Browse Analysis of Managed and Structured Products

18.3.1 Indexing And Closet Indexing

Discover the differences and implications of Indexing and Closet Indexing in mutual fund management. Learn about their advantages, disadvantages, and suitability for different investment strategies.


Indexing and closet indexing are two passive styles that some mutual fund managers apply to their investment strategy. Both methods have their unique sets of advantages and disadvantages, impacting investment options like the S&P/TSX Composite Index or the S&P 500 Composite Index.


Indexing is a passive investing strategy. The goal is to closely replicate the performance of a specific market benchmark such as the S&P/TSX Composite Index or the S&P 500 Composite Index. The characteristics of indexing include:

  • Low-cost: With minimal trading and portfolio management.
  • Long-term: Emphasizing a buy-and-hold strategy.
  • Minimal Securities Analysis: No need for individual securities analysis due to broad market representation.
  • Foreign Exposure: Usage of stock index futures and Canadian Treasury bills.

**Advantages: **

  • Simple Concept: Easier for investors to understand.
  • Lower Management Fees: Less expensive due to the reduced need for analytical resources.
  • Low Portfolio Turnover: Beneficial for taxable accounts.

**Disadvantages: **

  • Lack of Outperformance: Purely matches the market, forgoing opportunities for higher returns.
  • Returns after Fees: Slightly lower than the market benchmark net of fees and expenses.
  • Tax Implications: Distributions may be taxed as income rather than capital gains.

Closet Indexing

Closet indexing, while not replicating the market exactly, sticks fairly closely to market weightings by industry sector, by country or region, or by average market capitalization. It may appear to be more actively managed but is correlated closely to its benchmark.


  • Market Weightings: Aligns with industry sector, region, or market cap weights.
  • De facto Passive Strategy: Despite the appearance of active management, the overall movements reflect the index.
  • Performance and Volatility: Returns and volatility closely track the index.

Challenges to Identify:

  • Mixed signals in fund strategy: The manager may portray actively managed but the investments suggest otherwise for stakeholders.

Key Takeaways

  • Investor Simplicity: Indexing is straightforward for investors.
  • Cost Efficiency: Lower management fees and costs but cautious of fees negating net returns.
  • Balanced Semi-Active: Closet indexing adds diversity in the passive space in comparison to pure indexing.
    graph TD;
	    A[Investment Strategy] --> B[Indexing]
	    A --> C[Closet Indexing]
	    B --> D[Low Fees]
	    B --> E[Market Returns]
	    C --> F[Low Costs]
	    C --> G[Tracking Indices]


  • Indexing: A passive investment strategy designed to replicate the performance of a market index.
  • Closet Indexing: An investment strategy that closely tracks a market index but is not openly declared as much.
  • Passive Investing: Buying into index funds that represent the market rather than selection individual securities.
  • Portfolio Turnover: Frequency at which asset holdings within a fund are bought and sold.
  • Derivative-Based Income: Income received from assets like futures and options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the long-term implications of adopting an indexing strategy?

Indexing essentially guarantees market average returns minus fees and costs. This strategy is ideal for long-term investors seeking predictable growth with lower costs.

How can investors differentiate between active management and closet indexing?

Investors must analyze the fund’s performance, seeing if it closely correlates to a major index despite being marketed as actively managed. Higher analytical fees with marginally distinct results often indicate closet indexing.

MS Layout for Brokerage Chart

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markdown ## Which of the following best describes indexing in the context of investing? - [ ] An active strategy that aims to outperform the market. - [ ] A strategy involving frequent buying and selling of securities. - [x] A passive style that replicates the performance of a market benchmark. - [ ] A strategy that only focuses on high-yield stocks. > **Explanation:** Indexing is a passive style of investing where the portfolio is constructed to replicate the performance of a market benchmark such as the S&P/TSX Composite Index or the S&P 500 Composite Index. ## What is a primary characteristic of closet indexing? - [x] Sticking closely to market weightings by industry sector, country, or region. - [ ] Replicating the performance of individual high-growth stocks. - [ ] Utilizing complex derivative instruments for short-term gains. - [ ] Focusing solely on large-cap stocks. > **Explanation:** Closet indexing involves sticking fairly closely to the market weightings by industry sector, country, or region, or by average market capitalization, but not replicating the market exactly. ## Which of the following is an advantage of index funds? - [x] Low management fees. - [ ] High turnover rates. - [ ] Outperformance of market benchmarks. - [ ] Reliance on individual security analysis. > **Explanation:** Index funds have low management fees because they do not require analysts for stock selection, and they simply buy the same stocks as the index. ## What is one disadvantage of an indexing investment strategy? - [ ] High transaction costs. - [x] The inability to outperform the market. - [ ] High portfolio turnover. - [ ] Greater requirement for individual security analysis. > **Explanation:** As indexing mirrors the market, the opportunity to outperform the market is lost. Additionally, index mutual funds return somewhat less than the market benchmark after fees and expenses. ## How are distributions from derivative-based income in indexing taxed? - [x] As income. - [ ] As capital gains. - [ ] Capital losses. - [ ] Tax-free. > **Explanation:** Distributions in the form of derivative-based income from indexing are taxable as income rather than as capital gains. ## Which of the following is not a characteristic of closet indexers? - [ ] Returns that correspond closely to the index as a whole. - [ ] Volatility that closely matches the market. - [ ] Average market capitalization similar to the index. - [x] High active trading to outperform benchmarks. > **Explanation:** Closet indexers have returns, volatility, and average market capitalization that correspond closely to the index, but do not engage in high active trading. ## Why do index funds often have lower management fees compared to actively managed funds? - [ ] They engage in complex financial analysis and trading strategies. - [x] They do not require analysts for stock selection. - [ ] They focus on international market exposure. - [ ] They have higher turnover rates which reduce costs. > **Explanation:** Index funds do not need analysts for stock selection since they simply replicate the stocks in the index, leading to lower management fees. ## What is a key benefit of low portfolio turnover in indexing strategies? - [ ] It increases transaction costs. - [ ] It leads to higher frequency of capital gains. - [x] It is advantageous for taxable accounts. - [ ] It ensures higher returns. > **Explanation:** Low portfolio turnover in indexing strategies is advantageous for taxable accounts as it results in fewer taxable events. ## Which benchmark index might Canadian index funds aim to replicate? - [ ] Dow Jones Industrial Average - [x] S&P/TSX Composite Index - [ ] NASDAQ Composite Index - [ ] FTSE 100 Index > **Explanation:** Canadian index funds might aim to replicate the performance of a market benchmark such as the S&P/TSX Composite Index. ## What distinguishes closet indexing from true active management? - [ ] Use of high-frequency trading. - [ ] Completely different portfolio composition compared to the index. - [x] Close adherence to market weightings without exact replication. - [ ] Focus on small-cap stocks. > **Explanation:** Closet indexing distinguishes itself from true active management by adhering closely to market weightings without the exact replication of the index, whereas true active management involves different strategies aiming for market outperformance.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2024