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section header ETF fundamentals

subsection header Basics

History of ETFs

The world's first ETF was created in Canada in 1990, transforming the investment landscape and offering the advantages of pooled investing and trading flexibility.

In their early days, ETFs were used primarily by institutional investors to execute sophisticated trading strategies. However, it wasn't long before individual investors and financial advisors embraced ETFs.

Since their introduction, ETFs have grown to become one of the most popular products in the global investment industry. Today, ETF assets in Canada total more than $158 billion, invested in more than 600 ETFs. Globally, assets in ETFs and other exchange-traded products (ETPs) total more than $6.5 trillion, invested in more than 7,430 products.1


ETF milestones


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The world's first ETF was introduced in Canada in 1990.


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First ETF in United States is launched.


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World's first bond ETF launched in Canada.


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Global ETF assets reach $1 trillion,2 driven by the shift from commision-based financial advice to fee-based structures.


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Global ETF and ETP assets total more than $6.5 trillion, invested in 7,430 products.1

1 Source: Vanguard calculations using data from ETFGI, as of June 30 2018.
2 Source: Vanguard calculations using data from ETFGI, as of December 31, 2019.


Learn about the different types of exchange-traded products, how index and active ETFs are managed and more.


Learn about ETF trading, common order types, premiums and discounts, liquidity considerations and more.


Learn about strategic and tactical uses for ETFs, including asset and sub-asset allocation, portfolio completion, cash equitization and more.

Commissions, management fees, and expenses all may be associated with investment funds. Investment objectives, risks, fees, expenses, and other important information are contained in the prospectus; please read it before investing. Investment funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. Vanguard funds are managed by Vanguard Investments Canada Inc. and are available across Canada through registered dealers.

This material is for informational purposes only. This material is not intended to be relied upon as research, investment, or tax advice and is not an implied or express recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any security or to adopt any particular investment or portfolio strategy. Any views and opinions expressed do not take into account the particular investment objectives, needs, restrictions and circumstances of a specific investor and, thus, should not be used as the basis of any specific investment recommendation. Investors should consult a financial and/or tax advisor for financial and/or tax information applicable to their specific situation.

All investment funds, including those that seek to track an index are subject to risk, including the possible loss of principal. Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market. While the Vanguard ETFs are designed to be as diversified as the original indices they seek to track and can provide greater diversification than an individual investor may achieve independently, any given ETF may not be a diversified investment.

All monetary figures are expressed in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted.