Exchange-Traded Funds at Vanguard (A)
Posted: 1 Mar 2012
Date Written: September 30, 2011
Vanguard Group management, led by CEO John Brennan, was considering whether to launch exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in early 2000. ETFs, first created in the early 1990s, combined aspects of traditional mutual funds and closed-end funds. The US ETF industry had reached $36 billion in assets under management, growing rapidly over the past few years. Because ETFs were exclusively index-tracking products, Vanguard, the largest index mutual fund company, had some potential expertise in managing ETFs. However, entering this market would present also unique challenges for Vanguard. Vanguard had a philosophy espousing low-turnover investing, while ETFs enabled short-term trading. The company would also need to develop a distribution network for ETFs. Finally, since Vanguard's mutual fund investors owned the company, management considered whether existing shareholders would benefit from an ETF product launch.
Learning Objective: To educate students about how exchange-traded funds (ETFs) work, their differences from other types of funds, and the strategic issues for ETFs going forward.
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