “good” nor “bad” as a group. They’re just extremely well-designed and efficient wrappers for investment ideas. Those ideas themselves — from the mandate of an active manager to the methodology of an index to a complex strategy for generating income — are where the real thinking needs to be. Hopefully, advisors find the VettaFi approach of putting those ideas in context, day after day, to be helpful in that process.
For more information, please visit VettaFi.
vettafi.com is owned by VettaFi, which also owns the index provider for AMJ, AMLP, CARZ, and SATO. VettaFi is not the sponsor of AMJ, AMLP, CARZ, and SATO, but VettaFi’s affiliate receives an index licensing fee from the ETF sponsor.