ETFs, Investments

Asset scrutiny critical to sound ETF selection

ETF assets

Understanding the underlying assets of an ETF is important to allow investors to properly assess the offering in question.

A global wealth manager has emphasised the need for individuals to properly scrutinise the exchange-traded fund (ETF) in which they are looking to invest, paying particular attention to the underlying assets involved in the offering.

Speaking at the recent Australian Shareholders’ Association 2023 Investor Conference in Sydney, Vanguard Australia senior portfolio manager Li-Hsia Yap told delegates: “Think about the exposure of that ETF. With many ETFs that cover a variety of asset classes or sectors or alternative strategies, it’s important to know not all ETFs are equal.

“Some of these types of ETFs [hold] very few securities or may invest in higher-risk synthetic investments like derivatives or swaps, or they’re highly volatile.

“So it’s important to understand what assets the ETF holds and the types of exposure and its associated risk that may arise as a result.”

She pointed out the organisation offering and managing the fund is another important element investors should take into account when considering an ETF allocation.

“A reputable ETF issuer with a disciplined portfolio management approach, as well as the scale to have risk, research and investment teams, are more likely to produce long-term returns that are true to label,” she noted.

“Importantly, when selecting ETFs, understand each issuer’s investment policy and what objectives they prioritise in offering products and make sure those philosophies align with yours.”

According to Yap, investors should also be aware of the transaction costs involved – a characteristic that again will indicate the strength of an ETF.

“One of those is the average bid/ask spread, which is measured by the difference between the highest price a buyer is willing to pay for an ETF and the lowest price a seller is willing to accept in the market,” she noted.

“Having a tight bid/ask spread is a measure of liquidity in the market, as well as a sign of a healthy and well-supported ETF.”


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