We recently crunched some numbers in our database and found that Vanguard Australian Shares Index ETF (ASX: VAS) and BetaShares Australian Sustainability Leaders ETF (ASX: FAIR) ranked higher than most ETFs in the Australian shares sector.
So what do they do?
The Vanguard VAS ETF provides exposure to the largest 300 Australian shares, based on market capitalisation. This is a low-cost way to access top Australian companies through a single fund.
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.
If you want to go beyond the basics with the VAS ETF you can learn more about it by reading our free review.
Obviously, an easy way to analyse ETFs like FAIR and VAS 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 2021, the VAS ETF has an MER of 0.10% while the FAIR ETF had a yearly fee of 0.49%. As a result, VAS 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 2021, the VAS ETF had an average annual return of 15.33%. During the same time, the FAIR ETF returned 15.22%.
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 VAS ETF 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. FAIR’s provider 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.
In summary, the VAS ETF rates higher for our internal scoring methodology but not by much compared to FAIR.
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 2022, keep reading…