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Ventura Wealth Clients
2 min Read

In the realm of investment options, two titans stand tall: index funds and ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds). Both offer a passive approach to investing, but their structures and functionalities differ. This blog delves into the core distinctions between index funds and ETFs, empowering you to make informed decisions for your investment portfolio.

What is passive investing?

Active investing involves selecting individual stocks or bonds, aiming to outperform the broader market. Passive investing, on the other hand, takes a more laid-back approach. Here, you invest in funds that replicate the performance of a specific market index, such as the Nifty 50 or the S&P 500. These funds hold the same basket of securities as the underlying index, in proportion to their weighting within the index.

What are index funds?

Index funds have been around for decades and are considered the cornerstone of passive investing. Here's what defines them:

  • Mutual Fund Structure: Index funds are structured as mutual fund investments. Ownership units are called shares, and investors purchase them directly from the fund company at the Net Asset Value (NAV), which is calculated daily based on the underlying holdings' value.
  • Low Fees: Since index funds passively track an index, they typically come with lower expense ratios compared to actively managed funds. These fees cover the fund's operational costs.
  • Tax Efficiency: Index funds tend to be tax-efficient due to their low portfolio turnover (buying and selling of holdings). This minimises capital gains distributions, which can be taxable events for investors.

What are ETFs?

ETFs have emerged as a more recent yet highly popular investment vehicle. Here's a breakdown of their key characteristics:

  • Exchange-Traded Structure: ETFs trade on stock exchanges like individual stocks. Investors can buy or sell units (called shares) throughout the trading day at market prices, which can fluctuate based on supply and demand.
  • Flexibility and Liquidity: ETFs offer greater flexibility and liquidity compared to index funds. You can place orders throughout the day to buy or sell ETF shares, similar to trading stocks.
  • Potential for Higher Fees: While some ETFs boast expense ratios as low as index funds, some actively managed ETFs or those with complex structures might have higher fees.

Index Funds vs. ETFs: understanding the difference

Here's a table summarising the key differences between index funds and ETFs:

FeatureIndex FundsETFs
StructureMutual FundExchange-Traded Fund
Investment UnitShareShare
Purchase/RedemptionAt NAV (daily) directlyThroughout trading day at
from fund companymarket price
Trading FlexibilityLimitedHigh
FeesGenerally LowerCan vary (often low, but some
higher than index funds)
Tax EfficiencyGenerally higherCan vary depending on trading

Index funds vs. ETFs: where should you invest?

The ideal choice between index funds and ETFs depends on your investment goals and preferences:

  • Index Funds: A good fit for investors seeking a low-cost, tax-efficient, and hands-off approach to investing. They are also suitable for those who prefer to invest in regular intervals and don't require the flexibility of intraday trading.
  • ETFs: A better option for investors who prioritise intraday trading flexibility, potentially tighter bid-ask spreads (difference between buy and sell price), and the ability to react to market movements quickly. However, be mindful of potentially higher expense ratios for some ETFs.


Both index funds and ETFs offer valuable tools for building wealth through passive investing. Consider your investment goals, risk tolerance, and desired level of control when making your choice. Remember, diversification is crucial for a well-rounded portfolio. You can incorporate both index funds and ETFs to achieve a balance between cost-efficiency, flexibility, and long-term growth potential. Happy investing!