Exchange Traded Product (ETP) Definition, Types and More


Explore the world of Exchange Traded Products (ETPs), versatile securities that track underlying investments, indices, or financial instruments. Learn about their types, benefits, and potential drawbacks, with a real-world example illustrating their application in the financial market.

Exchange Traded Products (ETPs) have emerged as a dynamic investment vehicle, bridging the gap between stocks and mutual funds. In this article, we’ll break down the concept of ETPs, delve into their diverse types, highlight their advantages and disadvantages, and offer a real-world example to showcase their potential impact on an investor’s portfolio.

Exchange Traded Products (ETPs) are a category of securities designed to mirror the performance of underlying securities, indices, or other financial instruments. Functioning much like stocks, ETPs trade on exchanges and can experience price fluctuations throughout the trading day. However, the value of ETPs is directly tied to the investments they track.

Types of Exchange Traded Products

Exchange traded funds (ETFs)

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) stand out as one of the most recognizable ETP types. These funds encompass a diversified array of investments, including stocks and bonds. ETFs usually track specific indices such as the S&P 500, providing investors access to various market segments. Unlike mutual funds, ETFs can be traded in real-time during market hours.

Exchange traded notes (ETNs)

Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs) share similarities with ETFs in tracking underlying indices and trading on major exchanges. However, ETNs are essentially baskets of unsecured debt securities. Investors receive returns based on the tracked index, but factors like fees and commissions are deducted upon maturity.

Exchange traded products vs. Mutual funds

ETPs have reshaped investment strategies by offering flexibility and convenience compared to traditional mutual funds. While mutual funds are priced at the end of the trading day, ETPs can be bought and sold throughout the day, similar to stocks. This real-time trading feature, coupled with lower expense ratios, has led to the popularity of ETPs as an alternative investment option.

Real-World Example of an Exchange Traded Product

Consider the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY), a prime illustration of an ETP’s impact. With assets exceeding US$300 billion, SPY offers investors exposure to the 500 stocks comprising the S&P 500 index. For instance, investing $10,000 in SPY in 2017 and selling in 2019 at a gain of 27% showcases the potential profitability of ETPs.

Tax Efficiency of ETPs

One significant advantage of investing in ETPs, particularly Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), is their tax efficiency. ETFs are structured in a way that can minimize tax liabilities for investors. This tax efficiency is achieved through a mechanism known as “in-kind” creation and redemption of ETF shares.

When an investor redeems shares of an ETF, the fund does not sell securities to generate cash for the redemption. Instead, it transfers the underlying assets of the ETF directly to the investor. This process avoids triggering capital gains taxes that might occur if the ETF were to sell securities in the open market to meet redemption requests. As a result, investors in ETFs often have more control over when they realize capital gains, potentially reducing their tax burden.

Additionally, ETFs may have lower turnover compared to actively managed mutual funds, which can lead to fewer taxable events. Lower turnover means that the ETF buys and sells its underlying securities less frequently, reducing the likelihood of triggering capital gains taxes for investors.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ETPs

With increasing awareness of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in investment decisions, ETPs that focus on ESG criteria have gained popularity. These ESG ETPs invest in companies and assets that align with specific environmental, social, and governance principles, allowing investors to support causes and values they care about.

ESG ETPs often track indices composed of companies with strong sustainability practices, ethical governance, and a positive impact on society. For example, an ESG ETF might include companies with low carbon emissions, diverse and inclusive workplaces, and transparent corporate governance.

Investors who prioritize sustainability and responsible investing can use ESG ETPs to integrate their values into their portfolios. These ETPs provide exposure to companies that are actively working towards a more sustainable and socially responsible future.

Leveraged and Inverse ETPs

While many ETPs aim to provide returns that correspond to the performance of their underlying assets, there are also specialized ETPs known as leveraged and inverse ETPs. These ETPs use financial derivatives to amplify or inverse the daily returns of the underlying assets they track.

Leveraged ETPs seek to provide returns that are a multiple (e.g., 2x or 3x) of the daily performance of the underlying assets. For example, a 2x leveraged ETF tracking the S&P 500 aims to double the daily return of the index. These ETPs are typically used by sophisticated investors for short-term trading strategies, as they can be highly volatile and carry significant risks.

Inverse ETPs, on the other hand, aim to provide returns that are the opposite (inverse) of the daily performance of the underlying assets. For instance, an inverse ETF tracking the Nasdaq 100 seeks to deliver returns that move in the opposite direction of the index. Inverse ETPs can be used by investors as a way to hedge against market downturns or to profit from declining markets.

It’s essential for investors to understand that leveraged and inverse ETPs are designed for short-term trading and may not be suitable for long-term investors due to their compounding effects and potential for significant losses.

Active vs. Passive ETPs

Exchange Traded Products come in two primary management styles: active and passive.

Passive ETPs: The most common type of ETPs, such as ETFs, follow a passive investment strategy. They aim to replicate the performance of a specific benchmark or index, like the S&P 500. Passive ETPs are known for their low expense ratios, as they require minimal active management. Investors who choose passive ETPs typically believe in the long-term growth potential of the underlying index or asset class.

Active ETPs: These ETPs are actively managed by professional portfolio managers or teams who make investment decisions with the goal of outperforming the market or a specific index. Active ETPs provide investors with the expertise of active fund managers and the potential for superior returns. However, they often come with higher expense ratios compared to passive ETPs due to the active management involved.

Investors should carefully consider their investment objectives and preferences when choosing between passive and active ETPs. Passive ETPs are favored for their low costs and index-tracking approach, while active ETPs offer the opportunity for active management and potentially higher returns.


Consider the advantages and disadvantages of ETPs.

  • Access to diversified securities and indices
  • Cost-effective compared to mutual funds
  • Enhanced liquidity with real-time trading
  • Exposure to market losses due to price volatility
  • Some ETPs resemble debt instruments, like ETNs
  • Varied trading volumes impacting liquidity


Exchange Traded Products (ETPs) have revolutionized the investment landscape, offering investors an array of options to diversify their portfolios, gain exposure to different asset classes, and trade with flexibility. While ETPs come with certain risks, their benefits, including real-time trading and cost-efficiency, have made them a popular choice among both individual and institutional investors.

As the financial markets continue to evolve, ETPs are likely to remain a key component of modern investment strategies, catering to a wide range of investor needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ETP?

An Exchange Traded Product (ETP) is a financial instrument that combines features of both stocks and mutual funds. It trades on stock exchanges, providing investors with exposure to various asset classes.

How do ETPs differ from traditional mutual funds?

Unlike traditional mutual funds, ETPs are traded throughout the trading day on stock exchanges. They also tend to have lower expense ratios due to their passive management approach.

Key takeaways

  • ETPs replicate underlying securities or indices’ performance.
  • ETFs and ETNs are prominent ETP types.
  • ETPs offer real-time trading and cost-efficiency.
  • Pros include access to diverse assets, while cons involve market risks.
  • Consider the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) as a real-world ETP example.
View Article Sources

  1. Mutual Funds and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) – A Guide for Investors
    – SEC
  2. Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)– Investor
  3. Benefits of Trade– USTR