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What was the first ETF created? | Oldest Exchange Traded Fund

Last Updated on 10 February, 2024 by Abrahamtolle

The first exchange-traded fund (ETF) was created in the United States and is known as the “Standard & Poor’s Depositary Receipts” or “SPDR” for short with the symbol SPY. The SPDR ETF was launched on January 29, 1993, by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA). It is also commonly referred to as the “Spider” ETF.

The SPDR ETF tracks the performance of the S&P 500 index, which represents the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. stock market. The introduction of the SPDR ETF revolutionized the investment industry by providing investors with a new way to gain exposure to a diversified portfolio of stocks. Since then, ETFs have grown in popularity and have expanded to cover various asset classes and investment strategies.

The symbol for the first exchange-traded fund (ETF), the Standard & Poor’s Depositary Receipts (SPDR), is SPY. The SPY ETF is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and is one of the most widely recognized and heavily traded ETFs in the world.

Have you ever wondered what the first ETF was and how it came to be? In 1993, State Street Global Advisors introduced the world’s first exchange-traded fund (ETF), known as “SPDR.” This groundbreaking product tracked the S&P 500 index and quickly gained popularity among investors due to its low fee and ability to trade like a stock. Additionally, SPDR paved the way for other types of ETFs, including commodity ETFs, leveraged ETFs, and equity ETFs, all of which provide investors with transparent ETFs that can be traded like stocks. But how did this revolutionary investment vehicle come about?

The idea for ETFs had been around for some time, but it wasn’t until the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved State Street’s proposal that they became a reality. Prior to this, similar proposals had been rejected by the SEC. The approval of SPDR marked a turning point in investment history, as it paved the way for the emergence of traded funds on stock exchanges and index funds in the stock market.

ETFs were created as investment vehicles to provide investors with index participation shares that could be traded throughout the trading day in various markets, including futures and NYSE. Unlike traditional mutual funds, which are priced at the end of each trading day, ETFs can be bought and sold like stocks during market hours. This made them an attractive option for investors looking for more flexibility in their portfolios.

We’ll also take a look at some of the key players involved in bringing this innovative investment vehicle to life, including the investor who put their money into index investing and the markets, as well as the ETF inventor who made it all possible.

So let’s dive into the fascinating history of ETFs and discover how they changed investing forever for the investor, with the emergence of investment funds, index funds, and their impact on the stock market!

The History and Launch of the First ETF

The Birth of ETFs

The first-ever exchange-traded fund (ETF) was launched in 1993 on the American Stock Exchange (AMEX). It was a game-changer for investors and traders alike, allowing them to trade baskets of stocks just like they would individual shares. Before this, investors could only buy or sell mutual funds at the end of each trading day. Today, there are various types of ETFs available, including index ETFs, commodity ETFs, equity ETFs, and leveraged ETFs.

The ETF Inventor

The inventor of the first ETF was Nathan Most, who created it to track the S&P 500 index. He wanted to create an investment fund product that would allow investors to easily invest in equity ETFs, commodity ETFs, and leveraged ETFs without having to purchase all its underlying stocks individually. This innovation allowed investors to diversify their portfolios with ease.

Most’s idea for an ETF came from his experience working with institutional investors who were looking for ways to trade large blocks of securities without moving prices too much on the NYSE. He realized that if he could create a basket of stocks that mirrored an index, he could make it easy for retail investors to access the same benefits as institutional ones, including leveraged ETFs for trading.

The Birth of SPDRs

The first ETF launched by Most was called Standard & Poor’s Depositary Receipts (SPDRs), which is still around today and trades under the ticker symbol SPY. It was one of the earliest index ETFs to be introduced in the stock market and had only $6 million in assets under management (AUM) at launch. However, within five years, that number had grown more than tenfold, making it one of the most successful index funds of its time. Most later expanded their offerings to include leveraged ETFs, providing investors with even more options for investing in the market.

SPDRs were designed to track the S&P 500 index and offer investors exposure to all 500 companies listed on it in the stock market. They were initially targeted at institutional traders but quickly became popular with retail investors due to their low fees and ease of use in buying ETF shares. Additionally, investors can also consider leveraged ETFs to increase their exposure to securities in the S&P 500 index.

The Growth of ETF Business

The success of SPDRs, which are index funds that track the performance of securities listed on the NYSE, led other financial institutions and asset managers such as BlackRock, Vanguard Group, State Street Global Advisors, Invesco Ltd., and Charles Schwab to enter the ETF market. Today, there are over 7,000 ETFs globally with over $9 trillion in assets under management, making them a popular choice for trading securities.

ETFs and index funds have transformed the way people invest by offering a low-cost way to access diversified portfolios of stocks, bonds, commodities, and other securities. They are now available on almost every stock exchange worldwide, including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ. Trading ETFs and futures has become increasingly popular due to their flexibility and ease of use.

The Rise of Commodity ETFs and Leveraged ETFs

The success of SPDRs also led to the creation of other types of ETFs such as index funds, commodity ETFs, and leveraged ETFs. Index funds are a type of ETF that tracks a specific securities index, providing investors with diversified exposure to a broad market. Commodity ETFs allow investors to invest in commodities like gold, silver, and oil without having to purchase physical products. Leveraged ETFs use financial derivatives to amplify returns for traders looking for higher risk/reward ratios in futures trading.

However, it is important to note that leveraged ETFs, which are traded as securities on NYSE, can be highly risky due to their complex nature. They are designed for experienced traders who understand trading and can manage their risks accordingly. These assets require careful consideration before investing.

How the First ETF Changed the Investing Landscape

Index Investing Gets a New Investment Option

The first exchange-traded fund (ETF) was created in 1993 on the NYSE, and it revolutionized the way investors approached trading securities and indices. Before then, investors had limited options when it came to investing in an entire market or sector. They could either buy individual stocks or mutual funds, which often had high fees and were subject to capital gains taxes.

With the creation of the first ETF, investors suddenly had a new investment option that allowed them to buy shares in an entire market or sector with just one trade. ETFs are designed to track specific indices, such as the S&P 500 or NASDAQ-100, and are traded on securities exchanges such as NYSE. By buying shares of an ETF that tracks a particular index, investors can gain exposure to all of the companies within that index without having to purchase individual stocks, making it a convenient fund for trading.

A New Investment Option During Market Turmoil

The creation of the first ETF, which tracks a specific index of securities, also came during a time of market turmoil. In 1987, Black Monday saw stock markets around the world crash on the same day, causing many investors to question whether traditional trading options were too risky. The ETF was listed on the NYSE and provided a new way for investors to diversify their portfolios.

ETFs provided a new way for people to invest in securities markets without having to worry about individual stock prices or high mutual fund fees. Because they track indices rather than individual stocks, ETFs can provide more diversification and less risk than buying individual shares. ETFs are also popular for trading on the NYSE.

Challenging Traditional Wall Street Market Participants

The creation of the first ETF challenged traditional Wall Street market participants like mutual fund managers and stockbrokers who relied on high fees for their livelihoods. With lower fees and greater transparency, ETFs quickly gained popularity among retail investors who were interested in trading securities on NYSE and obtaining a share of the market.

Today, there are thousands of different ETFs and funds available covering securities from broad indices like the S&P 500 to niche sectors like renewable energy or emerging markets. The growth of these products has transformed how people invest their money and has made it easier than ever for anyone to gain exposure to a variety of markets and sectors. For example, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) tracks the S&P 500 index and is traded on the NYSE.

Advantages of Investing in ETFs Compared to Mutual Funds

ETFs Offer Tax Efficiency Compared to Mutual Funds

One of the main advantages of investing in ETFs compared to mutual funds is tax efficiency. Unlike mutual funds, which are required to distribute capital gains and dividends to their shareholders at the end of each year, ETFs typically do not have such requirements. Instead, investors only pay taxes on capital gains when they sell their ETF shares. ETFs are securities that can be traded on the NYSE market, and one popular example is the SPY ETF.

For example, let’s say you invested $10,000 in an equity mutual fund and an equity ETF that both earned a 10% return over the course of a year. At the end of the year, both securities would be worth $11,000 in the market. However, if the mutual fund distributed $500 in capital gains and dividends during the year, you would owe taxes on that amount regardless of whether or not you sold any shares. In contrast, if you held onto your ETF shares without selling them, you would not owe any taxes until you decided to sell them. The ETF could be an index ETF listed on NYSE.

In addition to tax efficiency for long-term investors, some ETFs also offer tax benefits for short-term traders who invest in securities. For example, inverse and leveraged ETFs can be used as hedging instruments or speculative tools by traders who want to bet against certain market sectors or asset classes like spy. Because these types of ETFs are designed to track daily performance rather than long-term trends, they may generate fewer taxable events than actively managed mutual funds.

ETFs Provide Transparency of Holdings and Net Asset Value

Another advantage of investing in ETFs compared to mutual funds is transparency in the securities market. Because most ETFs are designed to track specific indexes or asset classes rather than being actively managed by investment professionals like mutual funds are, they generally provide more detailed information about their holdings and net asset value (NAV). For example, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) offers investors a transparent way to invest in the broad U.S. stock market by tracking the S&P 500 index.

For example, if you invest in an index-based equity ETF that tracks the securities market, such as the S&P 500 index, you can easily find out which securities the ETF holds and what percentage of the fund is allocated to each security. This level of transparency can be particularly helpful for investors who want to make sure that their investments are aligned with the current state of the securities market or their personal investment goals.

In contrast, mutual funds typically only disclose their holdings on a quarterly basis, and they may not provide as much detail about how those holdings are allocated across different asset classes or sectors. This lack of transparency can make it more difficult for investors to evaluate whether a mutual fund is a good fit for their needs. Additionally, investors may not be able to easily identify the securities that make up the mutual fund’s portfolio. On the other hand, ETF shares offer greater transparency as they disclose their holdings on a daily basis. Leveraged ETFs and index ETFs are also available for investors who want to take advantage of market trends and volatility.

ETFs Allow for Easy Asset Allocation Across Different Asset Classes

Finally, another advantage of investing in ETFs compared to mutual funds is flexibility. Because ETFs are traded like individual stocks and securities on exchanges, investors can buy and sell them throughout the trading day at market prices rather than having to wait until the end of the day like with mutual funds.

This flexibility makes it easier for investors to allocate their assets across different asset classes or sectors based on their risk tolerance and investment goals. For example, an investor who wants exposure to both domestic and international equities could invest in index-based equity ETFs that track both the S&P 500 index and foreign indexes like the MSCI EAFE index. These securities can be traded on the market, allowing investors to easily buy and sell them as needed. Additionally, investing in a fund can provide diversification across multiple securities within a specific market or sector.

In addition to equity ETFs, there are also bond ETFs, commodity ETFs, currency ETFs, and other types of specialized ETFs that allow investors to gain exposure to specific asset classes or sectors without having to purchase individual securities themselves. This ease of asset allocation can be particularly helpful for novice investors who want diversified portfolios but may not have the time or expertise required to research individual securities themselves. Moreover, these ETFs provide a convenient way for investors to enter the market and invest in a fund without having to deal with the complexities of buying and selling individual stocks.

Conclusion: What Was the First ETF Created?

The first-ever exchange-traded fund (ETF), SPDR S&P 500 ETF or SPY, was launched in 1993 by State Street Global Advisors. It became the first ETF to trade on the American Stock Exchange and revolutionized the investing landscape by introducing index ETFs to the market. Since then, index ETFs have become a popular choice for investors.

The history and launch of the first ETF fund marked a significant milestone in the financial industry. It provided investors with an opportunity to invest in a diversified portfolio of securities that traded like individual stocks on an exchange. This allowed investors to buy or sell shares throughout the trading day at market prices.

The introduction of ETFs changed how investors approach investing and portfolio management. Unlike mutual funds, which are priced once daily after market close, ETFs can be bought and sold at any time during trading hours. This flexibility has made them increasingly popular among investors looking for low-cost, tax-efficient investment options.

Investing in ETFs offers several advantages over traditional mutual funds in the market. One advantage is their lower expense ratios compared to actively managed mutual funds in the market. They offer greater transparency as they disclose their holdings daily, allowing investors to see exactly what they are investing in the market.

In conclusion, the creation of the first-ever ETF paved the way for a new era of fund investing that has transformed how we approach market and portfolio management. As an investor, it’s essential to understand these innovative financial instruments and how they can benefit your investment strategy.


Q: Are all ETFs index funds?

No, while many ETFs track an index like the market’s S&P 500 or NASDAQ Composite Index, some focus on specific sectors or themes such as technology or renewable energy fund.

Q: How are ETFs taxed?

Generally, when you sell your shares of an ETF in the market at a profit, you’ll owe capital gains taxes just like you would with any other investment. However, ETFs are generally more tax-efficient than mutual funds due to their structure.

Q: Can I buy fractional shares of an ETF?

Yes, many brokerages now allow investors to purchase fractional shares of ETFs in the market. This makes it easier for investors with smaller account balances to invest in a diversified fund portfolio.

Q: Are ETFs suitable for long-term investing?

A: Yes, ETFs can be an excellent choice for long-term investing as they offer low-cost diversification in the market and can be held as a fund for years or even decades.

Q: How do I choose the right ETF?

When choosing an ETF fund, consider your investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Look for a fund that aligns with your investment strategy and has a track record of consistent returns in the market.


What is the first ETF, and when was it created?

The first exchange-traded fund (ETF) is the Standard & Poor’s Depositary Receipts (SPDR), also known as SPY. It was created by State Street Global Advisors and was launched on January 29, 1993, marking a significant milestone in the investment industry. Nathan Most is credited as the inventor of the first ETF.

What is the significance of SPDRs in the history of ETFs?

SPDRs, or Standard & Poor’s Depositary Receipts, were the first ETFs introduced to the market. SPDRs, with the ticker symbol SPY, tracked the S&P 500 index, revolutionizing how investors approached trading by offering a low-fee, easily tradable investment option.

How did the introduction of ETFs change the investing landscape?

The introduction of ETFs, particularly SPDRs, changed investing by providing a new option to trade baskets of stocks like individual shares. It allowed investors to buy shares in an entire market or sector with a single trade, offering more flexibility and diversification compared to traditional investment options.

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