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From stocks to ETFs: explaining retail investors' migration behavior

Marco Meier (University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany)
Christian Maier (University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 6 December 2022




Evidence suggests that retail investors who invest in individual stocks are, in the long run, largely outperformed by market indexes such as the MSCI World. While some turn to exchange traded funds (ETFs) to invest in such market indexes, few migrate completely to ETFs. This study aims to shed light on the rationale behind retail investors' partial and complete migration from stocks to ETFs.


Drawing from the pull-push-mooring framework, a qualitative study (N = 21) informs a quantitative study (N = 282) by following established mixed methods guidelines. This study develops propositions for partial and complete migration intention to ETFs.


Results reveal that perceived investment possibilities, perceived risk reduction, perceived administrative effort, perceived expensiveness and monetary loss costs influence the migration from stocks to ETFs. This study shows that three configurations of perceptions result in partial migration intention and one configuration results in complete migration intention.


This study explains why some migrate partially from stocks to ETFs and others migrate completely. Findings show that both migration behaviors are subject to the same perceptions, but the configurations that form the behaviors are different. While only some identified perceptions must be present for a partial migration, all of them must be present for a complete migration, as it requires retail investors to sell their stocks and accept the costs incurred to invest in ETFs instead.



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS) in August 2021 (Meier and Maier, 2021). We would like to thank the Track Chairs Andreas Eckhardt, Hamed Qahri-Saremi and Jean-Gregoire Bernard for their organization of the SIG-ADIT Track at AMCIS 2021 and the fast-track opportunity. We would also like to thank the review team for their valuable input and the Editor in Chief of Internet Research Christy M. K. Cheung for organizing the review process.

Funding: This study has been funded by the German Research Foundation (437092197).


Meier, M. and Maier, C. (2022), "From stocks to ETFs: explaining retail investors' migration behavior", Internet Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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