What is the history of ETFs?

The world's first ETF was created in Canada in 1990, transforming the investment landscape and offering the advantages of pooled investing and trading flexibility.

In their early days, ETFs were used primarily by institutional investors to execute sophisticated trading strategies. However, it wasn't long before individual investors and financial advisors embraced ETFs.

Since their introduction, ETFs have grown to become one of the most popular products in the global investment industry. Today, global ETF assets total more than USD 4.8 trillion, invested in more than 7,600 ETFs and ETPs.3

ETF milestones


The world's first ETF was introduced in Canada in 1990.


First ETF in United States is launched.


The first Vanguard U.S.-domiciled ETFs were cross-listed on the Mexican Bolsa de Valores.1


Global ETF assets reach $1 trillion,2 driven by the shift from commision-based financial advice to fee-based structures.2


Global ETF and ETP assets total more than $6.5 trillion, invested in 7,430 products.3

1 Source: Bolsa Mexicana de Valores as of March 23, 2017.
2 Source: ETFGI as of December 31, 2009.
3 Source: ETFGI as of December 31, 2018.
Note: ETF assets and product data include exchange-traded funds and exchange-traded products (ETPs).

ETF fundamentals