How Horizons' new CEO plans to maintain momentum in ETF innovation

From 'information excitement' to empowering leadership, Rohit Mehta reveals vision of virtuous growth

How Horizons' new CEO plans to maintain momentum in ETF innovation

It’s been less than two months since Rohit Mehta became CEO at Horizons ETFs, but his familiarity with the firm stretches back further than that.

“I've known Horizons as a firm for years. … We have a really strong group of people here,” says Mehta, whose over two-decade career in the Canadian asset management space includes roughly 15 years in various leadership roles. Most recently, he was SVP, Head of Distribution, Guardian Retail Asset Management for Guardian Capital LP.

Horizons ETFs is the fourth-largest provider in the Canadian ETF space, with $26 billion in assets under management. It’s also part of a larger global investment powerhouse, Mirae Asset, which holds approximately US$710 billion of AUM across 13 countries including the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

‘Information excitement’

In the weeks since he took the helm, Mehta has sat down and met with people across the Mirae network. He’s participated in sales conferences and travelled to South Korea, where the head office of Mirae Asset is located. And though he’s taken in a torrent of information in a short amount of time, he’s not daunted by it in the least.

“I’d say it’s less of an information overload, and more like information excitement,” Mehta says. “We’ve been able to validate many ideas and learn new things from those conversations, which will allow us to really do more for Canadian investors.”

To encourage those discussions, Mehta is adopting a philosophy of empowered leadership. A self-described optimist by nature, he plans to keep Horizons’ product development dynamo whirring by encouraging a transparent, collaborative environment, where teams are inspired to work toward common goals.

“That’s how I’ve always worked as a leader, and I’m aiming to support and achieve that through regular communication,” he says. “Whether it’s through open forums like town halls or participating in sales conferences like recently … it’s all about making sure we have a shared vision of where we’re going, and we’re aware of how everybody is contributing to that vision.

“I want people to be able to make decisions. It’s about empowerment and accountability … but that should be wrapped with having fun,” Mehta adds. “We spend so much time working, and I think we need to have a fun environment in order to have inspired and empowered teams.”

A change in leadership is a major transition for any organization, but that hasn’t slowed things down at Horizons. As Mehta explains, the firm is building up a suite of new products within 60 days of his joining; those are anticipated to launch in July.

A virtuous growth cycle

Looking at industry trends, Mehta says the demand for income among Canadians has remained front and centre. Horizons has by no means been deaf to that screaming need; most recently, it bolstered its shelf of income-oriented products by launching the first Treasury bill ETFs in Canada. Listed as CBIL and UBIL.U on the TSX, they offer exposure to Canadian and U.S. 0-3 Month T-Bills, respectively, and have accumulated over $500 million between them in just two months of trading.

“We want to take broader ownership of the investor continuum … it’s about giving people the ability to get different exposures to asset classes and sectors based on their views,” Mehta says. “We’re really growing out our suite for larger asset categories that Canadians are invested in.”

Based on Canadian ETF flow figures from National Bank, Horizons has displayed remarkable strength so far in 2023. From both an absolute and percentage-of-AUM perspective, the firm has taken in the biggest inflows among Canada’s four largest ETF providers as at May 31, 2023.

Amid a dynamic of cross-pollinating ideas within Mirae’s global enterprise, Mehta says Canada continues to be recognized as a seedbed of ETF innovation, with many developments by the Canadian ETF industry being exported across the world. With all its global partners, he expects Horizons will keep benefiting from that virtuous exchange of intellectual resources for the foreseeable future.

“We believe the overall ETF industry is going to continue to grow, and we want to increase our market share as we expand our business,” Mehta says. “We foresee significant growth in terms of our asset base over the next five years.”