Should I Invest In Mutual Funds or ETF’s?

It’s an age long debate as to which is considered to be better in terms of an Investment Avenue. While both happen to be reasonably good options, due to its inherent nature, a lot of times ETF’s and Mutual Funds can be used interchangeably. In reality however, it is important that these asset classes have their own nuances that make them inherently different. In our innaugral post at Finvert, we will break down how these two securities are different and what are the things an investor should consider whilst investing in any one of the two.

What are ETF’s (Exchange Traded Funds)?

As the name suggests, an ETF tracks a particular index and allows the investor to buy the entire index as it were a stock. An ETF is therefore listed on an exchange and requires a Demat account for buying and selling of the fund. This lead to the name, ‘Exchange traded fund’. Due to this, ETF returns do not significantly vary from the overall market performance. ETF’s makes an ideal investment opportunity for Investors looking to beat inflation and expecting standard market performance based on historical data. The main attraction of an ETF is an overall lower turnover and expense ratio. These factors have contributed to high popularity enjoyed by ETF’s in the U.S. but not so much in India. The size of ETF’s in India seems poultry when compared to the AUM (Asset Under Management) of the countless mutual funds on offer in the market right now.

What are Mutual Funds?

Mutual Funds are a collection of a pool of money from different investors creating a fund which is actively/passively managed by a fund manager whose primary aim is to beat the returns offered by the stock market. Mutual funds can invest in various securities including stocks, commodities or bonds. A fund manager routinely changes the asset composition multiple times in a year so as to get the desired returns. This means higher turnover and hence, high expense ratio. Price is calculated daily at the end of the day based on fund performance. The entire money invested is then converted into units and sold for money.

Mutual funds have burgeoned in terms of popularity in India due to the fantastic returns offered by the same in the past few years. Here we have taken some of the high performing ETF’s and Mutual funds of well-known fund houses and analysed the fund on various factors which include its returns, the expense ratio, percentage of stocks that are overlapping, etc. For a more like-to-like comparison, an ETF and a large-cap mutual fund is selected from the same fund house. Likewise, five ETF’s and five mutual funds are selected for the purpose. The returns calculated are rolling returns and also states the expected amount return when 10,000 are invested in the said scheme. 

Comparing a year’s return between securities is too short a term to perform a comparison. A three or a five year term is enough time to perform a comparison. Looking at the table, the most important distinction between the two is expense ratio. Where mutual funds generally charge anywhere around 1.75-2.5%, ETF’s get away with 0.05-0.15% as commission charged due to its passive nature. Add to that the turnover ratio (number of times stocks are bought and sold) of a mutual fund is high which also increases the overall expenses of the mutual fund. Things become interesting when tax comes to picture. Essentially, mutual funds are taxed yearly whereas capital gain tax on ETF’s can only be taxed when they are sold.

Overlapping of stocks in the security portfolio is another interesting thing between an ETF and a mutual fund. For eg., ICICI Prudential Nifty ETF and ICICI Bluechip fund direct growth have 74% of the stocks in their kitty that are similar. So ideally the returns for the same should match to a certain extent and that is very much the case for a 3 year period. But the mutual fund at 15.77% still manages to outperform ETF at 12.91% in the long term five year period. Another

The most important purpose of any investment is the returns generated and this is where mutual funds outperform ETF’s most of the time. The return is high but when factors such as expense ratio, stock turnover and tax come to picture, both the securities seem to offer similar returns. In some cases, ETF’s actually outperform mutual funds which question the whole idea of alpha generation in mutual funds in the first place.

While all this may look like a good picture for ETF’s, the reality is that ETF’s fail miserably in one important factor for any investor viz. which is liquidity. While mutual funds have grown to be very popular in India, ETF’s are very new and minuscule in comparison. So whilst the buying aspect may not be a problem, selling an ETF might be. So the investor needs to be cautious of this fact beforehand. But this being the stock market, no word is absolute and so both the options are to be considered by the investor while looking for an asset class to invest in.

This is not to be considered financial advice in any manner. Do your research before investing in any of the mentioned assets. Our work is limited to educating our readers regarding the same.

Kartik Tripathi
Forerunner- Finvert
(M.Sc. Finance, NMIMS – Mumbai 2018-20)
Ashish Tekwani
Forerunner- Finvert
(M.Sc. Finance, NMIMS – Mumbai 2018-20)
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