Smart beta ETFs usually track an index that has been weighted to deliver a specific outcome, such as income or low volatility. Like other ETFs, they are traded like shares on the stock exchange and have the same unique benefits and risks. Because the indices that the smart beta funds track are more complex than for traditional ETFs, the cost tends to be a bit higher than for traditional ETFs.
Different types of smart beta
Whereas traditional indices such as the FTSE 100 are weighted based on the underlying companies market capitalisation, a smart beta index is designed based on other factors:
Minimum volatility smart beta
This ETF attempts to reduce exposure to volatility by tracking indices that aim to provide lower-risk alternatives. For example, a minimum volatility ETF might exhibit less risk during market turbulence compared with a broadly diversified index such as the FTSE All-Share. Some ETFs accomplish this objective by purchasing securities that exhibit relatively low volatility and concentration risk.
Income smart beta
Another factor that smart beta ETFs can be weighted on is income. By screening for stocks that deliver a dividend yield in excess of the market these ETFs can deliver an attractive income for investors. By screening for factors in addition to dividend yield, such as quality, these smart beta ETFs can further narrow down the companies that might be attractive for income investors.