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Business News/ Money / Personal Finance/  ETFs vs Mutual Funds – What’s the difference?

ETFs vs Mutual Funds – What’s the difference?

The similarities between mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are striking. Both types of funds are made up of a variety of assets and are a typical approach for investors to diversify their portfolios. However, there are significant differences in how they are managed. We explain the same in detail.

The mutual fund units are traded at the closing NAV of that very day whereas, the ETF units are traded just like shares, on the exchange.Premium
The mutual fund units are traded at the closing NAV of that very day whereas, the ETF units are traded just like shares, on the exchange.

Both Mutual Funds and Exchange-Traded Funds are meant for pooled fund investment. They adhere to an indexed and passive strategy that attempts to replicate the benchmark indices that are represented.

The mutual fund scheme is a portfolio that is generated by making an investment in a basket of debt securities, stocks by utilising the funds that are collected from several investors.

The fund manager and research analysts the market trends, risk, volatility, etc. and then decide the sector and stocks for making the investment.

The Net Asset Value (NAV) indicates the returns on Mutual Funds. The NAV of the units are calculated at the end of the day and it is determined by the price of the underlying securities.

What are Exchange Traded Funds?

They are also like mutual funds in nature as the asset manager pools the money collected from numerous investors and invests in a basket of securities. They are a combination of mutual funds and stocks. They are similar to mutual funds with respect to their structure and management. They can be traded like stocks are traded

The principle of passive investing is followed in ETFs. As per this principle, a particular index is mirrored according to which the ETF tries to replicate its performance. They are viewed as close-ended mutual funds.

Herein, the funds are raised initially and then ETFs are invested in stocks that mirror the benchmark index following which no further investments can be allowed.

Similarities between Mutual Funds and ETFs

  1. Both ETFs and mutual funds pool funds from numerous investors. This pool of money is then handled by professional experts and invested into securities.
  2. Both of them are a bundle of various stocks due to which they benefit from diversity. This is beneficial because if one stock underperforms, there is always a possibility and scope of positive performance by other stocks. This further assists in hedging the risks. All in all, diversification ensures less risk.
  3. ETFs and Index Funds (it is a type of mutual fund) employ the principle of passive investment strategy. According to this, investments are made in the securities proportionately to the index that is followed. Their aim is to deliver market returns at a lower cost.
  4. Both of them are managed and looked after by professional experts. This is done in order to replicate the benchmark returns. These experts try to minimise the differences that exist in returns.
  5. Just like mutual funds, ETFs also calculate NAV (Net Asset Value) at the end of the day. The value for both is derived from the underlying assets that they invest in, the NAV is also calculated similarly.

Difference between Mutual Funds and ETFs

  1. The major difference between the two is their buying and selling. The mutual fund units are traded at the closing NAV of that very day. Whereas, the ETF units are traded just like shares, on the exchange. ETFs can be purchased and sold throughout the day and their value differs during the day of the trade.
  2. The next imminent difference is the determination of the transaction price. In case of mutual funds, the investment is made at the fixed NAV. They are traded directly from the mutual fund house either offline, online or through a distributor. On the other hand, the ETFs are traded on exchange just like shares. This means you need to trade them through an authorised broker. Having an account with the broker and a Demat account is a must to trade ETFs. They can be traded throughout the day, thus their prices are determined by their demand and supply.
  3. ETFs are close ended, which means that once the funds are raised and portfolio is created, there are no additional redemptions or purchases. The liquidity for ETFs is through the demand for the units that are traded. On the other hand, fresh purchases and redemptions take place in mutual funds.
  4. The expense ratio is another major determinant of differentiation between the two. The expense ratio of ETFs is very low as compared to mutual funds. In the Indian context, the expense ratio of ETFs can be as low as 0.35% whereas for mutual funds the ratio can be up to 2%. The ETFs are however subject to brokerage and Securities Transaction Tax (STT).
  5. Mutual funds are comparatively more flexible than the ETFs. You can choose to invest in mutual funds using the systematic investment plan. However, such a facility is missing in case of ETFs.

Before making a final decision about the investment, one must consider his/her risk appetite, the ease and understanding of the product. If one wants to play an active role in managing the funds while taking advantage of the market fluctuations, ETFs are the perfect choice.

However, if one looks forward to a more hassle-free and passive fund that follows an index, mutual funds are the right choice.


Let’s take a look at the difference between ETFs vs. Stocks vs. Mutual Funds.
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Let’s take a look at the difference between ETFs vs. Stocks vs. Mutual Funds.

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Published: 20 Apr 2022, 12:01 PM IST
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