We are excited to feature Dave LaValle, Grayscale’s newly announced Global Head of ETFs, in our next edition of “5 Questions With…”.
Q: Welcome to the Grayscale team! To start, can you walk us through the highlights of your professional career that led you to this moment, as Grayscale’s new Senior Managing Director, Global Head of ETFs?
A: Uniquely, I have spent time in each of the key pillars of the ETF ecosystem. I started my career on the floors of the New York and American Stock Exchanges trading a broad range of investment products including equities, closed end funds, listed derivatives and structured products. I was a partner at Kellogg Group, the largest ETF market maker and firm on the floor of the American Stock Exchange when it was acquired by the New York Stock Exchange in 2008.
In 2010, we sold our firm to Knight Trading, which coincided with me being recruited to build and lead Nasdaq’s ETF listing and trading business. During my Nasdaq tenure, we grew our ETF business nearly 40%, and this is where I was first introduced to Bitcoin and the prospect of listing a Bitcoin ETF.
From there, I joined State Street’s SPDR ETF business as Head of ETF Capital Markets supporting the largest and most actively traded ETFs in the world including SPY, GLD and the suite of Select Sector SPDR ETFs. My time at State Street culminated in being recruited to be the CEO of Alerian and S-Network Global Indexes, where I was successfully building a global indexing business when I received the phone call from Michael to join Grayscale.
Q: How did you “get into” crypto? What piqued your interest in the asset class?
A: I was first introduced to crypto while at Nasdaq during the earliest iterations of working to find a path to launch a physically-backed Bitcoin ETF. The transformative nature of Bitcoin as a concept felt very much like the onset of the internet in the late 1990s. A concept that was, at the time, novel, unique, not well understood and a bit mysterious. It caught my curiosity and fostered the opportunity for me to learn more and remain tuned in to Bitcoin’s development and evolution.
Q: Keeping this next question simple: why Grayscale?
A: Keeping the answer quite simple: Grayscale is the largest crypto asset manager in the world with the goal of developing a world-class ETF business. Having the opportunity to leverage my experience and the Grayscale brand to build a business was an opportunity and challenge that I couldn’t pass up.
Q: How do you think about ETFs, broadly, and the opportunity that Grayscale has to leverage existing market structures to create the future of digital currency listed ETFs?
A: I view ETFs as a disruptive financial technology. Despite the massive growth of passive investing, which has fueled the proliferation of ETFs, in both number of products and assets, I am confident that we are still in the early innings of their life cycle. I equate where we may be today with the arrival of smartphones, when consumers were excited to have a phone and music on one device – at that time, this was revolutionary, not to mention that there was no concept of GPS-enabled technologies or other transformative use cases like Uber or Waze, which have since been developed.
Similarly, with ETFs, we have not yet explored all the possible use cases for the investment wrapper, nor has the product been broadly adopted by all investors. The relatively recent adoption of fixed-income ETFs by global banks as liquidity tools and by the US government — buying ETFs to support the market during the early onset of COVID — are two good examples of the products’ expansion; currently, there is no better example of the ETF products’ potential expansion than the opportunity to create and launch physically-backed crypto ETFs.
Q: What is something you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
A: Starting my career on the stock exchange floors, I was forced to learn from those around me as there was no book to read to learn the craft. My first piece of advice was: “kid, learn your fractions and learn your hand signals — it’s the fastest way to talk down here.” To this day, I am thankful for that tidbit of advice.
I was fortunate to have been taken under the wing by some really exceptional people and truly valued their time and perspective. Throughout my career, I have constantly looked for opportunities to support and mentor others — not only sharing my perspective but also explaining its value. In that light, I have always prioritized learning who people are as opposed to what they do. This has allowed me to build long-lasting relationships that I have carried throughout my career. In the process, I feel immensely fortunate to have met some truly exceptional people that I am glad to call my friends.