1. Exchange-Traded Funds: Introduction
  2. Exchange-Traded Funds: Background
  3. Exchange-Traded Funds: Features
  4. Exchange-Traded Funds: Biggest ETFs and ETF Providers
  5. Exchange-Traded Funds: Active Vs. Passive Investing
  6. Exchange-Traded Funds: Index Funds Vs. ETFs
  7. Exchange-Traded Funds: Equity ETFs
  8. Exchange-Traded Funds: Fixed-Income and Asset-Allocation ETFs
  9. Exchange-Traded Funds: ETF Alternative Investments
  10. Exchange-Traded Funds: ETF Investment Strategies
  11. Exchange-Traded Funds: Best Practices for Trading ETFs
  12. Exchange-Traded Funds: Conclusion

The five biggest ETFs, ranked by assets under management (AUM) as of November 10, 2017, are described below -  

  1. SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY):  AUM $247.6 billion, Average Volume 64.96 million shares. Launched in January 1993 by State Street Global Advisors, SPY was the very first U.S.-listed ETF, and its success was instrumental in jumpstarting a trillion-dollar industry. The Trust seeks to provide investment results that, before expenses, correspond to the price and yield of the S&P 500. The fund’s gross expense ratio (total annual operating expense ratio) was 0.0975% as of November 2017. As of October 31, 2017, SPY had generated annual returns of 9.45% since inception. (Related: What Are SPDR ETFs?)


  1. iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV): AUM $134.8 billion, Average Volume 3.38 million shares. This ETF was launched in May 2000 by iShares, when it was part of Barclays Global Investors. The ETF’s benchmark index is the S&P 500. It has an expense ratio of only 0.04%, making it an extremely cost-effective way to gain exposure to U.S. large cap stocks. As of October 31, 2017, IVV had generated annual returns of 5.30% since inception.


  1. Vanguard Total Stock market ETF (VTI): AUM $87.4 billion, Average Volume 2.02 million shares. The third-largest U.S. ETF seeks to track the performance of the CRSP US Total Market Index, which includes large-cap, mid-cap and small-cap equity diversified across growth and value styles. Launched in May 2001 by industry heavyweight Vanguard, VTI employs a passively-managed, index-sampling strategy and has an expense ratio of 0.04%. As of October 31, 2017, VTI had generated annual returns of 6.97% since inception.


  1. iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA): AUM $81.7 billion, Average Volume 14.80 million shares. This ETF seeks to track the investment results of an index composed of large-cap and mid-cap developed market equities, excluding the U.S. and Canada. It provides exposure to a broad range of companies in Europe, Australia, Asia and the Far East (better known by the acronym EAFE). The ETF has an expense ratio of 0.33% and was trading at a 0.12% discount to NAV as of November 10, 2017. Since its launch in August 2001, the ETF has returned 5.65% annually.


  1. Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO): AUM $79.8 billion, Average Volume 1.68 million shares. Launched in September 2010 by Vanguard, the ETF tracks the S&P 500. It has an expense ratio of 0.04% and has returned 15.12% annually since inception.


While three of the top five ETFs track the S&P 500, the next five are a more diverse lot, as shown below –


  1. Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA): AUM $65.9 billion
  2. Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO): AUM $65.2 billion
  3. Powershares QQQ (QQQ): AUM $58.4 billion
  4. iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF: AUM $51.6 billion
  5. iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETF: AUM $41.6 billion

With the ranks of the biggest ETFs dominated by iShares and Vanguard, it should come as no surprise that the two are the biggest ETF providers in the world. Here’s a ranking of the top five U.S. ETF providers, based on data from ETF.com as of November 9, 2017 –

  • Blackrock(iShares): AUM $1.30 trillion
  • Vanguard: AUM $823 billion
  • State Street Global Advisors: AUM $575 billion
  • Invesco PowerShares: AUM $137.5 billion
  • Charles Schwab: AUM $92.5 billion

Blackrock has become the ETF industry juggernaut through its acquisition of iShares owner Barclays Global Investors in 2009. The top five U.S. ETF providers manage close to $3 trillion, accounting for almost 90% of the $3.3-trillion U.S. ETF industry. The global dominance of the biggest ETF providers can be gauged by the fact that the top three – Blackrock, Vanguard and State Street – also account for over 70% of ETF assets globally.





Exchange-Traded Funds: Active Vs. Passive Investing
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