What is an Exchange-Traded Fund, and What Are Its Benefits?

The ETF is an investment portfolio with various securities and may be purchased and resold at marketable rates throughout the day.  

The usage of these funds achieves special goals or techniques of investment. The majority contain securities reflecting the market index followed and which they wish to mimic the returns.

ETF has been recently formed as a financial instrument compared to equities and debt instruments. TIPS (The Toronto Index Participation Share) is the first ETF developed around the globe.

ETFs became highly significant for the traders whose liquidity as well as diversification ability entices them.

Kinds of Exchange-Traded Funds

An exchange-traded fund includes a variety of assets, including shares, debt instruments, metals, and different currencies.

Traders own different kinds of portfolios, classified according to the vehicle of securities, the style of investment, industry, the portfolio size, and derivatives like futures, options, swaps. Different types of ETFs are listed below.

  1. Sector-specific ETFs

Such ETFs expose individuals to industries such as property investment, public health, energy, finance, telecommunication, and power.

  1. Foreign ETFs

The foreign stocks and debt securities are exposed to traders. There are different types of these ETFs, including Emerging Market ETFs and Developed Market ETFs.

  1. Index ETFs:

Index ETF is extremely popular among investors. Its purpose is to follow the trends of the market. The market indices can be wider or restrained to a specific sector.

These kinds of funds comprise assets that perfectly follow the trends in the market. Thus, the investment style for these funds is passive. Investors are not constantly trying to beat the index by trading securities. Such an ETF can follow any kind of index.

  1. Bond ETFs

A bond exchange-traded fund monitors and imitates a wider or area-particular market.

  1. Actively managed fund

This does not follow any specific type of indices. The traders seek to “maximize profits” by proactively collecting well-performing assets.

These ETFs have a higher expense ratio because the investors’ trading style and managing it are active.

  1. Inverse ETF

The purpose of this type is to go in the opposite direction to the market. For instance, when the gain in the index is decreased by 3%, these funds are projected to rise by 3%. Derivatives are also used in them.

  1. Commodity Funds

Commodity funds introduce traders to commodities by purchasing the actual items (for example, metals, maize, cotton), investing in firms that produce these commodities, or using derivatives of such items. 

Traders can utilize these ETFs to broaden their portfolios while benefiting from the negative relation between certain commodities and equities.

  1. Currency Funds

This kind, such as the U.S. Dollar Currency Exchange-Traded fund, replicates the index of one currency or multiple currencies.

  1. Leveraged Exchange-Traded Funds

It aims at doubling or tripling the profits of the index. They employ futures contracts or borrowing to boost earnings but are extremely speculative or complicated trades. These are costly since they entail huge active investing.

  1. Equity Funds

These funds follow the stock index. They move in a similar pattern as the market.

Investment costs for These Funds

  • Bid-Ask Variations

Disparities in the purchasing price, known as bid, and the selling price, known as to ask, substantially lead to the investment expenses with ETFs.

The gap indicates that an investor would bear the transaction costs, equivalent to the variation between the bid price and ask price, even if they purchase and resell an ETF instantly. 

The investor gets a slightly lower amount and spends a higher amount. If an ETF is regularly exchanged, the distribution between the purchase and sale prices reduces the trading costs.

  • Expense Ratio 

The costs of ETFs are generally lower than other asset classes. The expense ratio refers to both the service costs and operations expenses.

The costs for service are largely for the pay of the supervisor and other Associates. Operational expenditures involve administration, litigation costs, auditing, leaflets, shipping, and publishing expenses.

This ratio could be computed as a proportion of the portfolio and stated in the documentation.

  • Commissions

While selling costs do not relate to ETFs, brokers typically impose fees per action for selling while trading. When an investor trades regularly, these charges might amount to considerable expenses. Several inexpensive brokerage firms provide discounted or free charges ETFs.

Difference between Mutual Funds and ETFs

There are many ways in which these assets can be compared:

  • Both classes combine individuals’ resources to form a portfolio of different securities.
  • Both monitor and attempt to duplicate respective markets.
  • They provide traders with exposure to diverse portfolios.
  • Most of these funds utilize a passive investing technique.


  1. Liquidity

An ETF offers greater liquidity comparable to mutual funds since the traders more regularly offer the former. This is also because investors trade them all day in the market.

  1. Expense Ratio

Mutual funds mostly have higher ratios for costs as compared to the ETF. This can be explained by the fact that the former is being actively managed. Managing it is usually active, and such behavior indicates greater transactions and more effort by financial advisers.

Lower cost for the exchange-traded funds is a major driving force in the appeal since users are aware that the long-run performance may be increased by reducing expenditures. The ratio for this fund can be as small as 0.03%, while a mutual fund needs at least 3%. 

Please remember that the individual can be charged for the brokerage transaction cost for purchasing ETFs via a broker. 

  1. Investment Style

Usually, ETFs are handled with a passive behavior, whereas several mutual funds are handled actively. 

  1. Valuation

The trading and exchange of the ETF can be done at any time in a day by the trader. On the other hand, the trading of mutual funds is extremely less. The reason for this is the forces of demand or supply and the fewer variations in their prices.

The closing value of the mutual funds is computed every day depending on the value at which the market closes every day. This value remains the same throughout the next day and changes when a new value is computed when the market closes again. This shows how the valuation takes place in the market. 

Traders of an ETF could make or stop orders like it is done while trading in equities because ETFs constantly change their values during the day.

Canadian Providers of ETFs

As traders remove assets from index funds to transfer their funds to ETFs, the number of businesses that provide ETFs keeps rising fast each year. Among Canada’s major ETF providers are:

  • Horizons
  • BMO
  • RBC
  • iShares
  • Vanguard

Advantages of ETFs

  • Transparent Portfolio

ETF provides a transparent portfolio to individuals. The investor can easily determine the assets that the basket comprises and the percent of the securities. This gives clear information to the traders at any time.

  • Tax Benefits

Since the passive investment technique is used, the trading activities are much lower in assets linked in the ETF holdings, resulting in reduced asset volatility. 

The capital gains are also lower due to only a few activities, which results in improved tax advantages. Tax payable for the profits is only applicable when the investor closes the ETF position.

  • Diversified Portfolio

Diversification can simply be done with the help of an exchange-traded fund without investing in many different ETFs. A typical investor could easily purchase a diversified portfolio with fewer funds.


All asset classes comprising the ETFs entail some amount of risk.  While ETFs have reduced costs than other funds, a short-term trader who prefers to purchase and hold must consider the broker charges required while determining the overall investing costs to get an overall image. 

These funds have been primarily taxable similarly to other funds- tax must be paid on both profits and dividends. The tax payable would change based on the kind of account that the individual has if foreign ETFs or domestic are utilized, what kind of funds are being used.

The comprehensive broker (in which professionals conduct exchanges) and a discounted brokerage are both options for trading exchange-traded funds.

Many prominent discounted brokers in Canada provide their services through their websites. Some of the most popular include Wealthsimple Trade and BMO InvestorLine.

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