Slawomir Rzeszotko's path to ETFs was far from simple earning three degrees along the way and lecturing on international relationship theory and ethics at the University of Wroclaw in Poland.
We talk to him about his career in ETFs.
Where and what did you study?
Slaw Rzeszotko: I earned a Master of Arts degree in International Relationships at the University of Wroclaw, Poland, I also studied at London Metropolitan University and Universiteit van Antwerpen. After earning my degree, I lectured on international relationships theory and ethics at University of Wroclaw. I published several articles on the subject and co-authored a book titled Critical Introduction to Theory of International Relationships.
How did you get into the ETF industry?
SR: My wife was approached by BGI for a job at iShares. We were both looking to move to London and since she already had a job secured, she referred them to me instead. Back then, in early 2008, I knew very little about ETFs. But I knew enough to surmise that something very big and exciting was happening. Luckily, BGI looked past my lack of experience and offered me a job.
What has been the defining/proudest moment of your ETF career?
SR: Hopefully it's still in the future! Last year was quite special, however, with Jane Street topping the charts as the most active ETF liquidity provider on Tradeweb in both Europe and the US. We also did what we believe to be the biggest ever ETF trade last year, a $5 billion by $5 billion notional transitional trade from one ETF into another. It’s remarkable to see how much the landscape has changed—in years past doing such a large ETF trade would not have even been possible.
What has been the proudest moment outside of your career?
SR: I admire my wife's courage to leave a successful career in financial services to pursue her passion and dream of becoming a classical singer. Seeing her successfully audition to sing Magda at the upcoming production of La Rondine in Italy has been very special.
What are your goals over the next five years?
SR: As someone who communicates regularly with clients, one of my primary goals is to continue to promote investor education around how ETFs are traded. In recent years we’ve really ramped up our investor education efforts. Although ETF adoption has increased significantly, helping investors think through critical issues such trading an ETF at a price tied to its future net asset value per share “NAV”, which is a common practice in Europe, involves risks that aren’t always apparent. In some instances, investors would realize fuller benefits of the ETF through risk or agency trading. These decisions can have tremendous impact on an investor’s experience with ETFs so it’s important to us that we spend time exploring these issues with our clients. Recently, we also had in-depth discussions with our Asian client-base about the nuances of trading UCITS ETFs. I fully expect these types of conversations to continue in the years ahead.
What do you do in your spare time?
SR: Sadly, I don't have enough time to continue writing academic pieces, but I still try to stay current on research in my field of interest – particularly anything related to postmodern ethics. Other than that, I play tennis, listen to opera and enjoy travelling (with a particular weakness for visiting hairdressers in any new city I visit).
How do you anticipate the ETF industry will evolve in the next ten years? OR Do you think the ETF industry is missing anything?
SR: The next 10 years are going to be really exciting for ETFs globally. The widely predicted asset growth is of course what everyone thinks and talks about, but arguably the more interesting development is the growing scope and range of users: whether its institutional asset owners getting more comfortable with ETFs as core holdings, or retail clients gaining better access to them through intermediaries, there are some nascent trends that are really promising. I If I had to make some predictions, I would say that in time we will see ETFs emerge to be the wrapper of choice across the investment fund industry.
What challenges does the ETF industry currently face?
SR: The challenges are different from region to region, but the overarching themes are similar: continuous education around the product and its characteristics, harmonisation of terminology, and responsibly growing the product base. On the trading side there has been a lot of progress over last few years, but the challenge of working with clients and other ecosystem participants to continue to increase access to liquidity and lower trading costs seems to be the most important.
How does your company differentiate itself from its competitors?
SR: There are a lot of things we think we do very well when it comes to ETF trading. We’re particularly proud of our global connectivity, our experience and expertise when it comes to complex trades and products, and our ability to facilitate risk transfers for clients trading large blocks of ETFs. We’re fortunate to have started trading for almost 20 years, which has made us one of the largest ETF trading firms in the world. However, the one single thing that I think differentiates us is our unique culture that I would describe as a blend of intellectual curiosity, collaboration and modesty.
What is your favourite ETF and why?
SR: It would probably be VUSA. I was in charge of the European Capital Markets desk at Vanguard when the firm launched its UCITS ETF platform, and I had the privilege to work on growing this ETF from its humble beginnings to being one of the largest ETFs in Europe (currently at $22bn AUM).
What job would you have if you weren’t working in the ETF industry?
SR: I would be a writer. I have an unfinished novel and few other ideas in the waiting room so who knows, maybe one day it will actually happen!