Morningstar’s ETF Conference Is Sold Out and Looking for a New Home

‘We’re looking for a bigger venue for 2014, but it will definitely be in Chicago,’ says Ben Johnson, a Morningstar conference emcee

(Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)

One of the exchange-traded fund industry’s biggest events, the Morningstar ETF conference, is sold out this year and looking for a new home next year due to the event’s enormous popularity.

To be held in Chicago on Oct. 2 through 4 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, the Morningstar ETF Invest Conference has reached its capacity of 500, according to Ben Johnson, Morningstar’s director of passive funds research, who has been involved in putting the agenda together and will serve as a moderator and master of ceremonies for the event.

“It’s a full house this year. The event is all sold out. We’re looking for a bigger venue for 2014, but it will definitely be in Chicago,” Johnson said in an interview on Tuesday. He added that the Windy City’s weather this year “is predicted to be fantastic.”

Asked why the conference is at capacity, Johnson pointed to interest in the event’s agenda, which is scheduled to bring together experts from across the ETF industry to discuss tactics, strategies and portfolio management.

“We have a lot of good content with good speakers and great thinkers,” Johnson said. “As with all Morningstar conferences, it’s not a pay-to-play event driven by sponsors. This is content that’s selected by Morningstar’s analyst, including hand-picked speakers and break-out session topics.”

Morningstar team members will moderate all sessions. Johnson said he especially looks forward to moderating one of the topics that he picked: “The New World Order in Indexing,” scheduled to be held as a morning breakout session on Oct. 3. He noted that Vanguard “fired the shot heard round the world” when it recently transitioned six international stock index funds to FTSE benchmarks and 16 U.S. stock and balanced index funds to the University of Chicago's Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) benchmarks.

Johnson’s indexing session will address how index providers have moved from methodological convergence in the plain-vanilla beta space to “the next great frontiers in smart beta.” Panelists include David Barclay of CRSP, Craig Lazzara of S&P Dow Jones Indices and Raman Subramanian of MSCI.

In addition, Johnson said, Morningstar has a strong line-up of speakers for the general sessions. They include PIMCO’s Douglas Hodge, who will take what Johnson called a “tongue-in-cheek” look at “The Great American Saver,” and University of Chicago Booth Business School Prof. Austan Goolsbee, formerly of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, who will talk about how Washington has clouded the outlook for the U.S. economy.

In all, nearly 50 speakers will appear during the Morningstar ETF Invest Conference’s workshops and sessions. Sessions will cover topics ranging from tactical investment strategies to bond market volatility to profiting from market inefficiencies to using alternatives and quantitative strategies and more.

“What we’re doing this year is putting together an agenda which puts people as investors first and ETFs second,” Johnson said. “We want an agenda that helps investors build a better understanding of what’s going on in a broader macro context before they dive into the details of putting together ETFs for tactical use in their portfolios. It’s about strategy first.”

Read Morningstar Guru Johnson: The Cons and Pros of Active ETFs at ThinkAdvisor.      

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