ETFs to Get Their Own Trade Group

The group will advance the interests of the ETF industry.

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Public relations specialist Irving Straus says that by the middle of next month, he will unveil the ETF Council, a trade group for exchange-traded funds. The council will be charged with making ETFs more visible and lobbying for them in the federal government.

[See ETFs Cross $1 Trillion Mark.]

For years, Straus has represented financial services companies through his public relations firm, Straus Corporate Communications. He is also the founder of the Mutual Fund Education Alliance, a group that works to promote mutual funds. With his new venture, Straus hopes to give the budding ETF industry its first unified and exclusive front. "The idea here is to have a voice of the ETF industry," he says.

According to Straus, having this voice is more important now than it has ever been in the past. "Up until now, [ETFs] have been bringing in assets based primarily on new product introduction, and what I'm telling those that listen in the industry—and they are listening—is that this is going to dry up in due course or at least become much less of a factor, and you're going to have to get out there and market the value of ETFs versus other investment options," he says.

Currently, ETFs' only real representation comes from the Investment Company Institute, the trade group for mutual funds. But as ETFs gain more market share, many industry insiders see the need for a separate group. Last year, assets under management in the domestic ETF industry grew from $497.1 billion to $705.5 billion, according to BlackRock. The U.S. mutual fund industry, by comparison, has around $11 trillion under management, according to the ICI.

The creation of the ETF Council has been a complicated balancing act, primarily because mutual funds and ETFs have increasingly been painted as competitors. The potentially adversarial nature of their relationship has two main implications: First, companies like Vanguard that offer both mutual funds and ETFs are caught in a tug of war of sorts and will have to figure out how to advance one arm of their business without harming the other. Second, the council will have the burden of promoting ETFs without rubbing the more powerful mutual fund industry the wrong way.

For his part, Straus has been careful to take a diplomatic approach. "This is not to pick a fight with anybody. The ICI does a terrific job, and there's no two ways about it," he says. "But the ETF industry … should have its own voice."