We recently crunched some numbers in our database and found that SPDR S&P/ASX 50 ETF (ASX: SFY) and Vanguard MSCI Australian Small Companies Index ETF (ASX: VSO) ranked higher than most ETFs in the Australian shares sector.
So what do they do?
The SPDR SFY ETF is the only Australian ETF providing exposure to Australia’s top 50 listed companies, by market capitalisation. SFY provides a low-cost way to invest in the ASX’s top 50 companies through a single fund.
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.
If you want to go beyond the basics with the SFY ETF you can learn more about it by reading our free review.
Obviously, an easy way to analyse ETFs like VSO and SFY is by using quantitative methods and judging the fees and past performance (note: past performance is no guarantee of future performance).
At Rask Australia and Best ETFs, our team scores ETFs and funds based on the management fees and we take into account the buy-sell spread and other costs. We’ll then compare these ‘all in’ fees and costs across sectors, strategy types and providers to get a sense of fees across the entire market.
To make this article easier to digest, we’ll just study the fees or ‘management expense ratio’ (MER). Using data for December 2020, the SFY ETF has an MER of 0.29% while the VSO ETF had a yearly fee of 0.30%. As a result, SFY comes out on top. Keep in mind, a more useful metric to know is the fee quartiles that these ETFs find themselves in (note: quartile 1 is best). Meaning, we take all the Australian shares ETFs in our database and classify them into 4 quartiles, based on their fees. For example, any ETF which has a fee below 0.3% would be considered in our first (best) quartile.
How we study past performance
Time to look at past returns. 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 attractive return one year just to generate unsatisfactory 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 SFY ETF had an average annual return of 7.56%. During the same time, the VSO ETF returned 9.50%.
Now we need to scrutinise the issuer or provider of the ETF. There are too many factors that go into our internal scoring of fund providers to detail here — here’s the quick version: As you guessed, the issuer of the SFY ETF is SPDR. SPDR ranks highly for our scores of ETF providers and issuers in Australia. We think SPDR is one of Australia’s top 10 ETF providers for advisers and institutions, and its ETFs on the ASX provide good exposure to particular financial markets for retail investors. VSO’s provider 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 higher against our internal scoring methodology and by quite some distance against SFY.
Please, keep in mind, there is much more to choosing 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…