An ETF is an investment fund that is traded on a stock exchange, similar to how shares are traded on a stock exchange. It is a portfolio of stocks usually tracking an index. ETFs are passive, aiming to replicate the performance of an index of a specific asset class. This means that if the index goes up then the ETF will go up, conversely if the index falls the ETF will also follow it down.
Passive and active investments are two different investment approaches. Put simply, passive investment involves tracking an index or benchmark (i.e. the ASX200) and replicating its returns and yield. These investments are generally simple and inexpensive –they sometimes get called “set and forget” strategies. If a fund manager has an active investment strategy, they use their skill and knowledge to ‘beat’ the market and earn excess returns for their clients. Although active investing may sound simple – its incredibly complex and hard to achieve, and can be relatively expensive.
A traditional managed fund often has minimum investment requirements that an ETF does not have. ETFs usually have lower fees as passive investing strategies rely less on the skill and experience of the managers than active investing strategies. This makes them a cost effective way to diversify your portfolio and gain access to markets that traditionally tend to be more difficult to invest in.
They provide access to a range of asset classes and investment strategies that non-institutional investors may not ordinarily have access to, for example international equities, fixed income securities and currency markets. By investing in an ETF you can achieve a level of diversification that would normally be too difficult to realise investing in each asset individually. ETFs also have no minimum investment requirements which makes them more accessible.
EQMFs are similar to actively managed ETFs. Instead of using a passive investment strategy mimicking an index or other benchmark, EQMFs have a fund manager who makes active decisions about what to invest in. EQMFs aim to beat the benchmark or index whereas ETFs aim to follow the benchmark or index as closely as possible. Whilst EQMFs will try to avoid falls in the benchmark, ETFs will go down when their benchmarks fall. As a result of an active investing strategy, EQMFs will have higher fees to pay for the skill and experience of the fund manager.
EQMFs and ETFs share similarities in that they are both listed on the exchange and investments in them are made through purchasing units via a broker.
When you invest in an ETF you are essentially investing in a portfolio of many different assets. ETFs are passively managed by a portfolio manager and investment team to follow a specified index. To invest in an ETF you will need to buy some units using your broker. You will also pay a management fee which is usually included in the unit price and in return for investing in the ETF you will receive distributions of the ETF’s net income.
You can invest in an ETF the same way you invest in an ordinary share, through your preferred broker. Live, continuous pricing means that you can choose what price you invest in the ETF.