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The Innovation that Sparked a Revolution

On January 29, 1993, a frigid morning in New York City, a group of financial executives debuted the first US-listed exchange traded fund or ETF. Amid the excitement were lingering doubts — will it work?

Little did they know that ETFs would turn out to be one of the most innovative and disruptive financial products in history. And it all started 25 years ago with State Street, the American Stock Exchange and the SPDR® S&P 500® ETF Trust (SPY)1.

1 The SPDR® S&P 500® ETF (SPY) is a U.S. domiciled ETF. The Singapore listed SPDR® S&P 500® ETF Trust (SPY) was first quoted on the SGX on 4 May 2001. For more information, please read the prospectus at http://www.spdrs.com.sg/etf/fund/ref_doc/Prospectus_SPY.pdf.

Out of Crisis
Comes Innovation

The ETF was born out of the ashes of Black Monday, the biggest single day stock market crash in history, on October 19, 1987. The US Securities and Exchange Commission later said that automated orders for every stock in an index were at least part to blame for the crash, and concluded that the creation of a market maker to trade a basket of stocks "might alter the dynamics of program trading". It was an open invitation to the investment industry to create the product.

Many took up the challenge, but State Street and the American Stock Exchange were first to market — creating a basket of securities that tracks the performance of the US broad market benchmark, the S&P 500 index, and trades on the stock exchange like any other company.

Starting with SPY, ETFs soon made once costly and hard-to-access asset classes easily accessible for all investor types — from institutional investors to mums and dads.

Jim Ross

Chairman of the Global SPDR Business
at State Street Global Advisors

I was part of the project team that brought the original SPDR to market. It was a long process because it was new and innovative. At the time, honestly, we were just hoping it would work. There were no assurances of that, and we were hoping people would be interested in it."

How We Changed the Game

US$ 20 trillion ETFs Trade
US$ 18.4 trillion US GDP

Today, there are over 6,700 ETFs globally with US$4.5 trillion in assets.2

In the US, ETFs trade more each year than the US GDP: US$20 trillion vs. US$18.4 trillion.3 They open a whole world of opportunities for all types of investors in virtually every asset class.

2 SSGA, Morningstar as of 31 October 2017.

3 Bloomberg Markets, November 2016.

Did you know that there are over 950 ETFs in Asia managing US$304 billion in assets today? 4

Pioneering the Asia ex-Japan market in 1999 with the launch of the first physical ETF in Hong Kong, State Street revolutionised how investors in Asia build their portfolios making new market segments and asset classes accessible, including real estate investment trusts (REITs), global equities, emerging markets, currency, fixed income, commodities, and smart beta.

4 ASX Investment Products Monthly Update, 30 November 2017.


Brazil, a young market for ETFs, has seen steady growth in trading value and volume since 2008. Institutional investors account for more than half of the trading in the 15 ETFs listed on the BM&F Bovespa.22

22 BM&F Bovespa, as of 30 September 2017


In August 2001, StreetTRACKS, now known as SPDR, listed Australia's first ETFs - tracking the S&P®/ASX200 and S&P/ASX 50 indices. There are over 140 ETFs managing US$24.7 billion in assets in Australia.5

5 ASX Investment Products Monthly Update, 30 November 2017.


The US remains the largest ETF market in the world with over 2,000 ETFs, with assets under management of US$3.2 trillion6 and average daily value of ETF transactions of US$65 billion.7

Twenty-five years since its launch, SPY remains the largest and the most liquid ETF in the US today. Institutional ETF users invested an average of 21% of total assets in ETFs in 2016, up from 19% in 2015.8

6 SSGA, Morningstar as of 31 October 2017

7 NYSE Arca ETF Report, 3Q 2017

8 Greenwich Associates 2016 U.S. Exchange-Traded Funds Study, published March 2017.


As of the end of November 2017, the Canadian ETF industry has reached a record AUM of over C$145.7 billion, up 30% from a year ago. In the same period, 96 new funds were introduced into the market.9 Retail ETF ownership in Canada totalled C$101.7 billion as of the end of the second quarter 2017, largely through full-service brokers.10

9 Canadian ETF Association, as of 30 November 2017.

10 Q3 2017 CETFA Commentary, Canadian ETF Association. Accessed 28 November 2017 http://www.cetfa.ca/infocentre/stats.html


The first ETF was listed in the UK in April 2000. Today, there are 960 ETFs (available as 1,463 lines through multi-currency offerings) on the London Stock Exchange, of which some 120 were listed in 2017.11 All 92 UCITS SPDR ETFs are listed in the UK. The country is an important part of SPDR in EMEA, with a large institutional and financial intermediary client base in the UK.

11 London Stock Exchange Group ETF November Update, as of 30 November 2017.


The market for ETFs listed on Euronext Paris has seen a 66% increase in assets under management between 2014 and 2016.12 Euronext Paris has 562 ETFs, with 22 new listings since the end of 2016.13 The first European-domiciled SPDR UCITS ETFs (then called StreetTRACKS) were listed in Paris. Thirty–two SPDR ETFs are listed on Euronext Paris today, which cements SPDR's presence at the heart of Europe.

12 Autorité des marchés financiers, ETFs: characteristics, overview and risk analysis - The case of the French market, published 14 February 2017.

13 Euronext, as of 31 October 2017


Germany is the home of the first ETF in Europe, listed in 2000. Today the average monthly turnover on the Xetra is €11 billion, with around 1,200 ETFs listed.14 We launched our first SPDR in Europe in Germany, and today many of the SPDR UCITS ETFs have primary listings there.

14 Deutsche Borse, as of November 2017


Ireland is a top European domicile for ETF issuers, mostly under the UCITS (undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities) framework, which allows funds to be recognised across Europe and other jurisdictions across the world.15 In 2014, Ireland became the home of the first ETF to offer European investors access to the China A-shares (onshore) equity market.

15 Irish Funds Industry Association

Hong Kong

The first physical ETF in Hong Kong and Asia ex-Japan was launched in 1999 by State Street Global Advisors together with the Hong Kong government. It remains one of the largest and most liquid today. With 109 ETFs, the HK ETFs has a total market cap of HK$345 billion.16 The proposed HK-China ETF Connect promises to boost the ETF industry as Hong Kong-listed ETFs would be available to mainland investors and vice versa.

16 HK Exchange, as of 31 October 2017, market cap includes all ETPs.


The first ETF in Japan was launched in 1995. Today, Japan is the largest ETF market in Asia, with an average daily trading value of 165 billion yen (US$1.5 billion).17 According to Bloomberg, the Bank of Japan, the country's central bank, owns about 74% of the ETF market at the end of October 2017,18 as part of its economic stimulus programme.


In 2004, State Street Global Advisors partnered with China Asset Management Company on the launch of the first ETF listed in mainland China. Today, there are 87 ETFs listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange19 , China's main bourse, and 53 on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange20. In 2017, MSCI announced that it will include China A-shares into its emerging market indices, which is expected to increase foreign investor participation in the China's onshore capital markets.

19 Shanghai Stock Exchange, as of 31 October 2017

20 Shenzhen Stock Exchange, as of 31 October 2017


SPDR introduced the first locally listed ETF in Singapore in 2002 - the SPDR Straits Times Index ETF (SGX stock code: ES3). It is one of the most traded ETFs on the Singapore Exchange. Today, there are more than 70 ETFs listed in Singapore investing in equities, fixed income, commodities, precious metals and money markets.21

21 SGX, as of 31 October 2017

Discover Our History of Innovation

  • Together with the American Stock Exchange, launches SPDR S&P 500® ETF Trust (SPY).

  • Launches the industry's first family of sector-specific ETFs offering tactical asset allocation strategies to more investors.

  • In partnership with the Hong Kong government, creates the first physical ETF in Asia ex-Japan.

  • Opens the ETF market in Australia with ETFs tracking the flagship indexes of the Australian large cap market.

  • Launches the first locally-listed ETF in Singapore, the SPDR Straits Times Index ETF.

  • Joins with local partners in Taiwan to launch the first local ETF.

  • With the World Gold Council, launches the first gold-backed, exchange-traded security in the US, SPDR Gold Shares (listed in Singapore in 2006).

    Partnered with China Asset Management Company to launch the first local Chinese ETF.

  • Launches the first Hedged Global Equity ETF in Australia priced in local dollar.

  • Partners with Blackstone/GSO to offer the first-of-its-kind actively managed senior loans ETF.

  • Launches the first S&P 500 fossil-fuel-free ETF to meet the needs of climate conscious investors.

  • Lists a gender diversity ETF in the US, the first SPDR ETF to use a proprietary SSGA Index.

  • Offers our first ultra-low cost ETF suite in the US.


Starting with SPY, innovation has been coded in every SPDR ETF's DNA. And at the heart of this innovation is the passion to meet investors' needs. With our long presence in Asia and our global network, we bring only to market ETF products attuned to investors' needs across a variety of asset classes, capitalisation ranges and styles.

  • Access to Your Desired Exposures

    Match your portfolio to your strategy by adding new markets and assets to your investments, with the freedom to decide when and by how much.

  • Simplicity

    Buy and sell on the stock exchange just like ordinary shares.

  • Improved Diversification

    Gain instant diversification with a single investment.

  • Transparency

    You always know what you're holding, with publicly available pricing.

  • Low Cost

    Benefit from low management fees and operating expenses compared with managed funds.

  • Physically Backed

    All our SPDR ETFs are physically backed, meaning they hold the underlying assets.

No matter your level of sophistication, learn more about using these products with confidence from the team that started it all.

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