Jan van Eck on Successful Thematic Investing



How do mutual fund managers dal with the onslaught of index investing and the greater tax efficiencies of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)?

One solution is to offer a series of innovative thematic ETFs that are dramatically different from the broad market indices. That was the approach Jan van Eck took. He is CEO of Van Eck Associates, an ETF & Mutual Fund Manager which runs about $50 billion in funds and client assets.

His father, John C. van Eck, founded the firm in 1955 to provide a convenient investment vehicle for Americans to invest in foreign growth stocks. He made a big bet on Gold – just before the U.S. went off the gold standard. He became so well known for this trade, he ended up on popular shows like the Merv Griffin Show. Today, Van Eck Associates’ Gold Miner ETF ($13B) and Junior Gold Miners ETF ($5B) have attracted lots of capital as an alternative to the Gold ETF mack daddy, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) with $51B in assets.

It was not inevitable the younger van Eck would join the family business. He attended Stanford Law School and became a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. When he joined the firm in 1992, it only had $1 billion in assets, until van Eck pivoted towards Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).

The firm has a variety of thematic ETFs, including Industries (SemisBiotecheSports), Hard Assets (AgricultureGold MinersLow CarbonCoal), Countries (IsraelIndiaVietnamBrazilEgyptIndonesiaRussiaAfrica), as well as other thematic strategies.

Jan’s favorite books can be seen here; A transcript of our conversation is available here.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras, on Apple iTunesSpotifyOvercastGoogleBloomberg, and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Next week, we speak with Daryl Morey, General Manager and Director of Operations of the Houston Rockets, and the person who brought “Moneyball” to Basketball.



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