Change Is Never Easy: New Global X CEO

Ryan O’Connor takes over amid concerns about executive turnover.

Jeff_Benjamin
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Wealth Management Editor
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Reviewed by: etf.com Staff
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Edited by: James Rubin

Ryan O’ConnorEleven days into his tenure as the chief executive officer of Global X ETFs, Ryan O’Connor is more focused on the future of the $47 billion asset management firm than the recent past, which includes a raft of executive-level departures since November.

For example, he cites the $3.1 billion worth of net flows this year that have already surpassed the $2.3 billion worth of net flows for all of last year as evidence of a receptive market.

But O’Connor, 40, who joined Global X from Goldman Sachs Asset Management, acknowledges that the direction of the company now will factor in some of its missteps before he arrived.

“Change is never easy, but I really see it as a natural evolution of the platform,” O’Connor told etf.com during his first media interview since joining Global X.

That change, which unfolded prior to the announced hiring of O’Connor in late February includes departures by Chief Investment Officer Jon Maier, head of finance Ronnie Riven, chief executive Luis Berruga, Chief Operating Officer John Belanger, head of human resource Crystal Christy and Bruno Stein, who led a small operation in Brazil.

The departures were a blend of voluntary and involuntary, and in some cases may have been tied to management shortcomings from basic things, including a stagnant model portfolio business and more than a dozen ETFs launched over the past few years that failed to reach the $10 million mark.

In January, Global X closed 19 ETFs, cutting its total lineup to 91. The closed funds included an eclectic mix of strategies focused on China, Pakistan, healthcare, real estate and cannabis.

Global X also pulled its filing for a spot bitcoin ETF, potentially missing out of inflows that have poured into that category since the ETFs were approved in January. 

“A lot of times when the people who are entrepreneurial cash out and leave, the company is just not the same,” said Bloomberg Intelligence ETF Analyst Eric Balchunas referring to the 2018 acquisition of Global X by Korean global financial conglomerate Mirae Asset Global Investments.

One of Mirae’s first moves as owner of what was then a $10.2 billion ETF shop was to install Berruga as CEO. The investment looked like a homerun by 2021 when the appeal of thematic strategies brought in $21 billion, doubling the size of Global X.

But Berruga was fired in November 2023 and Thomas Park, co-CEO of Mirae’s U.S. business, was installed as Global X’s interim CEO.

Mirae responded to a request for comment with the following emailed statement, “We have seen significant momentum and innovation coming out of Global X. In order to maintain that momentum and take the brand to the next level, we made a decision to refocus the company's strategic direction. Given his significant ETF experience and insights, Ryan is playing a key role in that evolution.”

Asked if Global X is now hiring, against that backdrop, O’Connor emphatically replied, “Yes, yes, yes.”

The New York-based ETF issuer has already filled at least one of the openings with Eric Olsen, who joins from SEI Investments and starts work on April 23 as chief financial officer, treasurer and principal of accounting officer.

“I am very interested in making sure that Global X and what has made Global X since its founding, continues to be Global X,” O’Connor said. “I’m talking about things like authentic culture filled with people who deliver on highly innovative investment themes and ideas.”

O’Connor, who was global head of product development and management at Goldman Sachs and spent a decade at State Street Global Advisors, where he worked on model portfolios, relishes the fact that “this is the first time I’ve worked for an ETF-only shop.”

 “Everything we have going on here I’m really excited about, and I feel the energy,” he said, adding that the string of open positions “allows us to elevate many of the folks that have been here and are ready for leadership roles, and it’s exciting because where we need to, we’re going to inject some talent from the outside.”

Measured by both assets and inflows, Global X ranks as a top 15 ETF issuer, which is worth building on, according to Nate Geraci, founder of The ETF Store, in Overland Park, Kans.

“The recent string of departures is perplexing, and the most logical conclusion is that Mirae is looking to shake things up for whatever reason; but from the outside looking in, it doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “Global X still has a tremendous opportunity to leverage their brand and thematic expertise moving forward, but this C-suite exodus will raise some questions in the shorter-term.”

Across its current lineup, Global X has 13 funds with more than $1 billion led by the $8 billion Global X Nasdaq 100 Covered Call ETF (QYLD), the $7.3 billion Global X U.S. Infrastructure Development ETF (PAVE) and the $3.1 billion Global X Uranium ETF (URA).

Rohan Reddy, Global X director of research who joined in 2015 when the assets were at $3 billion, has seen the evolution from what he says felt like a start-up to a more diverse operation of more than 150 employees.

Reddy said Mirae, which has $600 billion in global assets, including $120 billion in ETF assets, has always given Global X autonomy.

“The reason they acquired us is they were looking for a good opportunity to enter the U.S. asset management space,” he said. “They were not well known at the time for U.S. operations, and they wanted to get in through a firm like Global X, and they wanted us to continue driving the agenda for growth.”

In addition to Global X, Mirae has ETF businesses in India, Vietnam, South Korea, Canada and Australia, and all indications are that Mirae is still determined to take a hands-off approach to Global X.

Scott Helfstein, head of investment strategy who joined Global X two years ago, also sees the opportunities in front of the company.

“The garage band phase is over, and we’re now a major player in the ETF space,” he said. “It’s sad when you see people move on for all sorts of reasons, but in a reorganization, oftentimes, leaders will reevaluate what they have.”

Jeff Benjamin is the wealth management editor at etf.com, responsible for coverage related to the financial planning industry. This includes writing, hosting podcasts, webinars, video interviews and presenting at in-person events.


Jeff is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years’ experience covering the financial markets. He has won more than two dozen national and regional awards for his reporting. He most recently worked as a senior columnist at InvestmentNews where he wrote about investment products and strategies, as well as the broader financial planning industry. Prior to that, Jeff worked as an analyst at Cerulli Associates where he researched and wrote reports on the alternative investments industry. Jeff also worked as a money management reporter at Dow Jones Newswires, where he covered the mutual fund industry.


Based in North Carolina, Jeff is a former Marine and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.