Wheaton College, a Christian liberal-arts school founded by evangelical abolitionists in 1860, is a central factor to why the Chicago suburb plays an outsize role in the $6 trillion exchange-traded-fund (ETF) industry, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Although the school is relatively small, with roughly 2,400 undergraduates, the college has a surprising amount of connections to well-known ETF innovators and their families.
ETFs are traded on exchanges, like stocks, and their influence has grown so big that ETF trading now accounts for nearly 20% of the daily volume in U.S. stock markets every day.
Wheaton is home to First Trust, the sixth-biggest ETF issuer in the U.S., with more than $76 billion in ETF assets, as well as Amplify ETFs, and PowerShares, who was sold to Invesco Ltd. in 2006 and with $204 billion in assets, is now the fourth-largest ETF issuer.
First Trust is regularly one of the top three employers of Wheaton College graduates, while more than 100 former Wheaton students are working, or have worked, at some of the most influential ETF firms, which includes BlackRock Inc., Vanguard Group, and State Street Corp.
While the top three ETF firms control more than 80% of U.S. assets, the Wheaton-connected firms have been influential. Ben Johnson, the director of ETF research for Morningstar, said, “This is a group that has significantly more mind share than they do market share. Their current assets belie the impact they’ve had on the industry.”