Institutional ETF
Trading Survey 2017

Commissioned by Jane Street,’s institutional trading survey provides insight into how over 200 global institutional investors are trading ETFs, the counterparties they work with, and how they evaluate liquidity.

ETF Survey Report

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Among the key global findings of the 2017 survey:

How Institutions Are Trading ETFs:


30% of global institutions reported executing more than 50 ETF trades per month, with 42% of European institutions trading at this frequency. This finding is supported by the finding that 32% of European institutions use ETFs for tactical purposes, vs 26% on a global basis.


21% of respondents executed block trades in excess of $100 million in 2016. 32% executed trades between $25 million and $100 million in the last year.

Order Types

With 41% of respondents trading on risk most frequently, risk pricing leads execution styles. Trading on risk is most popular in among US institutions, particularly for ETFs tracking more illiquid or volatile securities.

Who Institutions Are Trading With:


Globally, 34% of institutions reported they most commonly execute orders through agency brokers. 29% work with independent market makers for their ETF trades and 27% are using investment banks. In Europe, market makers are the most popular counterparty, with 36% of institutions reporting trades with them; in Asia, investment banks dominate, with more than 53% of institutions most commonly trading through them.

Market Makers

As investors seek to bolster allocations to more complex ETFs tracking more illiquid underlyings, the capabilities of market makers are coming into greater focus. Key advantages include their willingness to commit firm capital, their investment in trading technology and their concentrated focus on ETFs.

How Institutions Evaluate Liquidity:

Liquidity Metrics

Half of the institutions surveyed identified average daily volume (ADV) and the liquidity of the underlying securities as their preferred gauges of liquidity. One-quarter are looking at bid-ask spreads on-screen, and 10% use the size of the ETF in terms of AUM as a key criteria.

Asset Classes

Emerging markets and high-yield ETFs are areas where concerns around liquidity are highest with 70% of respondents rating their level of concern as 4 or 5 on a scale of 1–5, where 1 is “not important” and 5 is “very important.” Institutions surveyed indicated a preference for working with market makers in these asset classes.