ETF diagram
Fintech Glossary

Pros and Cons of ETFs

What you will learn?

What are ETFs?
Types of ETFs
What are the key advantages of ETFs?

Imagine someone who wants to invest in the stock market but cannot individually invest in each company's stocks for various reasons—lack of time, knowledge, or resources. This is where ETFs come into play, offering investors a "basket" of diverse assets that can easily be bought and sold, like a single stock. This introduces us to the world of diversified investing with less effort and often at a lower cost.

In this article, we will examine ETFs' advantages and disadvantages in order to fully understand their role and potential in modern investment strategies.

A Few Words About ETF Features

ETFs, or Exchange Traded Funds, are gaining popularity among investors worldwide. They are similar to investment funds but with some significant differences.

The fundamental feature of ETFs is that they are listed on the stock exchange. This means their prices can be observed in real time, and investors can buy and sell them like stocks. This makes investing in ETFs easy and accessible to virtually everyone.

ETF funds vs. Mutual funds

ETFs (exchange-traded funds) and mutual funds are similar in many ways, but there are a few key differences that set them apart. Learn more about the differences Features ETFs Mutual funds Learn more about mutual funds Diversification.

The strategy of investing in multiple asset classes and among many securities in an attempt to lower overall investment risk. Multiple holdings These investment products hold hundreds to thousands of stocks, bonds, and more.

Types of ETFs

Funds can be divided into three types:

  • Index

    Their value is linked to a selected stock market index, such as the S&P 500 or WIG20. This means that if the value of the index rises, the value of the index ETF will also increase, and if the value of the index falls, the ETF will also lose value.

  • Sector

    Focuses on a specific sector of the economy, such as technology, energy, or finance. This allows investors to concentrate on the sector they anticipate growing without investing in each company within that sector.

  • Commodity ETFs

    Are linked to commodities such as gold, silver, or crude oil. With these ETFs, investors can invest in commodities without the need to physically own them.

ETF's Advantages

ETFs, or Exchange Traded Funds, have many advantages. Here are a few leading ones:

1. Risk Diversification

Instead of investing in a single stock, you invest in a basket of different stocks. This means you don't rely on one company's performance, and your investments are spread across many different firms. The effect? If one company doesn't perform well, its impact on your total investments is limited.

For example, if you invest in an ETF focused on the S&P 500 index, your investments are diversified across those 500 companies. This means that the risk is more dispersed, and potential losses associated with the poor performance of one company can be offset by better performance from others.

Another advantage of diversification that ETFs offer is the possibility of exposure to different asset classes, sectors, or even countries. Some ETFs focus on specific sectors, such as technology or energy, allowing investors to concentrate on their areas of interest. Other ETFs may include stocks from various markets worldwide, giving investors the opportunity for global diversification.

2. Low Operating Costs

Saving on operational fees is often key to success. The costs associated with fees for ETFs are significantly lower than those for traditional investment funds.

Each time you buy or sell shares in ETFs, you pay the broker a one-time commission. The size of this fee depends on many factors, including the chosen trading platform. Importantly, you do not incur any additional fund management fees, which can be quite high for investment funds.

For comparison, investing in funds often requires paying an entry or exit fee, which can amount to up to 5% of the investment value. Many of these funds also charge annual management fees ranging from 1% to 2.5% of the account balance. If we add potential performance fees, which usually range from 10% to 20% of the profit, it's clear that fees in the case of traditional funds can consume a significant portion of the profit.

3. Flexibility

Investors have full control over when they want to buy or sell their shares. Unlike traditional funds, which are usually priced only once a while, ETFs are listed on the stock exchange and traded similarly to stocks. This means their prices fluctuate throughout the day, allowing investors to buy and sell anytime during the trading session. This flexibility can be extremely attractive for those who want to respond to changing market conditions. Additionally, ETFs are available on various exchanges, allowing investors to invest in different markets and geographic regions.

4. Transparency

Unlike other investment funds, ETFs disclose their components daily. This is undoubtedly a facilitation for investors who can precisely track which assets the fund invests in. Having access to information about portfolio components, investors can thoroughly understand the mechanisms of a specific fund's operation.

This information is updated daily, allowing us to keep track of which assets are currently most valuable and which are losing value. It also allows us to understand the fund's investment strategy and predict potential portfolio changes.

The transparency of ETFs is not only an advantage for individual investors. It's also a benefit for investment advisors, who, thanks to this, can better understand the risks associated with investing in a particular fund and then tailor their strategy to meet their clients' needs.


At first glance, it may seem that this is a very good instrument - it allows us to invest in the market safely and cheaply. However, like everything in this world, there are certain disadvantages. I want to emphasize that "disadvantages" in the case of ETFs are a matter of debate, as whether a particular feature is a disadvantage will depend on the individual assessment of the investor.

1. Liquidation Risk

The liquidation risk in investing in ETFs refers to the possibility of a given fund being closed, resulting in the need to sell all its assets. This can occur due to various events, the most common of which are the low popularity of a particular fund (lack of attractiveness to investors) and lack of profitability.

The closure of a fund usually involves the realization of gains or losses. In the case of losses, investors may find themselves in an unfavourable situation if the fund is forced to sell assets at a low price. Such situations can occur when the market experiences low liquidity or the fund's assets are difficult to sell.

Although liquidation risk exists, it is not commonly encountered in the case of ETFs. If an ETF has a large scale of operation and is popular among investors, the liquidation risk is significantly reduced. Much depends on the fund manager's strategy, which should adapt to changing market conditions and investor preferences.

Investors need to know what they invest in in liquidation risk and understand how ETFs work.

2. Management Risk

Managing an ETF is a complex process aimed at accurately reflecting the performance of the index the fund emulates. However, in practice, due to various factors such as transaction costs or the availability of specific assets, exact replication of the index is impossible.

Tracking error

This means that an ETF will always slightly deviate from the index it emulates—this is known as a tracking error.

Additionally, managing an ETF involves continuously adjusting the portfolio composition to match the changing composition of the index. This, in turn, carries the risk of management errors, which can affect the fund's performance.

For example, managers may make mistakes during portfolio rebalancing, react too late to index changes, or make inappropriate investment choices.

3. Passive Management

Passive management means the ETF fund will not react to short-term market changes or specific situations related to individual assets. In other words, if a promising company appears on the market, the fund will not purchase it simply because it is not part of the index. Similarly, for companies that start to experience problems, the fund will not sell their shares until they remain part of the index composition.

This is a disadvantage for investors seeking opportunities to maximize profits through quick responses to market changes. On the other hand, it is also an advantage for those who prefer stable investments and do not want to expose themselves to the risk associated with errors in market forecasting. Passive management directly translates into the absence of operational fees found in traditional funds.

However, it is important to remember that passive management does not mean a lack of management altogether. Even within such an approach, fund managers must regularly rebalance the portfolio to maintain the same asset ratios as in the benchmark index. This can lead to additional costs that are not immediately apparent.

4. Market Footprint Effect

in simple terms, the more activity on the ETF market, the more likely it is to affect the stock prices of the companies included in these funds. For a better understanding, let's assume a scenario with an ETF fund encompassing shares of 100 different companies.

Every day, investors buy and sell shares in this fund. Each transaction requires the fund to adjust its portfolio due to the need to continuously mirror the index that the ETF tracks. Often, this means buying or selling shares of individual companies.

After some time, the market starts buzzing about the attractiveness of investing in ETFs. A frenzy begins - more and more investors start buying shares in the fund. This will translate into the ETF fund needing to purchase more shares of companies from the index, which in turn can lead to an increase in their prices. This phenomenon is called the market footprint effect.

On one hand, this may seem beneficial for investors who already own these shares (their value increases). Still, on the other hand - if the price increase is solely due to increased demand from ETF funds and not the actual fundamentals of the company, there is a risk that, at some point, the speculative bubble will burst. Then prices plummet, and investors can incur losses.


Accessibility of ETF funds

ETFs are financial instruments with many advantages. Above all, they provide investors with broad diversification, which is key to minimizing risk. Additionally, ETFs are readily accessible and can be bought or sold like stocks, giving the investor great flexibility.

Equally important is that the costs associated with investing in ETFs are usually significantly lower than those of traditional investment funds.

Traditional investing methods

On the other hand, we have traditional investing methods such as stocks, bonds, or investment funds.

These methods offer more control but require more commitment, knowledge, and time from the investor and are often associated with significantly higher operational costs.

However, nothing is perfect – ETF funds are no exception. It's important to remember that investments in ETFs still carry risks despite diversification. The volatility of the stock prices that make up the funds can lead to losses. Additionally, some ETFs may exhibit greater volatility due to the specific industry or market they represent.

Should these potential disadvantages deter investors from investing in ETFs? On the contrary. In modern finance, where the market is dynamic and full of unpredictability, tools like ETFs can provide necessary flexibility and diversification opportunities. It's worth spending some time to delve into this topic.

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