How many warnings did buyers of XIV, the volatility-linked exchange-traded note (ETN) note that went bust last week get? A lot.
First there was the prospectus itself, which spelled out wipe-out risk fairly clearly. Then, there were multiple articles from multiple financial news and analysis outlets, myself included.
There were also tweets!
Just pray the VIX curve never inverts… https://t.co/2UopBoLKyE
— Tracy Alloway (@tracyalloway) March 20, 2017
Like, lots of them!
— Tracy Alloway (@tracyalloway) January 28, 2018
This tweet was from Jan. 31st — about five days before the actual blow-up! The only response I got to this at the time was from a guy complaining that he couldn’t see the x-axis so the chart was meaningless. That wasn’t the point! And if you don’t understand what a change in the shape of the VIX futures curve might mean for volatility-linked products, you probably shouldn’t be trading them!
— Tracy Alloway (@tracyalloway) January 31, 2018
I tried to some up just how telegraphed this was in a short note for our markets morning newsletter, which you can sign up for (for free) here.
I don’t mean this to sound callous to those who lost their shirts on this product, but neither do I want this to be spun as a failure on the part of forecasters and journalists etc. This was a well-telegraphed event that people saw a mile coming. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t failure somewhere. The fact that some retail investors seem to have been taken completely by surprise in the recent turn of events suggests they probably shouldn’t have been in these products in the first place. Whether that’s a failure on the part of the regulator, the ETN-issuer, the brokerages that enabled trading in the products, or some other party, I leave that to others to decide.