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Smart Beta ETF


A Smart Beta ETF, or Exchange Traded Fund, is a type of investment fund that uses alternative index construction rules based on measures such as volatility or dividends, rather than the traditional market capitalization weighting. It aims to achieve better risk-return trade-offs than conventional market cap weighted indices. It combines the benefits of passive investing and the advantages of active investing strategies.


The phonetics of the keyword “Smart Beta ETF” are:Smart: /smɑːrt/Beta: /’beɪtə/ETF: /iː tiː ef/

Key Takeaways


  1. Strategy Diversification: Smart Beta ETFs allow investors to diversify their investment strategies. Instead of relying solely on market capitalization-weighted indexes, Smart Beta ETFs use alternative methods such as fundamental indexing, equal weighting, and low volatility weighting for portfolio construction. This can provide diversified exposure to a particular market segment.
  2. Risk/Return Trade-off: Smart Beta strategies aim to improve the risk/return trade-off compared to traditional market-capitalization-weighted benchmarks. They offer potential for above-market returns with potentially less risk, owing to their focus on particular factors that have historically shown to deliver excess returns.
  3. Cost-effective: Compared to actively managed funds, Smart Beta ETFs typically have lower fees as they follow predefined, rule-based strategies. They are cost-effective solutions for investors looking for factor exposure or diversified strategies with potentially improved risk and return profiles.



Smart Beta ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund) is significant in business/finance because it combines the benefits of passive and active investment strategies. This novel approach of investment, also known as alternative or strategic beta, expands on traditional ETFs by using alternative index construction rules. These rules are based on factors such as size, value, quality, momentum, volatility, and others. Instead of following a market capitalization-based index, Smart Beta ETFs focus on these factors to increase portfolio diversification, reduce risks, improve returns, and enhance yield. They provide investors with an efficient way to access strategic, cost-effective, transparent, and flexible investment solutions, adding a valuable tool for achieving specific investment goals.


The primary purpose of a Smart Beta ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund) is to amplify the potential for higher returns and/or reduce risks when compared to traditional market capitalization-weighted indexes. They do so by tracking alternatively weighted indexes based on factors such as volatility, momentum, value, or quality, which are believed to offer above-market returns. These ETFs provide investors with an opportunity to achieve superior risk-adjusted returns by exploiting certain market inefficiencies that simple cap-weighted portfolios may not capitalize on.In practice, Smart Beta ETFs are used to advance strategic portfolio optimization. They are designed to gain exposure to specific factors or investment strategies, thus providing the benefits of passive investing and the advantages of active fund management. For instance, an investor seeking higher yield might choose a Smart Beta ETF that focuses on high-dividend-paying stocks. Similarly, someone wishing to limit their exposure to market volatility might opt for a low-volatility Smart Beta ETF. Therefore, these ETFs can be beneficial tools for investors aiming to enhance portfolio diversification, manage risk, or pursue superior returns.


1. iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility ETF (USMV): This exchange-traded fund aims to track an index of U.S. companies with lower volatility characteristics than the overall market. This is an example of a smart beta ETF as it does not simply replicate the holdings and weightings of a broad market index such as the S&P 500, instead it uses a rules-based approach to select and weight companies based on their volatility.2. Invesco FTSE RAFI US 1000 ETF (PRF): This Smart Beta ETF is unique in that it uses a fundamentally-weighted index rather than a market capitalization-weighted index. The allocation to stocks is based on a company’s book value, cash flow, sales and dividends. This approach is intended to identify undervalued companies with strong financials.3. SPDR MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF (LOWC): This is a smart beta ETF that tracks an index of global stocks with a lower carbon exposure than the broader market. It not only considers size and sector, but also a company’s carbon emissions and potential carbon emissions from fossil fuel reserves, allowing investors who wish to consider environmental factors to do so in a systematic way.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Smart Beta ETF?

A Smart Beta ETF is a type of exchange-traded fund that uses alternative index construction rules instead of the typical cap-weighted index strategy. It aims to deliver superior risk-adjusted returns.

How does Smart Beta ETF work?

Smart Beta ETFs combine the benefits of passive investing and the advantages of active investing strategies. Using a rules-based system for selecting investments that are based on factors such as size, value, momentum, quality, low volatility, etc., the ETF achieves better risk-adjusted returns.

What are the advantages of Smart Beta ETFs?

Smart Beta ETFs allow investors to exploit market inefficiencies in a cost-effective way. They also offer the potential for improved portfolio performance, greater diversification, and lower risk.

Are Smart Beta ETFs expensive?

While Smart Beta ETFs tend to be more costly than traditional ETFs due to their complex strategies, they are usually cheaper than active fund strategies.

What are the risks involved with Smart Beta ETFs?

As with any investment, risks involved with Smart Beta ETFs include potential underperformance. The effectiveness of these ETFs depends on the accuracy and relevance of the factors used.

How are Smart Beta ETFs selected?

The allocation in a Smart Beta ETF isn’t based solely on a company’s market capitalization, but rather relies on certain factors or investment strategies such as dividends or volatility.

Do Smart Beta ETFs pay dividends?

Yes, similar to other ETFs, Smart Beta ETFs distribute dividends to their shareholders. However, the dividend yield depends on the specific strategy of the Smart Beta index.

Can anyone invest in Smart Beta ETFs?

Yes, Smart Beta ETFs are open for any individual or institutional investors who seek to diversify their portfolio and increase risk-adjusted returns. Before investing, understanding the strategy and associated risks is recommended.

Related Finance Terms

  • Factor Investing: Strategy in which securities are selected based on certain characteristics and attributes (factors).
  • Index Fund: A type of mutual fund, constructed to track a specific market index.
  • Passive Management: An investing strategy aiming to maximize returns over the long run.
  • Active Management: A strategy where portfolio managers aim to outperform benchmark indexes.
  • Asset Allocation: An investment strategy that attempts to balance risk by divided portfolio assets according to an individual’s goals, risk tolerance and investment horizon.

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