Ask an expert Q&A: 3 US ETF trends and their impact in Europe

August 09, 2023

Exchange-traded funds are seeing a variety of interesting and innovative developments in the U.S. Learn what these trends could mean for European markets in the years ahead.

It’s commonly understood that fund trends in the U.S. eventually cross over to European markets. We sat down with one of our ETF experts, Tony O’Brien, chief commercial officer for Ireland at U.S. Bank, to discuss what he’s seeing in the U.S. right now and how it might affect asset managers in Europe.

Q: How are ETF trends in the U.S. and Europe connected?

When you look at the ETF space, what happens in the U.S. generally tends to happen in Europe 2-3 years later. In Europe, there’s always a lot of interest in what’s going on in the States as it gives managers sort of a crystal ball into what might be coming down the road.

The world is more connected now that it’s ever been, and macro-economic factors impacting the U.S. echo in Europe and vice versa. In turn, investment products that reflect the U.S. environment will eventually find their way to Europe in one shape or form. At a more granular level, we can see that investors themselves are becoming more global in their outlook. Demand for particular products and strategies on one part of the globe gets reflected more easily elsewhere.

Here at U.S. Bank, we’re a leading service provider both in the U.S. and in Europe, so we’re able to take a broad look at what’s going on across the entire industry. There’s a wealth of information in what we see that can provide insight and value for managers.

Q: What are some of the key trends you’re seeing with ETFs in the United States right now?

Three of the most notable trends we’re seeing are the prevalence of actively managed ETFs, the prevalence of ETF platforms and the rise of ETFs based on single stocks or variations of single-stock exposure.

Q: What does the prevalence of actively managed ETFs in the U.S. mean for Europe?

Almost everything that’s being launched in the U.S. right now fits into that actively managed bucket. The debate had been about whether your active ETF is transparent or non-transparent – does it show its portfolio to the market or not? That debate seems to be over, in that many new ETFs we see are totally transparent in what they’re holding. We’re also seeing a lot of sectoral ETFs based on an index where the index itself is actively managed, albeit according to strict rules. With this type of product, everyone has access to the index, so the fund’s holdings are fully available.

This is something we’re already familiar with in Europe. But I think we’re going to see more managers packaging strategies in ETFs and not being shy about showing the market the exact makeup of those strategies. They won’t feel as protective of their “secret recipe” if you will.

This development, in a sense, short-circuits a long-standing discussion in Europe around whether regulators, including the Central Bank of Ireland, will allow non-transparent ETFs or whether they’ll force ETFs to reveal their portfolios. It seems managers, on their own, are becoming more comfortable with revealing their portfolios like in the States.

One of our clients, for example, recently launched a European ETF, and every evening they publish the portfolio composition file (PCF) to the market making it easy for authorized participants (APs) to hedge. But at the same time, it delivers a really strong product for private wealth managers and institutional investors.

So, to summarize, I think there will likely be more active strategies coming to Europe. They’ll likely be brought in by U.S. managers. And they’ll likely be transparent.

Q: Why are ETF platforms so popular in the U.S., and will we see more of these vehicles in Europe?

A lot of the ETFs we service in the U.S. are on a platform, a framework known as a multiple series trust (MST).

Typically, if you’re an asset manager in the United States, the route to market is to set up some sort of registered fund product, such as an investment company under the Investment Act of 1940 or even a trust under the Securities Act of 1933. This can entail a lot of commitment in terms of registration, capital, corporate setup, regulatory considerations and time. It can be quite an undertaking to build and will involve costs in terms of people, expertise and cash.

There is an alternative. If you’re a smaller asset manager – maybe not as well capitalized – or even a manager of any scale with a unique strategy but limited time to capture that first-mover advantage, there’s an easier way of handling this. You can go to a firm, like U.S. Bank, which has a corporate or trust vehicle for clients already in place. Then they can simply launch additional sub-funds for you with your branding and strategy but housed within their platform. So effectively, you end up renting space for your ETF on someone else’s vehicle.

This is what we’re referring to when we talk about an ETF platform. In the U.S., they’ve been tremendously popular and successful because they allow smaller asset managers who have really interesting and innovative strategies an easy and quick route to market. They simply rent a sub-fund, or a series, from somebody else who’s already laid all the groundwork.

It’s quicker and cheaper, but you don’t have any control over the platform. You don’t have people on the board. You don’t have any say in service provider selection. And unfortunately, it doesn’t make distribution any easier either – there aren’t really any shortcuts to this. All it does is give you the ability to put your brand on a sub-fund and get it out into the market.

We’ve seen a number of these emerge in Europe, and I’m sure this trend will continue. Over time, we’ll likely see more U.S. platform operators look to set up similar ones in Europe and vice versa. At U.S. Bank, we’re well equipped to help with this in both directions, as we have a strong infrastructure, network and reputation in both the U.S. and in Europe.

Q: Do you think we’ll see more ETFs based on single stock exposure emerging in Europe?

Another U.S. trend that stands out, based on the what we’re seeing right now, is the high number of single-stock-leveraged products. It’s interesting to think about how that might translate into Europe.

In the U.S., these products are set up in a pretty straightforward way – the same as any other ETF. But in Europe, these products aren’t amenable to a UCITS structure. There are already a couple of firms leading the charge with these products in Europe, and I think we will see more of them.

As these products rarely meet the UCITS diversification requirements, we’ll probably see them set up as Section 110 special purpose vehicles. Section 110 is part of a finance act in Ireland (Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997) that, in an ETF context, can be used to issue notes to the market that are based on assets or asset classes that are not UCITS eligible – such as a portfolio of a single stock, or sometimes a single stock leveraged multiple times. These notes look and feel like the shares issued by a traditional ETF, but they’re not UCITS.

This connects to another mini trend we’re seeing in Europe, which is the ongoing push for more retail distribution. The European market still remains much more of an institutional market for ETFs, but that’s slowly changing. We’re seeing more app-style distribution channels targeted for different audiences – apps that curate, for example, pre-selected ESG funds or Sharia-compliant products. These can deliver certainty to their investors that any investments selected on the platform have been pre-screened to their own tastes.

Single-stock products are ideal for these types of distribution channels. As more of these channels come online and gain prevalence, we’ll likely see more single-stock type products coming to Europe and being set up as Section 110 special purpose vehicles. It may take a few years, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Whether you’re a large, established firm, or a specialized shop looking to take your business to the next level, we have a full spectrum of ETF servicing solutions to help accelerate your success. To learn more, visit or check out these other resources:

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How mobile point of sale (mPOS) can benefit your side gig

Finding a side gig to fund your goals

Everything you need to know about consolidating debts

How to talk to your lender about debt

Cashless business pros and cons: Should you make the switch?

Transition to international ACH

Making the cross-border payment decision: Wire or international ACH?

Accommodating the growing complexity of private equity funds

5 questions you should ask your custodian about outsourcing

Webinar: Robotic process automation

Does your savings plan match your lifestyle?

Student checklist: Preparing for college

Email marketing: 10 mistakes to avoid

Celebrity Cake Studio’s two decades of growth and success

Examining in-demand fund structures

4 reasons why estate planning is important

How to manage money tips

What are alternative investments?

Automating escheatment earns respected innovation award

How Al’s Breakfast is bringing people together

Manufacturing: 6 supply chain optimization strategies

3 tips for saving money easily

What you should know about licensing agreements

3 ways to make practical use of real-time payments

Instant Payments: Accelerating treasury disruption

4 ways Request for Payments (RfP) changes consumer bill pay

Can faster payments mean better payments?

Webinar: CRE Digital Transformation – Balancing Digitization with cybersecurity risk


Hospitals face cybersecurity risks in surprising new ways

Webinar: CRE Digital Transformation – Balancing Digitization with cybersecurity risk

Resources for managing financial matters after an unexpected death

5 steps for creating an employee recognition program

Four ways to make a strong resume for your first real job

Webinar: Uncover the cost: College diploma

How I did it: Bought a home without a 20 percent down payment

Answering the ABL question

DIY home projects 101: tips from a first-timer

Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce

Tech tools to keep your restaurant operations running smoothly

Crypto + Homebuying: Impacts on the real estate market

Your quick guide to loans and obtaining credit

How to save for a wedding

How to hire employees: Employee referral vs. external hiring

Myths vs. facts about savings account interest rates

Do I need a credit card for my small business?

Webinar: CRE treasury leader roundtable

Military homeownership: Your guide to resources, financing and more

3 ways POS data analysis can help define your brand

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know your finances?

An eco friendly debit card with roots in Haiti

Break free from cash flow management constraints

BEC and deepfake fraud

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Home renovation

Webinar: Bank Notes: College cost comparison

Alternative investments: How to track returns and meet your goals

What goes into private equity fund calculation?

How you can prevent identity theft

Service provider due diligence and selection best practices

How tenacity brought Taste of Rondo to life

Programme debt Q&A: U.S. issuers entering the European market

Third-party vendor risk: protecting your company against cyber threats

Best practices for optimizing the tech lifecycle

Post-pandemic fraud prevention lessons for local governments

Consolidating payments for healthcare systems

Financial wellness webinars

Do I need a financial advisor?

How a bar trivia company went digital during COVID-19

Booming in the gig economy: A new chapter leveraging 45 years of experience

4 questions to ask before you buy an investment property

Collateral options for ABL: What’s eligible, what’s not?

Your guide to starting a job: Resources to help along the way

4 steps that give your business an SEO boost

How to access digital assets after a loved one's death

How much money do I need to start investing?

How does an IRA work?

How do interest rates affect investments?

Healthcare costs in retirement: Are you prepared?

Guide for investing

Good debt vs. bad debt: Know the difference

Gifting money to adult children: Give now or later?

Preparing for homeownership: A guide for LGBTQ+ homebuyers

Parent checklist: Preparing for college

What you need to know about identity theft

Military spouse’s guide to navigating your career

Automate accounts payable to optimize revenue and payments

Are you ready to restart your federal student loan payments?

Webinar: Tips to avoid today’s cyber threats

U.S. Bank asks: What do you know about credit?

Financial steps to take after the death of a spouse

Is your financial plan keeping pace with your life?

Financial fitness quiz

Estate planning documents: Living trusts vs. will vs. living will

Annual insurance review checklist

7 financial questions to consider when changing jobs

6 ways to teach your kids about giving

How to sell your business without emotions getting in the way

Webinar: 5 myths about emergency funds

How to best handle unexpected expenses

How to make the most of your business loan

Gift cards can extend ROI into 2022

5 principles for avoiding ethics pitfalls on social media

Prioritizing payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic

8 Ways for small business owners to manage their cash flow