NYSE's $2 Trillion ETF Business Sees Heightened Competition

  • A record 23 exchange-traded funds left NYSE Arca in 2015
  • BlackRock is watching closely following wild Aug. 24 session

NYSE Group Inc. may still be the king of exchange-traded funds among U.S. stock markets, but challengers to the throne are gaining ground.

Last year, a record 23 ETFs left the company’s NYSE Arca exchange, shifting their listing to rival markets, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, this month said it was diversifying by moving 11 iShares ETFs away from NYSE Arca, the first time it’s yanked funds from the exchange.

While the vast majority of ETFs still list at NYSE Arca -- its funds amount to about 94 percent of the total market value of all U.S. ETFs -- other exchanges are making inroads as investors increasingly use the products. Bats Global Markets Inc. handles about a quarter of U.S. ETF trading, more than any other exchange operator, and Bats has listed 10 funds this year, versus one at NYSE Arca and one at Nasdaq Inc.

“The growth in ETFs in terms of assets and trading volume has obviously caught the attention of exchanges looking to build their listing businesses,” said Eric Balchunas, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.

The market value of all U.S. ETFs totaled $2.1 trillion at the end of 2015, compared with $777.6 billion at the end of 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Among the ETFs BlackRock will relocate are the $13.9 billion iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF and the $8.1 billion iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF. “A big issuer and a big ticker moving over, that’s really helpful for these exchanges to build their credibility and make other issuers feel comfortable,” Balchunas added. “Having a few of those studs can go a long way.”

The wild trading session in the U.S. stock market on Aug. 24 has drawn attention to ETFs, and may factor into listing decisions. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said trading rules on NYSE Arca exacerbated volatility that day. In its 88-page analysis of Aug. 24, the SEC pointed out that NYSE Arca’s allowable price bands limited how quickly ETF prices could recover after trading halts. The bands, which NYSE Arca later proposed to widen, may have caused additional delays by limiting faster price adjustments, the regulator said. BlackRock expressed its support for NYSE Arca’s rule change in a letter to the SEC.

“Aug. 24 was a powerful case study in the important role exchanges play in the trading experience of investors,” Samara Cohen, BlackRock’s U.S. head of iShares Capital Markets, said in a phone interview. “How the exchanges integrate their learnings from Aug. 24 and use it to improve market structure will be a key driver of our listing strategy going forward.”

NYSE Group, which also owns the New York Stock Exchange, has the biggest fund: the $170 billion SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust, which it won through the 2008 purchase of the American Stock Exchange. It lists more than $2 trillion worth of funds, according to NYSE.

The products that left NYSE Arca last year represent less than 0.1 percent of the market value of U.S. ETFs, said Sara Cohen, a spokeswoman for NYSE Group, a unit of Intercontinental Exchange Inc. The exchange also added 221 new ETP listings in 2015, she said. Of the 23 transfers away from NYSE Arca in 2015, 18 occurred because the issuer changed their product’s benchmark to a Nasdaq index.

Bats has been edging into ETF listings by paying issuers to use its platform. The company launched the Bats ETF Marketplace last year, charging no listing fees to issuers and offering to pay them up to $400,000 per year for their listings, based on average daily volume. The exchange also poached Laura Morrison, an executive from NYSE’s ETF division, in April.

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