What is an ETF: Separating Myths from Reality
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Insights and Market Perspectives

What is an ETF: Separating Myths from Reality

Author: Sound Choices

November 8, 2018


The content in the below article is meant for Canadian investors only.


Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) were first introduced to Canadian investors nearly 30 years ago, with traditional ETFs being passively managed, simply mirroring a particular index.

The ETF market has matured since then, offering a wide variety of options from active to passive and covering all asset classes from equity to fixed income, alternatives and portfolio solutions.

Yet, despite the growth of ETFs, they continue to be a misunderstood investment.

Here we dispel the top four myths we’ve encountered:

Myth #1 – All ETFs passively track an index

Fact: As of June 2018, 222 of the 612 ETFs offered on the Canadian market were actively managed – only 24 fewer funds than the passive, market cap-weighted index category.*

Active ETFs also ended Q2 of this year with a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43%. That’s brought its share of assets under management to $31 billion or 19.8% of total ETF assets (see chart).

ETF Assets by Management Style

*Source: Strategic Insights, ETF and Index Funds Report, Canada Q2. 2018.

Myth #2 – ETFs are just for traders and not long-term investing

Fact: As the spectrum of ETFs available has evolved, so have the reasons investors are choosing them. ETFs deliver the benefits of trading like individual stocks but many ETF investors will buy-and-hold ETFs for the long-term as core holdings in a portfolio or as a satellite (tactical allocation) holding in a portfolio to complete desired asset allocation.

ETF Holding Rationale - Tactical vs StrategicETF Holding Rationale - Tactical vs Strategic

Source: Greenwich Associates 2017 Cdn ETF Study.

Myth #3 – The average daily traded volume of an ETF exclusively determines its liquidity

Fact: The true liquidity of an ETF is measured by the liquidity of its underlying securities and allows for significant trade orders without having an impact on price of the ETF itself.

ETFs have three layers of liquidity:

  1. Primary markets creation & redemption process
  2. Continuous price discovery by market makers
  3. Secondary market buyers and sellers

ETF vs underlying securitiesETF vs underlying securities


Myth #4 – ETFs are not for income investors since they don’t pay dividends

Fact: Many ETFs do distribute income to investors. Considering that an ETF holds a diversified basket of the individual stocks or bonds, its behaviour will follow that of its underlying holdings including the dividend or coupon payments.

ETFs have the ability to generate and distribute:

  1. Income (Dividend + Interest)
  2. Capital Gains (Primarily when a rebalance occurs)
  3. ROC (Fixed Payer ETFs)

272: number of income-oriented ETFs*272: number of income-oriented ETFs*

* At Q2 2018. Source: Strategic Insights, ETF and Index Funds Report, Canada. Q2, 2018.


Talk to a financial advisor to learn how ETFs could fit in your investment portfolio and visit AGFiQ.com.


The information contained in this article is based on material believed to be reliable and is provided as a general source of information, based on information available as of October 16, 2018 and should not be considered any personal investment or tax advice. The information provided has been created and vetted by The Knowledge Bureau Inc. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, however AGF Management Ltd. and its affiliates cannot guarantee 100% accuracy of this information, and is not responsible for the development and creation of this material. It is important for investors to consult with their financial and tax advisors before making any investment or tax planning decisions. 
The contents of this Web site are provided for informational and educational purposes, and are not intended to provide specific individual advice including, without limitation, investment, financial, legal, accounting or tax. Please consult with your own professional advisor on your particular circumstances. 

About AGF Management Limited

Founded in 1957, AGF Management Limited (AGF) is an independent and globally diverse asset management firm. AGF brings a disciplined approach to delivering excellence in investment management through its fundamental, quantitative, alternative and high-net-worth businesses focused on providing an exceptional client experience. AGF’s suite of investment solutions extends globally to a wide range of clients, from financial advisors and individual investors to institutional investors including pension plans, corporate plans, sovereign wealth funds and endowments and foundations.

For further information, please visit AGF.com.

© 2018 AGF Management Limited. All rights reserved.

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