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Smart Beta


Smart Beta is an investment strategy in the financial sector that combines the benefits of passive investing and active investing strategies. It emphasizes capturing investment factors or market inefficiencies in a rules-based and transparent way, typically using alternative index construction rules to traditional market capitalization-based indices. The aim is to achieve better risk-return trade-offs than traditional market indices.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Smart Beta” is /ˈsmɑːrt beɪtə/

Key Takeaways

  1. Higher Potential Returns: Smart Beta strategies aim to outperform traditional cap-weighted indices by strategically selecting, weighting, and rebalancing the companies built into the index based on predetermined rules. This could potentially result in higher returns.
  2. Risk Reduction: Smart Beta strategies can help in reducing portfolio risk. They are designed to increase diversification and limit market exposure to help minimize volatility. This attribute makes Smart Beta a desirable investment strategy for risk-averse investors.
  3. Cost Effective: Compared to actively managed funds, Smart Beta strategies can be more cost-effective. They follow a rules-based system for choosing investments to be included in the index. Thus, they require less management and consequently usually have lower expense ratios.


Smart Beta is an important concept in business/finance because it provides a strategic alternative for investors who aim to outperform conventional market indexes. These rule-based investment strategies consider factors such as size, value, volatility, liquidity, quality, momentum, and dividends in the selection and weighting of securities in a portfolio, going beyond the traditional method of market capitalization. By focusing on these factors, Smart Beta seeks to enhance returns, improve portfolio diversification, and minimize risks. The significance of this approach is that it combines the benefits of passive and active investment strategies, enabling investors to achieve better risk-adjusted returns at a lower cost compared to traditional index investing.


Smart Beta is a strategy in investment management that looks beyond the usual facets of traditional market indices, offering a blend of passive and active investment methodologies. The main objective of this strategy is to extract more value by enhancing returns or minimizing market risks, thereby attaining optimal portfolio performance. This innovative approach strives to capitalize on certain inefficiencies or systematic biases in the standard market cap weighted indices. It essentially seeks to incorporate elements like value, momentum, quality, volatility, and size to enable better risk-reward outcomes.Smart Beta can also be considered as an improvement to conventional passive investing. Where traditional index-based investing relies purely on the market capitalization of companies, Smart Beta takes different factors into consideration. It enables investors to target more specific risk factors or market segments, providing both diversification benefits and the potential for higher returns. It’s used to enhance portfolio outcomes by strategically choosing investments based on the given factors, employing a rules-based system for selecting investments that contain exposure to the chosen factors. Thus, Smart Beta is used not only for generating superior risk-adjusted returns but also for improving portfolio diversification.


1. Invesco: Invesco is a global investment firm providing a broad range of smart beta strategies across factors, asset classes, and risk spectrums. One example of their application of smart beta strategies is Invesco’s FTSE RAFI US 1000 ETF (PRF). This ETF leverages smart beta by tracking the FTSE RAFI US 1000 Index, which selects and weights companies based on factors such as adjusted sales, cash flow, dividends, and book value.2. Research Affiliates: Research Affiliates is an investment management firm known for developing innovative investment strategies. The firm invented Fundamental Indexing, a strategy that weights companies by their economic footprint rather than their market capitalization. In other words, instead of assigning weights to companies based on their size (market capitalization), they assign weights based on fundamental factors such as a company’s book value, cash flow, sales, and dividends. This is a prime example of smart beta strategy.3. State Street Global Advisors (SSGA): SSGA has a suite of smart beta ETFs known as SPDR. One of its smart beta funds, SPDR MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF, aims to closely match the returns of the MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target Index. This index is a smart beta index that focuses on companies with lower carbon exposure, emphasizing a specific factor (carbon exposure) other than size or market capitalization.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Smart Beta?

Smart Beta refers to a type of investing that combines the benefits of passive investing and the advantages of active investing strategies. It is a rule-based approach that aims to achieve better risk and return trade-offs compared to conventional market capitalization-based indices.

How does Smart Beta work?

Smart Beta employs alternative index construction rules based on factors such as size, value and volatility. This systematic approach allows it to avoid market capitalization weights and take advantage of patterns or trends in the market.

What are the advantages of Smart Beta?

Smart Beta can potentially improve risk-adjusted returns, provide portfolio diversification, and reduce volatility. It offers a cost-effective way for investors to access active investing strategies in a passive, rules-based format.

How is Smart Beta different from traditional investing approaches?

Traditional investing approaches are typically divided into active (fund manager uses their discretion to make investment decisions) and passive (follows performance of a specific index) strategies. Smart Beta blurs this line by following a passively managed index in an active manner by strategically choosing indexes that are believed to offer returns above the market average.

Can Smart Beta strategies be used in combination with other investment strategies?

Yes, Smart Beta strategies can complement other active or passive strategies and serve as a stand-alone approach or a part of a broader investment strategy.

Is Smart Beta suitable for all types of investors?

Smart Beta might not be appropriate for all investors. It can be suited to those looking to outperform the market, willing to take on more risk, or desiring more diversification. It is advisable for each investor to evaluate their specific risk tolerance, investment objectives and time horizon before investing.

What risks does Smart Beta involve?

Like any investment strategy, Smart Beta isn’t without risks. It is subject to market risk, which is the possibility that the value of the stocks it owns will decrease. Plus, because of the quantitative analysis involved, Smart Beta can also be subject to model risk, or the chance that the model will select an unprofitable investment.

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