The past decade has seen huge growth in the popularity of funds which track a market index. In the face of uncertain markets, the simplicity, transparency and lower cost of indexing have made this approach more appealing. The sheer number of traditional index tracker funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) on offer has meant investors can now access an unprecedented range of markets, strategies and asset classes. However, while many investors can appreciate the simplicity of index funds, the flipside is these funds aim only to deliver returns in line with market averages. If the market rises so will the value of the index fund, but the opposite may also occur.
Indexing has grown substantially in recent years
As indexing has become more mainstream, the number of products available and the amount invested in them has increased significantly1. The chart shows growth in assets under management and number of products domiciled in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
1Source: BlackRock Investment Institute - ETP Research, Bloomberg, Strategic Insight Simfund GL, 2012
"So what do I do with my money?"
As with all other investments, it’s important to do your research before you invest in an index fund, and understand that pricing should only be one consideration in your choice of investment. Although on the surface different funds that track the same index might appear to do the same thing, there are key differentiators between index providers and funds which means they can produce different results. Look to larger providers, who have more assets, and so are in a better position to negotiate trades, and also tend to have more dedicated indexing resources and well-established systems and management teams.