Graham Tuckwell, the founder and chairman of ETF Securities, is
to WisdomTree because 'it's the time of the cycle for him to move on' and he says that applies to other existing ETF Securities shareholders too.
Given that Tuckwell is now 60, it's understandable he wants to move on. He told ETFsteam:
'I started the business 15 years ago and I can't keep it running forever so it's time to hand it over to somebody who can run it for some time to come.'
Although most of the ETF Securities business is being sold to WisdomTree, some parts of the business will stay independent, at least for now. This will include its fast-growing Australian business (which operates in both equities and precious metal trackers), and also the Canvas white label ETF platform in the UK.
However, there's clearly a good chance that Tuckwell will sell these businesses before too long. He said that it was now sensible to look at the rest of the business and review its future ownership;
'I'm happy to support the businesses for a while, but it's more likely than not that the review of those businesses will lead to them going to other homes in time.'
That said, Tuckwell thinks there plenty of potential for future ETF industry growth in Australia - his home country even if he lives in Jersey at the moment. (He plans to return to Australia permanently in two years' time.)
He says that the Australian ETF sector is 'starting to catch up with the rest of the world. It's had massive growth in last few years and there are huge amounts of superannuation money there as well.'
Tuckwell is also optimistic about the future for the combined WisdomTree/ETF Securities business and that's why he's accepted shares in WisdomTree in part payment for the transaction.
Clearly a big part of the rationale for the deal for WisdomTree is about boosting up the size of the firm so that it can be a long-term player in this consolidating industry. But Tuckwell thinks there is still room for firms that are the next layer down from the 3 ETF giants of iShares, State Street and Vanguard. Tuckwell told us:
'Many investors don't want to put all their money with the two or three largest players - they like having an independent firm that comes along with different ideas and a different level of service.'
However, Tuckwell doesn't think there are opportunities for completely new players to enter the European market now. The barriers to entry are too high. He suspects the only new entrants in the European ETF sector will be existing active fund managers who may decide to convert some of their products into active ETFs in the future.
It would be a brave man or woman to argue with Tuckwell on that prediction. After all, this is a man who has built a fantastically successful business, so he should know. He's also a philanthropist, it'll be fascinating to see if he expands that philanthropy further when he returns to Australia.