A look at Betashares FAIR and the VSO ETF
The BetaShares FAIR ETF provides exposure to the largest Australian shares and focuses on companies which operate ethically. FAIR has been certified by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA), as part of the Responsible Investment Certification Program.
The Vanguard VSO ETF provides exposure to a diversified portfolio of Australian small caps and tracks the MSCI Australian Shares Small Cap Index. This is a low-cost way to access the performance of Australian small-cap shares through a single fund.
Learn more about the VSO ETF with our full analysis page. Get our VSO review.
So where do we start analysing VSO and FAIR? In addition to using our years of experience analysing ETFs to ‘get a feel’ for the ETF, there are simple checks and balances our team uses to compare similar ETFs.
The first is fees. We score ETFs based on their management fees and costs and we take into account the spread. We’ll then compare these ‘all in’ fees and costs across sectors, strategy types and ETF providers.
We’ll keep it basic and just study the fees. Based on our data for December 2020, the FAIR ETF has a management expense ratio (MER) of 0.49% while the VSO ETF’s yearly fee was 0.30%. Therefore, VSO wins on this one. That said, a more useful metric to know is the fee quartiles that these ETFs find themselves in (note: quartile 1 is best). For example, any ETF which has a fee below 0.3% would be considered in our first (best) quartile.
Show me the money
It’s time to study the track record. Keep in mind, performance isn’t everything — and past performance is not indicative of future performance. It’s just one part of a much bigger picture. The reason we say performance is not everything is because of volatility of financial markets and the economy from one year to the next. Some ETFs and funds can put in a compelling return one year just to generate subpar returns the next time around. That’s why we prefer three-year or seven-year track records over one-year track records. It can smooth out the temporary performances caused by external factors. Both ETFs have achieved our three-year performance hurdle. As of December 2020, the FAIR ETF had an average annual return of 9.75%. During the same time, the VSO ETF returned 9.50%.
There’s one more important thing to consider: the company that starts and runs the ETF. They are in charge of operating the ETF on the ASX. The provider of the FAIR fund is Betashares. Betashares ranks highly for our scores of ETF providers and issuers in Australia. We believe BetaShares is one of the leading providers of index and non-index style products to retail investors in Australia. Meanwhile, the company responsible for VSO is Vanguard. Vanguard ranks highly for our scores of ETF providers and issuers in Australia. We consider Vanguard to be in Australia’s top three ETF providers for retail investors, advisers and institutions.
In summary, the VSO ETF ranks more promisingly against our internal scoring methodology but not by much compared to FAIR.
Please, keep in mind, there is much more to picking a good ETF. That’s why you should now use these skills to find the best ETF you can. If you want the name of our team’s top ETF pick for 2021, keep reading…