How Many ETFs Are There Anyway?
The ETF industry has many things going for it, but keeping statistics about itself is not one of them. Let’s take the most basic of all data points – the quantity of ETFs and ETNs.
You would think it would be simple math to count the number of newly issued ETFs, subtract the number of closed and liquidated ETFs, and add the result to the previous balance. However, as straightforward as this appears, the big players in the ETF world cannot agree on an answer.
One of the problems is whether to include Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs) in the count. I think that most users agree that it is acceptable to consider ETNs, although it is probably a good practice to show the underlying ETF and ETN counts separately.
Another problem is that the industry is still young and dynamic. In other words, the answer is a constantly moving target. Therefore, any attempt to reconcile the differences must be time-stamped. Fortunately, a well-defined date is readily available to us: December 31, 2008.
After much checking and crosschecking, I have determined that the “official” ETF count as of the end of 2008 is 845, consisting of 760 ETFs and 85 ETNs.