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Inside ETFs to Feature Mohamed El-Erian, Serena Williams

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This year’s Inside ETFs conference brings together a variety of must-see VIPs and got-to-attend sessions. The keynote speakers include tennis great Serena Williams, music legend Quincy Jones, economists Mohamed El-Erian and Alan Krueger, and U.S. Army Gen. Stan McChrystal.

“This is the 11th year of the conference, and we did make a big investment in upgrading the keynote speaking [lineup], which is the best we’ve ever had,” said Inside ETFs CEO Matt Hougan, who adds that up to 2,500 guests are expected.

The event will take place at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, from Jan. 21 to 24. Online registration is open through Friday at 5 p.m. ET; onsite registration begins at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday.

On Sunday, for instance, McChyrstal will focus on leadership. “This is the top subject after investing that advisors want to learn about. It’s a great kick-off to the four-day event,” according to Hougan.

Other themes of sessions that day include Bitcoin, smart beta and the future of ETFs. Popular speaker Michael Kitces, publisher of the Nerd’s Eye View blog, will discuss how to differentiate your advisory practice.

After the keynote speech by Gen. McChyrstal, former commander of U.S. & international forces in Afghanistan, guests can enjoy an outdoor cocktail party. They also can watch the NFC Conference Championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings.

“We know people are coming to the event from cold, dark and rainy places, so we want to get folks out a bit into the warmer weather and sunshine,” Hougan said. “The facility has had a $100 million renovation and looks spectacular, especially the new indoor/outdoor bar.”

ETFs Big & Small

On Monday, Vanguard President & CEO Tim Buckley will address the crowd. Buckley took the reins recently from Bill McNabb, becoming just the fourth executive to lead the fund giant.

His talk will be followed by a look at where to invest for the next three years and then presentations on and voting for the best new ETF of 2017. Next, there will be a broad discussion on the future of ETFs and then Tom Farley, president of NYSE Group, will answer questions fielded by Hougan. At lunch time, “The Daily Show” will entertain and inform guests about the current political economy.

The afternoon session will focus on “The Challenge of Winning” in the ETF marketplace, featuring presentations by Hougan and David Nadig, CEO of

“In my annual keynote, I will discuss three new ETFs that outside the mainstream,” Hougan explained. “While [the field] is dominated by plain-vanilla exposure …, there are lots of smaller issuers … with more than $1 billion in assets, too.”

Monday’s closing keynote speech will be delivered by Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic advisor for Allianz. He will discuss whether we are in a financial bubble. Afterwards, a networking event will be held on the nearby Intracoastal Waterway.

“El-Erian will be sharing his thoughts on what to do in an era of high prices,” said Hougan, “as other presenters in the track sessions will do. This includes topics like protecting investors from downside [movement] and tail risk by using ETFs and ETF options.”

“When you think of advisors,” he explained, “their biggest challenge is that everything is expensive,” he explained. “We are in roughly year 10 of bull market, so where do you go to find returns? We are being told to duck and cover, look at emerging markets or value [plays], stay the course. There are a variety of answers, of course, and meanwhile things continue to go up.”

On Tuesday, DoubleLine Capital’s Jeffrey Sherman will deliver the opening keynote, followed by a session on factor-based ETFs. Hougan and John Swolfs of Inside ETFs will lead a session on 10 “hidden gem” products; there also will be a session focusing on bitcoin and cryptocurrency investing. 

The afternoon general session features a variety of VIPs — including musician, producer and entrepreneur Quincy Jones, as well as Princeton economist Alan Krueger. The keynote presentation will be delivered by tennis start Serena Williams, who has won 37 Grand Slam singles titles.

“Serena is considered the greatest tennis player of all time, and we always like to have a sports figure speak,” Hougan explained. “Quincy Jones is speaking before her and he’s associated with a new [streaming entertainment] ETF …The [digital] transformation of the music industry parallels what’s going on in other fields, within the economy and also within the advisory space.”

Wednesday morning, attendees will hear from Research Affiliates’ Rob Arnott, speaking on smart beta. Other presenters will address topics such as ESG investing, hedge funds, active strategies and portfolios for volatile markets, eliminating tail risk and artificial intelligence.

— Check out NYSE Continued as Top US Exchange for ETFs in 2017 on ThinkAdvisor.


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