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Index trackers: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Commentators often describe index trackers as plain and simple vanilla funds, benign enough for even the most inexperienced retail investors. But in reality, the investing industry is a hothouse of evolution, continually breeding products that pass themselves off as cuddly trackers, but which can conceal retractable claws.

The following product types may all be classed as index trackers, although I only use the term to describe index funds and ETFs in my Monevator articles.

These other varieties are weighed down with features and risks that need to be properly understood before you dive in.

A not very scientific index tracker meter

Index funds

The most straightforward tracker type of all, low-cost index funds should be first choice for inclusion in your passive portfolio. Index funds:

  • Generally invest in a diversified range of equities or bonds.
  • Physically own the assets of the indices they track – though the fund may only own a sample of the index.
  • Are open-ended so their price closely matches the underlying index.
  • Trade once a day.

Physical ETFs

Physical Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are very similar to index funds except that:

  • They’re traded on the stock exchange, through brokers.
  • You can buy and sell ’em throughout the day like shares.
  • They incur trading costs, so are more suitable for larger investment sums.
  • Huge product diversity lets you fine tune your portfolio.

Synthetic ETFs

Synthetic ETFs are riskier and trickier than physical ETFs. They should only be used if you fully understand the differences between the two.

Synthetics trade like physical ETFs, except:

  • They don’t actually own the assets of the indices they track.
  • Instead, they buy a total return swap. That’s an agreement with another financial entity to pay the ETF the return of the index.
  • European regulations limit the exposure to 10% of the ETF’s net asset value.
  • Collateral should cushion the ETF from counterparty disaster.

Investment Trust trackers

There aren’t many of these beasties about. They’re quite similar to physical ETFs in that they’re:

  • Listed on the Stock Exchange.
  • Bought through brokers.
  • Traded in real-time.

The additional complication with Investment Trusts is that they are closed-ended funds. They have a fixed amount of shares in circulation, so the trust’s price at any moment reflects supply and demand for the fund itself, as well as for the underlying index. Investment Trusts can therefore trade at wide discounts to their net asset value and sometimes a slight premium. You can lose or gain on an investment trust as the discount fluctuates, even if the index remains absolutely flat.

ETCs – commodity or currency tracking

Exchange Traded Commodities (ETCs) can track everything from gold to leveraged lean hogs but they’re not as straightforward as their ETF namesakes:

  • Only a few precious/industrial metal ETCs can afford to physically hold commodities, which enables them to track the current (spot) price.
  • Most ETCs track their commodity’s futures market. Returns on futures differ from returns on spot prices.
  • Some ETCs track single commodities, others a broad basket.
  • ETCs are structured as debt instruments to avoid UCITS rules on diversification.
  • Investors are exposed to counterparty risk (up to 100%).
  • You don’t get dividends.

Exchange Traded Currencies are similarly structured and track the foreign exchange fluctuations of pairs of currencies.

ETNs and Certificates

Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs) and Certificates are cheap and potentially nasty. There are many variations on the theme, but basically they track an index, are tradeable on the Stock Exchange, and:

  • They’re debt instruments issued by a single party (normally a bank).
  • The bank agrees to pay the return of the index on the product’s maturity date.
  • The underlying assets are not physically owned.
  • If the bank goes kaput you’re in trouble.
  • Counterparty risk exposure is up to 100%.
  • They’re a low cost way to enter hard-to-access markets.

Structured products

There’s a whole soup of structured products out there that are labelled as trackers. Normally they’ll follow an index of some sort and lure investors with alchemical promises of outsized returns and capital protection.

Broadly:

  • They’re close ended.
  • Have a finite lifespan.
  • Capital protection is only offered if you hold for the full lifespan of the product.
  • The return is provided by derivatives.
  • It’s counterparty risk time again.
  • You give up your dividends.
  • You’ll scratch off your scalp trying to fathom how they work.
  • There’s no free lunch!

What you track matters mightily

Just because you’ve invested in the kind of fund you’d happily take home to meet your mother – a traditional index fund or physically-replicating ETF tracker – that doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily bought a vanilla fund in terms of the exposure you’ve taken on.

I’ve described the different tracker type vehicles – but I haven’t got into the passengers in the vehicle, or where you hope it’s going.

An index fund may seek to track a mainstream index like the FTSE 100 index of the UK’s largest companies, the S&P 500 in the US, or the entire global stock market.

But innumerable funds are available that seek to track all sorts of other weird and wonderful indices (and yes, “weird and wonderful” may be considered a euphemism for “odd and unsuitable” for us passive investors).

I’m thinking about specialist indices creating in-house by fund managers to track niche sectors – companies involved in robotics or selling to teenagers or global arms, say.

These products might have their place for thrill (/loss…) a minute active investing sorts, but they have nothing to offer us sober passive investors.

You might also come across ETFs that aim to, for example, double the daily upside or downside of the index being tracked. Again, back away slowly.

More respectable from our perspective are funds that track indices dedicated to winkling out the potential return premiums from certain cohorts of shares (sometimes called Smart Beta funds) that focus on value, profitability, and similar factors, where you might hope to boost your annual returns by a percentage point or two over the long-term.

But such funds have extra risks and other downsides, too, so make sure you do your research.

Just remember the type of index tracker you plump for is one thing – but the index being tracked is a separate matter.

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

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{ 46 comments… add one }
  • 1 Alex July 26, 2011, 4:31 pm

    I’ve yet to hear/read any compelling reasons why a UK passive investor should use an investment trust tracker on the very few indices for which they are available. Have you?

  • 2 Alan July 27, 2011, 7:39 am

    Thanks for a very useful article. I have made the decision that the passive investing part of my portfolio will mainly consist of index funds. They are, as you have said, safer, easier to understand, and do not require frequent checking: you could check how they are doing once every few months; and if you find that the tracker hasn’t really gone anywhere, you could console yourself with the received wisdom that over long term index will beat individual stocks.

    I have also decided that I won’t bother with ETCs that track commodity future markets.

  • 3 Ben July 27, 2011, 4:44 pm

    I’m not wholly convinced of the added value of an ISA where you are investing in accumulation units as you would have no (immediate) tax liability anyway. Just a potential capital gains issue down the line.

    Very happy to be told I’m wrong on this

  • 4 The Investor July 27, 2011, 9:37 pm

    @Ben – I would always invest in an ISA… I wouldn’t use the word ‘just’ when describing capital gains, and I speak as someone who has paid such taxes! 😉 Little is more annoying after putting your money at risk than giving a chunk of it back again when you do well.

    The ISA allowance as you know is a ‘use it or lose it’ allowance. If you’re a serious investor looking to build up a sensible sum for the long-term, then it’s easy enough to be in a situation where you end up with plenty of money outside of ISAs and you’ll rue your decision not to spend a paltry £25 or whatever it costs you to invest via an ISA.

    They are even good just in terms of the paperwork they can save you.

    It’s a complete false economy not to use your full ISA allowance – it’s a super valuable tax break that a sophisticated investor like a hedge fund would kill to have. I would happily pay a surcharge of £100s of pounds for each year of backdated allowance that I missed from PEPs and the first ISA years when I made a similar mistake.

    Yes, if you invest £50 a month you may never need it. Yes, you can do a lot to manage capital gains tax until the sums get well into six figures. But honestly, why bother? Just invest in an ISA and enjoy a far better investing life.

  • 5 Dave July 29, 2011, 10:07 am

    Hey There

    Tried emailing you guys but on a super slow connection here. Just wanted to request that you share a bit of wisdom with us about the different types of bonds and their uses in a portfolio. I’ve been looking for a decent summary all over to check if my allocation between index linked, and conventional – short, medium and long makes sense, but haven’t found one.

    Thanks for all the great updates and information; this site is great! Your efforts are much appreciated!

    Dave

  • 6 The Accumulator August 2, 2011, 9:08 pm

    @ Alex – no I haven’t. There’s the additional complication of the discount/premium and you can buy cheaper index funds.

    @ Dave – The Investor passed on your email to me. Will look into that in the future.

  • 7 The Accumulator August 3, 2011, 8:23 pm

    @ Ben – You pay income tax on dividends fed into accumulation funds in exactly the same way as you would with income units. If you’re a basic rate payer then no problem, the divis are paid net of tax but if you’re a higher rate payer – and not covered by an ISA or SIPP – then you have to pony up the extra.
    When it comes to capital gains, you can deduct your dividend income from any gain you’ve made and reduce your liability.
    Of course, it’s a fiddly record-keeping mare well worth avoiding. Probably simpler to use income units outside of a tax shield.

  • 8 Humble Pie August 10, 2016, 8:04 am

    This is a timely refresher on the pros & cons of the various types of index tracker.
    I’ve just had an email from AJ Bell Youinvest informing me about a change to their charging structure for my SIPP. They are no longer implementing a cap on the cost of holding funds. This means my charges (excluding dealing fees) will go up from £300 to >£1000. I could swap all my mutual funds to ETFs which reduces cost to £100, or move to somewhere like Alliance Trust which has a fixed price. Decisions, decisions. Be interested to know what others would do…

  • 9 The Weasel August 10, 2016, 9:00 am

    Anybody else with AJ Bell Youinvest. Got an email yesterday saying they’ll be charging a custody charge of 0.25% on ETFs capped at £7.50 per quarter on an ISA…

    Sad days… Maybe time to change broker.

  • 10 Hariseldon August 10, 2016, 9:20 am

    @HumblePie a £1,000 fee for an ISA is a lot of money and I would move to a lower cost environment. Halifax Share Dealing are pretty low cost for ISA’s.

    I personally moved from funds to ETF’s some years ago, on the occasions when I have wanted to rebalance my choices the ETF’s allow me to buy and sell in just a few minutes minimising market price moves. Whilst changing funds can take a few days out of the market, with large holdings this can either be expensive or you get a lucky bonus but I try to avoid such unnecessary gambles.

  • 11 gadgetmind August 10, 2016, 11:01 am

    I also swapped to ETFs to ensure that our annual platform fees were capped. Despite using low TER ETFs, we’re paying several £k pa in fees for these so really don’t need another £k in platform fees too!

  • 12 helfordpirate August 10, 2016, 11:43 am

    I have also tended to favour ETFs over the last few years. Things that are mildly annoying to me about Index Funds as OEICs or UTs are:
    – forward pricing. Makes rebalancing more exposed – especially as ATS dont allow you to realise a £ sum only sell a number of units (at an unknown price).
    – outside of SIPP/ISA, funds have the added complication of equalisation to deal with to get the correct tax treatment of dividends and capital gains.
    – having to check whether there are initial charges and/or bid/offer spread. OEICS have no spread but often have a charge; UTs have a spread. Of course ETF also have a spread but it’s easy to see what it is.
    – fractional units are good and bad – I am never sure how many decimal places I need in a spreadsheet but at least they can represent any £ value. Some ETF e.g. ishare bond funds, have very high share prices making small transactions quite difficult.
    But all minor points…

  • 13 magneto August 10, 2016, 4:54 pm

    What is likeable about broad simple trackers, that The Accumlator begins the article with, is that these trackers for all intents and purposes are a direct reflection of the market(s).

    So any other investments made alongside the tracker(s), can be compared immediately with say VWRL (Global Stocks), to determine whether such investment deviations from the market are proving fruitful or not.
    VWRL is a terrific benchmark for this purpose!!!

    Surprised at some of the ongoing fees certain investors are paying.
    Presume this is a drawback of SIPPs?
    Simple ISA holding charges are zero or double figures at most!

  • 14 john August 10, 2016, 5:49 pm

    The main concern with the changes to AJ Bell fees is that it’s a slippery slope. I considered Barclays Stockbrokers for my first SIPP but they were charging £200 a year flat fee. I asked them what it was for and they said “research features” (!?!). Then I noticed that their address was “Barclays Stockbrokers SIPP, AJ Bell Management Limited, Trafford…”. They use AJ Bell!

  • 15 John B August 10, 2016, 7:57 pm

    I don’t think its unreasonable for a SIPP provider to charge £200 p/a for a pension, the bigger issue is that with 0.25% fee that’ corresponds to only £80k being managed. I’d resent that the index tracking company do all the hard work of juggling 100+ different holdings for 0.1%, then the broker takes 2.5 times as much just to look after your one fund.

    I can see why a SIPP costs more to administer than an ISA, but if A J Bell can cap at £30 for ISA funds, why can’t they do the same for SIPPs.

    The ETF/fund distinction seems artificial to me, as it doesn’t cost the broker more, so I can see the %age/flat fee approach to apply equally to both soon

  • 16 Chris E August 10, 2016, 8:28 pm

    Got to be careful when advocating the benefits of ETFs per your statement ‘You can buy and sell ’em throughout the day like shares’… It does depend on the platform you use. Take Fidelity UK for example, they will only trade at one dealing point per day which is circa 12:15 per their guidance.

  • 17 Mike August 10, 2016, 8:34 pm

    @The Accumulator – think the tax rules have changed now for dividend receipts in the UK and are taxable once they exceed £5k (irrespective whether you’re a basic rate tax payer or not).

  • 18 The Investor August 10, 2016, 8:46 pm

    @mike — Yes, that’s an old comment from 2011. I can never decide whether to delete all the old comments when we do an update or not. Sometimes helpful, but sometimes feels like throwing away some decent extra information and people’s time/effort.

    Anyway, remember to look out for the date on comments! 🙂

  • 19 Mike August 10, 2016, 9:04 pm

    Ah yes, should have spotted that. Anyway, keep up the good work you two, this is by far the best financial blog in the uk. Cheers Mike

  • 20 The Investor August 10, 2016, 10:42 pm

    Thanks Mike, much appreciated!

  • 21 magneto August 11, 2016, 10:08 am

    @Chris E
    “…. careful when advocating the benefits of ETFs …… Fidelity UK for example, they will only trade at one dealing point per day which is circa 12:15 per their guidance.”

    Is this peculiar to ETFs or shares in general?

    How would this impact on limit orders; which would ordinarily be triggered at any time of day, as and when price reached?

  • 22 John B August 11, 2016, 10:18 am

    @magneto Most ETFs are like shares, they have a variable price during market opening hours and can be bought any time during that window.

    Funds are generally priced at a single time, say noon, and each provider will accept trades up to a fixed time before that, with M&G I think if I agreed a deal before 11.30 am I’d get the noon price. It does seem to take longer buying funds through a broker though, sometimes 36 hours.

  • 23 The Investor August 11, 2016, 10:48 am

    Assuming this ETF trading once a day thing is accurate and not the confusion of two different things (funds with ETFs) then it must be a Fidelity UK thing.

    London-listed ETFs on all the brokers I use (multiple platforms) trade instantly throughout all the hours the Stock Exchange is open. I can buy at any time within a second or two, and immediately sell again if I want.

    That’s (arguably! 🙂 ) an advantage of ETFs.

  • 24 Gaz August 11, 2016, 12:23 pm

    Regarding holding Index Funds (specifically Vanguard Lifestrategy) outside of an ISA, should I be completing a self assessment tax form? I thought that by having less than 5k invested it wasn’t required? And because I don’t envisage any capital gains being over the 10k limit for a number of years, I didn’t bother going down the ISA route – was that a mistake?

  • 25 John B August 11, 2016, 1:16 pm

    at least 11 of the 14 they offer can be traded like other ETFs

    https://www.fidelity.com/etfs/sector-etfs

    Offer low costs and transparent pricing and holdings
    Can be bought or sold at any time during market hours
    Can provide greater diversification than owning an individual stock

  • 26 John B August 11, 2016, 1:19 pm

    Oops, that was the US. In the UK, it looks like Fidelity act as a broker, rather than offering their own ETFs (I did wonder, as I had to buy funds with them)

    https://www.fidelity.co.uk/investor/funds/etfs/exchange-traded-funds.page

    Dealing ETFs through Fidelity Personal Investing – We deal in ETFs on your behalf through a third-party broker on the London Stock Exchange. We do this by combining all of the deals placed through our fund supermarket and passing them to our third-party broker (JP Morgan) for trading once a day. Although ETFs are priced in real time on our fund supermarket, the price you actually get will be the price at the time of that daily trade.

    Fund dealing and cut-off time – ETFs are priced at 12:15pm and the cut off time is 11am.* It is also worth noting that for ETFs the actual price may vary as deals are traded on a stock exchange by an executing broker.

  • 27 The Investor August 11, 2016, 2:08 pm

    @Gaz — I am on the move and can’t go through all the tax ramifications right now (maybe another reader might be able to help) but in short, get everything into an ISA. There is no downside whatsoever, and there need not be any extra cost. There is only hassle with un-sheltered assets, sooner or later, even if only the potential for paperwork.

    Also, the ISA allowance is use-it-or-lose-it, and who knows when you might wish you’d used it.

  • 28 John B August 11, 2016, 2:30 pm

    @Gaz Only complete a tax return if asked or if you think you have something to pay. For shares this means if your dividends go over £5k (and you have already used up your £11k personal allowance, with a job, say). At 3.5% dividend, this is roughly £140k of shares. For CGT you need to fill in a return if your gain is over £11k, or if you dispose more than £44k of shares, gain or not.

    These numbers may seem so high not to affect you, but its still worth wrapping everything in ISAs now, in case things change. An inheritance, for example, may make you wish you’d sheltered everything else.

  • 29 PinchThePennies August 11, 2016, 4:13 pm

    @Gaz, post 24
    The self-assessment is linked to a number of conditions and dividend income is only one of them. Just in case you haven’t looked here’s the link to HMRC:

    https://www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns/who-must-send-a-tax-return

    Unless there’s a very, very good reason for not making use of a S&S ISA (not sure what this might be though) I would advise you to open a S&S ISA as soon as possible and get everything moved across.

    ISA’s are a legal way of not having to pay tax on Capital Gains and dividends you’re getting paid. I don’t mind paying taxes but I will try my hardest to minimise the amount I have to pay by any legal means available to me… hello ISA’s of any kind!

    Even if you currently ‘only’ have less than 5K invested – if you keep putting new money in each month/year and re-invest any dividends you receive the pot is going to grow. Maybe (very) slowly at first but after a while it does start picking up speed. Right now you could move all of your holdings into a S&S ISA this tax year (depending on how much money you have put into a cash ISA already) and be done with it forever! If you’re not moving it across then by the time you hit the current 10K limit on Capital Gains it may take you longer to get it moved into an ISA. Better not take this chance of it happening, methinks.

    You will have to sell and buy back all of your holdings but when I did it in February 2015 my broker told me that I had to pay only selling commission. I don’t remember whether I had to pay tax on the re-purchase or not.

    “Officially” you don’t even have to mention to HMRC that you have a S&S ISA or what you’re holding although I always found this to be a bit of a smoke screen because you have to give your National Insurance Number when you open a S&S ISA so HMRC knows anyway.

    Regards, Pinch

  • 30 Gaz August 11, 2016, 8:01 pm

    @TI, John, Pinch

    Many thanks for all your replies, I’ll make sure I set aside some time this weekend to move it into an S&S ISA – this year I’ve just been playing into my H2B ISA, so I’ll be able to move it in one go. I’ve fired off an email to Cavendish Online to see how’s best going about this.

    Thanks again!

  • 31 The Accumulator August 11, 2016, 9:14 pm

    the one dealing time for ETFs is a rare quirk shared by Fidelity and Cavendish Online (Fidelity provide brokerage services to Cavendish). I haven’t heard of any others that do it this way, though there may be one or two out there. If you use £1.50 regular investment services then you’ll also be subject to a single dealing time on a particular day of the month as the broker collates all trades and deals en masse to provide a discounted rate.

  • 32 Eddy August 12, 2016, 9:53 am

    Can someone explain what is the significance of the ETF currency? For example, IWDA and SWDA are both MSCI World tracker ETFs from iShares trading on the LSE. The only difference seems to be the currency, IWDA is in USD while SWDA is in GBP.

    It seems that the ETF currency means the actual currency that the ETF is bought and sold in? Meaning that if I buy IWDA I first need to convert GBP to USD? I naively assumed that shares on the LSE trade only in GBP, so I am confused…

  • 33 The Investor August 12, 2016, 12:28 pm

    @Eddy — This article on currency risk and ETFs should help:

    http://monevator.com/currency-risk-fund-denomination/

  • 34 The Accumulator August 12, 2016, 1:32 pm

    Hi Eddy, there’s no real difference. It’s a presentational ploy because UK investors generally prefer to deal in £. The reality is that both ETFs are operating in $ as do all World trackers. It’s just that one does all the £ – $ thinking for you. Look for the base currency of the ETF. That’s the currency the ETF really trades in. The reporting currency is just a nicety.

  • 35 Eddy August 12, 2016, 4:11 pm

    @TA Thanks for the answer. If I want to buy IWDA on the LSE I still need to convert GBP to USD right?

  • 36 PinchThePennies August 12, 2016, 6:26 pm

    @ Eddy, post 35,
    No, you should not have to do so but you need to be aware that your broker may charge you a foreign exchange rate charge on top of any other fees they charge.

    I would suggest asking their Customer Services team about how to proceed and which fees are going to be applied to your purchase and then making sure that you have (more than) enough money in the account to cover all of it.

    Send them the full details of what you want to buy (Name, Ticker, ISIN or SEDOL) so if anything goes wrong and a conversation gets going about whose fault it was then you’re covered as you supplied all information relating to the share in question.

    Regards, Pinch

  • 37 ivanopinion August 13, 2016, 1:23 pm

    It’s perhaps worth adding to the bullet points in the article another significant differentiator between funds and ETFs. Many platforms that have variable fees on funds either have a fixed annual fee for ETFs or a low cap, meaning that they can be WAY cheaper than for OEIC/UT funds.

    For instance, the fees on ETFs are lower than for funds with Fidelity, Barclays, TD Direct, Hargreaves, AJBell. In fact, if your portfolio is reasonably big, Hargreaves is pretty competitive for ETF/share/IT portfolios, as the fee is capped at £45 per year.

  • 38 Eddy August 14, 2016, 8:31 pm

    Thanks for the answers about currency denomination.

    Now if I may, I have a question about hedging. IWDA is the USD version of the iShares MSCI World ETF, and its underlying currency is also USD. IGWD is a version of the same fund that is hedged back to GBP. Its OCF is 0.35% higher than IWDA. Naively I would therefore expect that the performance of these two ETFs will correlate almost perfectly, except for a divergence of ~0.35% per year in favor of IWDA.

    When I compare their past performance on Google or Yahoo, I do indeed see very close correlation (as opposed to SWDA, which correlates much less well, because its performance includes the effects of the USD:GBP exchange rate as well). So I think I understood the basic idea correctly.

    However the yearly performance advantage to IWDA seems to be more like 2% than 0.35%. Presumably, this is because IGWD is paying for hedging instruments, but can the cost of hedging really be that high?

  • 39 john August 15, 2016, 8:51 am

    The fee for FX at most retail brokers (e.g. AJ Bell) is 1%!! That’s actually 2% given that you’ll have to sell it at some point. Given that the whole bid-ask spread on major FX is 1 bp this is outrageous. I refuse to pay this and only deal in GBP shares. As someone above said, it makes no difference if the ETF is taking your £ and making them $ on your behalf.

    Having done some research, I’ve decided it is not usually worth hedging FX for equities. The vol is not increased dramatically and importantly owning some $ historically reduces major drawdowns as the $ does well in a crisis.

  • 40 The Rhino August 19, 2016, 8:41 am

    hitting the tipping point with my hl sipp where ad valorem charges are no longer beneficial

    my sipp setup is a single vanguard LS fund, i drip in every month

    Now I see 2 options:

    1. Move SIPP over to iweb or similar, take the fixed fee and stump up per transaction

    2. Stick with HL, but sell up LS fund and buy a big slug of an ETF thereby capping fees at £200. Then continue drip feeding into LS fund, lather rinse repeat every few years..

    I was going to buy a single VWRL type ETF, but having read the various MV articles on witholding tax I am totally confused.

    Do I go Ireland or some other country, maybe US?

    Tax *always* has to be taxing

    My feeling is I should just by an Irish domiciled ETF and be done with it, but I’m hoping that someone maybe able to corroborate this.

    All that jazz about W8-BENs, pension treatys, non-reporting funds, witholding tax has totally done my head in

  • 41 John B August 19, 2016, 5:41 pm

    @Rhino

    I have the SIPP with HL, FTSE 100 (VUKE) and 250 (VMID) ETFs

    I have the ISAs with I-web, Fidelity and Blackrock funds for Europe/Emerging/Japen where I couldn’t see good ETF alternatives other than Vanguard

    I like having multiple brokers, multiple fund managers and multiple continents, as I don’t think they will all embezzle at once. I could get the same return with all Vanguard Global LS in I-web, but that’s trusting 2 companies too much.

  • 42 PinchThePennies August 20, 2016, 12:20 am

    @The Rhino, post 40
    So far I have held 3 Vanguard ETF’s (VUKE & VGOV in a Sharebuilder account between 2012 – 2015 and VHYL in my SIPP since June 2016) – all available to be bought on the LSE, at reduced commission with 2 different platforms, all UK reporting – even though VHYL tracks and invests globally. No forms of any kind to be filled in, no worries about pension treatys, no worries about withholding tax or suchlike – thanks to the regualr investing facility I could set it on complete autopilot if I wanted to and just check up on dividends and tax relief every now and then.

    I think there is an option 3 as well – stick with HL, don’t sell LS but put all future money into an ETF.

    I think which option to go for ultimately depends on why you bought the LS in the first place and whether the split (assuming you didn’t buy LS100) is important for you to maintain. You could try to recreate the split by purchasing single ETF’s but compared to LS this may turn out to be more time-consuming but maybe cheaper on charges. And then there’s the question of whether or not to rebalance – LS does it for you and is therefore more hands-off in this respect.

    Regards, Pinch

  • 43 The Rhino August 20, 2016, 10:58 am

    @PPP are you sure you are not paying out 15% withholding tax on dividends when you don’t have to by choosing an Irish rather than US domiciled on the US portion of your ETFs? This is where the US pension treaty is of interest I believe?

  • 44 PinchThePennies August 20, 2016, 4:09 pm

    @ The Rhino, post 43
    Not too sure about the withholding tax bit – maybe this is something to ask of Vanguard? Or maybe TI or TA can elaborate further?

    Having looked at my dividend note for June I can see that the amount paid in U$ had been exchanged into GBP – and it tallied up with the sum I had worked out myself – difference of £0.04.

    I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes and whether withholding tax had been taken into account already by the time Vanguard declared the dividend.

    In case you want to have a look yourself – the link takes you to the dividend announcement (Vanguard Fund, announced: 09/06/2016, RNS: 7766A)

    http://www.investegate.co.uk/vanguard-funds-plc/rns/dividend-payment/201606091437147766A/

    I am holding VHYL = Vanguard FTSE All-World High Dividend Yield UCITS ETF- ETF Shares (ISIN: IE00B8GKDB10) in the announcement.

    Exchange Rate as per dividend note – 0.736819
    No tax, no agent charges had been paid on either the U$ or the GBP side – at least according to the dividend note.

    Regards, Pinch

  • 45 Jumper August 25, 2016, 11:05 am

    @The Rhino

    I’m not a fan of changing an entire investment strategy simply to work around an irrational (driven by marketing dimwits!) fund platform charges framework.

    My suggestion would be to take the transfer fees hit and move your single Vanguard LS holding to a flat fee platform. There is much to be said for the simplicity of a single fund portfolio. If there is no ‘regular trading’ available, or if you don’t like the one that is available, you can still reduce your future trading charges to 1/3 of what they might be by trading each quarter rather than each month, with negligible effects on your long term results.

  • 46 puzzled September 3, 2016, 3:05 pm

    Was going to transfer pension into SIPP with youinvest until removal of cap on funds recently announced.
    Would prefer classic tracker fund as opposed to ETF (why would long term investor want fund with massive intraday trading, does anyone really understand ETFs?) hence considering Halifax. Any feedback from Halifax customers would be welcome.
    What is the difference between Halifax and iweb -are they the same broker. Ironically I believe AJB administer their SIPPS.
    How long will it be before all brokers will be ad valorem I wonder, just part of (an expensive) merry go round of transferring.
    Indeed, if everyone shifts to ETFs instead of classic trackers, how long before cap is removed on ETFs?

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