Conference floor at one of Morningstar's annual gatherings in Chicago. (Photo: AP)

As the exchange-traded fund industry continues to grow rapidly, so also do the questions on the best tactics, strategies and portfolio management strategies for using ETFs in client portfolios.

Experts from across the ETF industry will try to provide some answers during the fifth annual Morningstar ETF Conference starting Wednesday, Sept. 17 in Chicago.

The analyst-driven agenda for this year’s conference includes sessions on strategic beta, ETF trading, emerging markets, dividend-focused ETFs, active management and alternative investing. It’s “an agenda that is designed with the investor in mind,” said Ben Johnson, director of manager research for passive strategies. Johnson and his team put together the agenda for this year’s conference.

As Johnson puts it, the conference should be “chock full of education” and “lively debate.”

“I’m hoping [attendees] can walk out with some useful and actionable knowledge that helps put ETFs to better use in their portfolio or on behalf of their clients’ portfolios,” said Johnson in an interview.

A number of themes on this year’s agenda echo topics from last year, said Johnson. For example, what continues to be a very hot topic is the use of strategic or smart beta. This year, a panel discussion and pre-conference workshop will be dedicated to this topic.

(Rob Arnott, one of the godfathers of “smart beta,” spoke at last year’s Morningstar ETF conference

Attendance for this year’s conference seems pretty much in line with last year, which had about 625 total attendees. Morningstar is expecting just over 600 attendees this year, which includes registered attendees (mostly advisors), sponsors, speakers and press, according to Carling Spelhaug, associate director of corporate communications for Morningstar, Inc. (MORN), as of last Wednesday. Spelhaug said the number will likely tick up leading up to the conference start.

The ETF Conference, which is a sponsor-only conference, will have 33 sponsoring companies and 125 sponsor attendees this year. 

A leading speaker on this year’s agenda is Eugene Fama, who is giving the luncheon and keynote presentation on Thursday. Fama, a finance professor at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, is well known for his research on the financial markets, especially fir the efficient markets hypothesis and the relation between risk and expected return and its implications for portfolio management.

Johnson calls Fama “one of the minds behind all this.”

“I don’t think you’d have a room full of hundreds of people talking about ETFs in 2014 if it hadn’t been for his work over the past few decades,” said Johnson in an interview with ThinkAdvisor, epecially his “work that has been recognized recently with a Nobel prize.”  (See Is the Market Efficient? Cliff Asness Says Yes, and No.)

Fama won the 2013 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his “empirical analysis of asset prices.” (See Shiller vs. Fama: Which Nobel Winner Comes Out on Top?)

See ThinkAdvisor’s Morningstar ETF Conference landing page.

From the archives, read a 2000 profile of Eugene Fama: The Efficient Pioneer: Eugene Fama

Catch up on past ETF articles on ThinkAdvisor: