Why Do SMSFs Choose to Invest in ETFs? | BetaShares

Why Do SMSFs Choose to Invest in ETFs?

BY Adam O'Connor | 19 April 2018

ETFs have been gaining popularity with Australian investors since they first launched on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) nearly 17 years ago. For many SMSF Trustees, ETFs offer a combination of advantages that align well with many SMSF and retirement planning goals. For a number of SMSFs, ETFs can be a particularly useful investment option and can be used in combination with traditional actively managed funds and individual shares.

What are ETFs and why are they valued by SMSFs?

ETFs or exchange-traded funds are highly flexible investment tools that are traded on the ASX, just like shares. Some ETFs will closely track the performance of a certain index, such as the NASDAQ-100, others are designed to track the price of a particular asset, such as gold or the U.S. Dollar. In contrast to traditional managed funds, which are offered by active fund managers and require the filling out of paperwork should someone wish to invest, ETFs are traded on the stock exchange and thus can be bought or sold during the trading day once you have established an account with a broker.

According to the most recent BetaShares/Investment Trends ETF Report, ETFs are fast gaining popularity in Australia, with a 19% increase in the number of investors to 315,000 in the last 12 months to September 2017. Over 30% of those current ETF investors do so via their SMSF, and over 55% of all ETF investors are intending to reinvest in the next 12 months.

The total value of the industry leapt to an all-time high of $35.5 billion in 2017, up from $25 billion in 2016. Both investment volume and the variety of ETF investment options are expected to continue rising in 2018, with SMSF investors likely to continue to be a key client segment for this industry.

Benefits of ETFs for SMSFs

The unique features and benefits that ETFs provide – from diversification and control to cost effectiveness and access – can make them a great way for SMSFs to reach their investment objectives.


Whether via a Financial Adviser, stockbroker or an online trading account, ETFs are easy to purchase as they’re traded on the ASX like shares, with real-time pricing available during the trading day. ETFs help make diversifying both within an asset class and across asset classes straightforward, as such decisions can be made via a few single trades. Should an SMSF investor seek to, for example, obtain greater exposure to international shares in order to diversify away from Australian stocks, ETFs permit such an allocation to be made instantaneously.

Additionally, the growing popularity of the ETF model portfolio offers a cost-effective and efficient option for investors. With such model portfolios, SMSF trustees can achieve diversification, reduce risk, and lower costs simply through ASX-traded ETFs. For more information on ETF model portfolios, feel free to contact us to find out more. With all that said, with the broad range of ETF investment options now available, thorough research is still required before you make any decisions – so please make sure you read the product disclosure statement (PDS) before making any investment decisions.


With ETFs it’s easy for SMSF trustees to understand what their portfolio holds at any time. The portfolio holdings for all BetaShares Funds can be found on our website with pricing information updated throughout the trading day.

Lower fees

ETF fees are typically much lower than those for traditional actively managed funds, which can help SMSFs lower investment costs. In addition, they offer a much cheaper way to invest in a portfolio of shares compared to making individual trades.

Diversification – with no additional paperwork

By investing in ETFs, an SMSF could invest in otherwise hard-to-access areas. For example, you might be able to capture an entire index of shares, or fixed income securities. Global shares, that might be difficult to access otherwise, are easily available via an ETF. You can also invest in exchange traded products that focus on specific asset classes, sectors, currencies, and/or commodities. An example of a strategy that can be otherwise difficult or expensive to access and is available in an exchange traded form is the BetaShares Yield Maximiser Fund (managed fund) (ASX code: YMAX) which aims to provide higher income from a portfolio of blue-chip ASX shares through the use of an in-built income maximisation strategy. BetaShares also offers a number of international exposures that are hedged to Australian dollars which reduces the currency risk across your portfolio. All BetaShares Funds are domiciled in Australia which means there is no additional paperwork associated with investing in international shares, such as W8-Ben Forms or potential US estate tax implications.

As the objectives of your SMSF change, ETFs continue to make it simple to adjust the asset allocation to match changing risk preferences. For example, you can focus on fixed income ETFs or higher yielding products with franking credits to help lower risk or boost retirement income.

Tax advantages

Most ETFs are designed to track an index or provide investors access to a certain asset class, so the turnover tends to be much lower than for traditional actively managed funds. The high levels of turnover associated with these funds can act as an after-tax performance drag, in contrast to the lower turnover and lower number of tax events for ETFs. Additionally, certain products specifically aim to provide attractive after-tax results via a specific focus on franking credits.

Cost minimisation and short-term cash management

By investing in ETFs, SMSF trustees could achieve higher cost efficiencies and, in turn, overall investment returns. Since ETFs tend to be much more cost effective than traditional actively managed funds, investors can save a significant amount of money over the total investment period. ETFs can also be used as shorter term holding vehicles while the SMSF is researching other investment options, allowing such investors to minimise ‘cash drag’ that would otherwise occur should an investor instead put such funds into cash.

And for those investors who are looking for an attractive cash solution, there is even an ETF for that! BetaShares Australian High Interest Cash ETF (ASX code: AAA) holds Australian cash deposits but aims to provide attractive income returns, which, for many, includes higher interest rates than available from popular cash management solutions and bank accounts.

Variety of options

The variety of ETF options can give SMSF trustees more choice and control. For example, Bond markets tend to be challenging for individual investors to access, but fixed income ETFs offer investors a simple way to gain exposure beyond traditional options. For example, BetaShares’ floating rate bond ETF (ASX: QPON) provides access to Australian bank senior floating rate bonds, inaccessible to most investors directly and at a low management fee of only 0.22% – which is just $22 for every $10,000 invested.

Greater control

With more choice of investing options, such as international, fixed-income and high-yield ETFs, the SMSF owner has greater control over how they implement their retirement planning and wealth-building strategies.

Choosing to invest in ETFs

ETFs potentially offer SMSF investors simplicity, transparency, lower fees, and diversification benefits. Greater control, more options, short-term cash management, and tax advantages are other potential advantages. Work with the right adviser and fund manager, and you may be able to improve on your plan for a comfortable retirement and potentially achieve your wealth goals with ETFs.

BetaShares is a leading Australian fund manager providing a range of exchange traded funds to our clients. You can find out more about ETF basics in this article. For more information about any of our products, explore our website or contact us today.


  1. Ron  |  May 21, 2014

    I am of the understanding that each ETF is backed by an actual fund whether it be a straight “index” fund or a managed fund.
    Besides annual fees most managed funds also have a “performance” fee which cuts in providing they beat some benchmark, eg : the RBA cash rate. or 10 year treasury bills
    My question is – does the quoted prices of an ETF also include this performance fee ?

    1. BetaShares  |  May 21, 2014

      Ron – currently on the ASX there are no ETFs that are backed by another fund. The majority of ETFs on the ASX are backed by the underlying assets they are seeking to track . For example, in the case of our Gold ETF, it is backed by physical gold bullion, or in the case of our equity products, they are backed by actual Australian shares. As such there are no performance fees above and beyond the annual management costs which are quoted on our website.

  2. Shaun  |  April 30, 2018

    When do you plan (if any) to introduce leveraged ETFs for sectors such as Finance, Property, Materials etc? I like the structure and funding model you have put in place for GEAR, and hope that you will do similar setups for specific sectors, rather than the entire ASX200. Ta

    1. Michael Brown  |  May 28, 2018

      Hi Shaun,

      Thanks for your feedback and we will be sure to pass this on to upper management.

      If we announce the release of any of these funds, we will be sure to let you know.

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