Thought Leadership

The Managed Product Spectrum

Investors turn to managed investment products to help save them time and provide portfolio diversity all-in-one. However, like a color spectrum there are many options and the level of management varies.  In most cases, these can be accessed through ETFs. On the one side are truly passive investments which follow simply follow an index. They attempt to mimic market returns (subtracting the management fee) but also take on market risk. They often have very low fees – as an example, buying an S&P500 ETF provides you with the diversity of all 505 names in the index while only paying around 5-10 basis points.

Across the spectrum, the broad-based passive gets sliced and diced by various attributes such as by sector, style, dividend history etc. As it gets more specific, the cost generally increases and performance starts to deviate away from the broad-based benchmark. If you purchase a Russell 2000 Growth ETF and Growth is what is driving the market in a given year, then that holding will outperform.

On the furthest end of the spectrum is Smart Beta and Active Management. Traditionally Smart Beta  has been associated with ETFs and Active Management with Mutual Funds. Smart Beta ETFs attempt to beat their benchmarks by creating rules to tilt the portfolio a certain way. For example, a Quality ETF might select stocks that perform well in certain factors that a manager deems to be Quality. This is generally all done by computer with no human intervention involved. Active Management, on the other hand, may use computers to assist in the process but decisions are made by a portfolio manager who is attempting to outperform the index. Because of their experience and expertise, they believe that they are in a better position to outperform.

This post is presented for illustrative and discussion purposes only. This post should not be considered as personal investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy and/or sell securities and it does not consider unique objectives, constraints, or financial needs of the individual. Under no circumstances does this post suggest that you should time the market in any way or make investment decisions based on the content. Investors are advised that their investments are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. References to specific securities are presented to illustrate the application of our investment philosophy only, do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold or recommended for the portfolio, and it should not be assumed that investments in the securities identified were or will be profitable and should not be considered recommendations by Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. The information contained in this post is the opinion of Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. and/or its employees as of the date of the post and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this post at the time of publication; however, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Market conditions may change and Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. accepts no responsibility for individual investment decisions arising from the use of or reliance on the information contained herein. We strongly recommend you consult with a financial advisor prior to making any investment decisions. Please refer to the Legal section of Bristol Gate’s website for additional information at

News & Insights


Learn about News, Events and how we are using Data Science to eliminate human bias.