Mutual Funds And ETFs


Mutual Funds And ETFs Overview

Mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) are baskets of money used to make investments. The two fund types are similar but exhibit important differences, as described below. Sustainable mutual fund and ETF options are wide ranging.

Mutual Funds

Almost half of all American households possess mutual fund investments, making them one of the most common investment options.

A mutual fund is a basket of money provided by many different investors which a fund manager invests in stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and other financial assets. Investments are made based on the mutual fund’s stated investment objectives and goals. One of the key benefits of investing in a mutual fund is that the fund provides investors with a diversified portfolio of investments.

Fund managers are compensated by fees paid by investors. Fund operating fees are an annual percentage of the funds under management, usually ranging from, for example, 1–3% for actively managed funds. Contrasting an actively managed fund, passively managed mutual funds which track an index typically charge lower fees. Annual operating fees are collectively known as the expense ratio. In addition, some mutual fund managers charge sales fees when an investor buys or sells a mutual fund. 

The Pax Balanced Fund (PAXWX) launched in 1971 as the first sustainable mutual fund. The Calvert Balanced Fund (CSIFX) and Parnassus Fund (PARNX) followed in 1982 and 1984, respectively. In 1990, one of the first sustainable index funds, the Domini 400 Social Index, now the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index, was launched. A list of sustainable mutual funds can be found on the website of the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (USSIF).

Exchange traded funds

An ETF is a newer type of pooled investment vehicle which was created in 1993. ETFs grew steadily in popularity over the last decade. Notably, over the last decade, the amount invested in ETFs has grown from $1 trillion to over $5 trillion globally. Similar to a mutual fund, an ETF is a basket of money used to make a diverse set of investments. The important differences between ETFs and mutual funds can be found in the table below.

The first sustainable ETF, the iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF (SUSA), was launched in 2005. As of September 2019, there were 253 ETFs/Exchange Traded Products (ETPs), with more than $20 billion assets under management, listed globally. A list of sustainable ETFs can be found on

Key differences between Mutual Funds And ETFs

ETFsMutual Funds
Often track an index (passively managed)Can be actively managed or track an index (passively managed)
Can be traded throughout the day, similar to a stockTraded at the end of the day
Trades occur between investorsTrades occur between an investor and a fund manager
Average management fee is 0.2% (if passive management)Management fees are typically 1% – 3% (higher cost due to active management)
Often charged a commissioning fee for tradeSometimes charged a sales fee for trade
No minimum investment amountMinimum investment of $1,000
Key Differences Between Mutual Funds and ETFs

Photo by Adeolu Eletu 

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