Vanguard Going All in on Direct Indexing, CEO Says

Investing style seen as disruptive to ETF industry.

RonDay
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Managing Editor
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Reviewed by: Ron Day
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Edited by: Ron Day

Vanguard Group, the No. 2 exchange-traded fund issuer, is planning a major push into direct indexing, an investing style that competes head-on with its range of ETFs and mutual funds. 

The ETF issuer, also the world’s biggest mutual fund company, will “invest heavily” in direct investing, CEO Tim Buckley said while being interviewed on stage at the Exchange ETF conference in Miami Beach this week.  

Direct indexing has been called the “ETF killer” because it permits clients to create replicas of stock indexes and build customizable portfolios, undercutting some of the value of ETFs. Its big appeal may be advantages that cut tax bills: Investors can engage in tax-loss harvesting, wherein losses from investments can be used to offset gains in other areas. 

“There’s huge tax benefits for a lot of investors in using direct indexing,” Buckley said, according to Pensions & Investments.  

Vanguard, which manages $2.01 trillion in 81 ETFs, began its move into direct indexing in October 2021, with the purchase of Just Invest and its direct investing platform called Kaleidoscope.  

Direct indexing has been available to wealthy investors for years. It may grow to represent one-third of retail separate accounts by 2026, driven by clients with $2 million to $3 million in assets, according to a report from Cerulli Associates last year. 

With so many of its ETFs and mutual funds tied to indexes, Vanguard, with $7.2 trillion in assets, may not seem like an obvious company to embrace direct indexing. Buckley said that rather than taking a hostile approach, Vanguard sees it potentially benefiting investors broadly. 

The move suggests direct indexing is here to stay and will make greater inroads in the ETF industry. In certain circumstances, investors may find it a better investment solution than even ETFs.  

“It’s not about disruption or competition,” ETF.com senior analyst Sumit Roy said. “It’s about offering investors more choice and the best solution for their investment needs.” 

 

Contact Ron Day at [email protected] 

Ron Day is Managing Editor at etf.com. He joined the company in October 2022 and previously served as editor and deputy managing editor.

Ron covered business and financial news at Bloomberg News for 20 years, working on the breaking news, technology, commodities, headlines and First Word teams. He was previously senior editor at ESG news outlet Karma Impact and filled the same role at Boundless Impact. He also covered a variety of beats at New Jersey daily papers including the Daily Record in Parsippany, the North Jersey Herald & News and the Asbury Park Press. Ron's freelance work has been published in AARP.com, Investopedia.com and BigThink.com.

Ron is an advocate and fan of literacy. He hopes to one day master his Telecaster, rather than the other way around. His wonderful family includes a 10-lb. malti-poo named Emmy.