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Unlocking the Securities Lending Potential of SPY

  • It’s important to look beyond an ETF’s expense ratio when assessing its total cost — consider other factors like securities lending potential.
  • Securities lending, an essential component of capital markets activity, facilitates settlement, injects liquidity, and fosters confidence for risk taking.
  • SPY accounted for an estimated average of 94% of S&P 500® ETF notional short interest and 27% of total ETF notional short interest in the first half of 2023.1
Sales Execution and Institutional Strategy
Fixed Income ETF Sales and Analytics

Relying solely on the expense ratio of an exchange traded fund (ETF) to assess its total cost can be limiting. That’s why it is crucial for institutional investors to consider additional factors — like securities lending potential — when selecting the right ETF to trade.

Compared to other investment vehicles tracking the S&P 500® Index, the SPDR® S&P 500® ETF Trust (SPY) delivers a specific cost offset advantage through its unique lending market.

Securities Lending with ETFs

Securities lending, or the exercise of loaning securities to other investors, is a key aspect of capital markets activity that facilitates settlement, injects liquidity, and fosters confidence for risk taking. These benefits are accessible to all types of investors, spanning from long-term stable asset base investors to more active participants, like hedge funds or market makers.

ETF securities lending has grown alongside broader adoption of the structure. Many investors may be familiar with “inside” lending, or the practice in which ETF issuers lend out the constituents of the ETF. “Outside” lending, however, refers to when ETF beneficial owners make their ETF shares available for borrowing.

In some cases, “outside” lending can serve as a more relevant driver of returns, with the potential to earn lending returns that offset the fees of the fund.

The Unique Nature of SPY Securities Lending

At the forefront of most ETF capital markets activity stands SPY, the world’s largest and most actively traded ETF.2 For SPY, securities lending is an important contributor to the overall efficiency of secondary market trading.

Through the first half of 2023, SPY represented an estimated average of 94% of S&P 500 ETF notional short interest and 27% of total ETF notional short interest from among 3,100 US-listed funds.3

Most importantly, SPY’s $35B in average daily secondary value traded accounted for more than 19% of all ETF trading in the first half of 2023.4 As different users meet on the exchange, centralized pools of liquidity form, benefitting all users of SPY. And as different investors access SPY’s liquidity, demand to borrow SPY shares ebbs and flows with market dynamics across use cases.

Why Investors Borrow SPY

Borrowers of SPY are typically hedge fund managers, investment managers, options traders, or market makers who seek to:

  • Short
  • Hedge
  • Cover pending settlements
  • Create arbitrage opportunities

But what are the two most notable and persistent drivers of this supply and demand?

Listed Options

  • SPY represented over 99% of S&P 500® ETF options contract open interest and 18% of total ETF options contract open interest through the first half of 2023 — that’s greater than 45% of all ETF options open interest on an estimated notional basis.5
  • On a transactional basis, SPY’s average of 9 million contracts traded per day through the first half of 2023 represented greater than 50% of all ETF options trading.6

Fungibility with Futures

  • SPY is a significant bridge between futures and cash markets.
  • Given the availability of liquid futures contracts tracking the S&P 500® Index, an investor can hold SPY and sell an S&P 500® futures contract as a market neutral arbitrage strategy.
  • From a securities lending perspective, this natural hedge provides an incentive for banks to carry SPY shares — ultimately making them easily accessible to borrow within the institutional trading community.

Potential Yield from Lending SPY?

When evaluating the potential yield generated from securities lending, we can look at the volume-weighted average fee (VWAF) and the utilization rate percentage:

  • The VWAF represents the average fee charged by a lender to a counterpart expressed in annualized terms.
  • The utilization rate is the shares on-loan as a percentage of shares made available for loan.

To demonstrate the potential return on shares made available, we can multiply the VWAF by the utilization rate to determine the historical return on lendable assets:

Ticker Fund Name Trailing 1-Year Average
VWAF bps Utilization Rate % Gross Return on Lendable Assets (bps)
SPY SPDR S&P 500 ETF 12 41% 5.1
IVV iShares Core S&P 500 ETF 10 2% 0.2
VOO Vanguard S&P 500 ETF 10 6% 0.7 

Source: Markit IHS as of September 13, 2023; Estimates are for illustrative purposes only and do not include additional return factors such as agency lending fees, reinvestment rates, or other considerations. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Relative to its peers,7 SPY’s historical return on lendable assets reflects how the fund’s broader user base supports consistent demand. And, it underscores how vital it is for institutional investors to look beyond a fund’s expense ratio to consider factors like securities lending potential and transaction costs when selecting the right S&P 500® ETF.

Connect with the SPDR Sales Execution and Institutional Strategy (SEI) Team

Through strong relationships with authorized participants, market makers, liquidity providers, execution trading desks/platforms, and stock exchanges, the SPDR SEI team plays an active role in supporting competitive markets and maintaining the SPDR ETF liquidity ecosystem.

The team’s insight into primary and secondary market activity — as well as access to numerous proprietary pre-trade liquidity analytics tools — can help you to evaluate execution strategies and meet your objectives, even in uncertain markets.

Connect with them to learn more about the lending potential of SPY or to request the team’s help.


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