Understanding Smart Beta Funds

Discover how Smart Beta Funds function, their underlying principles, factors influencing their performance, advantages, and their significance in shaping your investment strategy.
Smart Beta Funds
4 mins
9 Feb 2024

Consider this: You're driving on a busy highway, and your GPS offers two routes to your destination. One route follows the conventional path, while the other intelligently adapts to real-time traffic conditions, promising a quicker and smoother journey. Smart beta funds operate on a similar premise, leveraging data-driven insights and systematic methodologies to navigate the complexities of the market.

Smart beta funds are a type of mutual funds where traditional index funds meet the ingenuity of factor-based investing, resulting in a portfolio designed for enhanced performance and reduced volatility.

What are smart beta funds?

Smart beta funds represent a departure from conventional market-cap weighted indexes. They utilise a different approach, focusing on factors like value, quality, momentum, low volatility, and size, to construct portfolios. By deviating from standard indices, smart beta funds aim to capture specific market factors to potentially enhance returns and manage risk.

How do smart beta funds work?

  • Smart beta funds utilise a different weighting method compared to traditional market-cap weighted funds.
  • They do not follow standard indices like NIFTY 50 or SENSEX based on market capitalization.
  • These funds belong to factor investing, where factors like value, momentum, low volatility, and size and quality influence stock selection. For instance, a value-focused approach seeks companies with share prices lower than their intrinsic value.
  • Various metrics such as PE ratio, PB ratio, and dividend yield are used to select these undervalued stocks.

Key principles of smart beta funds

Smart beta funds operate based on two fundamental principles:

  1. Systematic factor exposure
  2. Rules-based approach

Firstly, they aim for systematic factor exposure, targeting specific factors like value, quality, momentum, low volatility, and size believed to impact stock returns. For example, a smart beta Fund may focus on stocks with low price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios to leverage the value factor. Secondly, Smart beta funds adopt a rules-based approach, unlike traditional actively managed funds. This means their strategy relies on predetermined and transparent rules or algorithms instead of subjective human judgment. This structured approach enhances transparency and consistency in decision-making processes within smart beta funds.

Factors affecting smart beta funds

Smart beta funds consider various factors like value, quality, momentum, low volatility, and size to construct portfolios and capture specific market attributes. These funds offer investors access to a diverse array of factors beyond traditional market capitalisation. Understanding these factors is key to unlocking the potential benefits of smart beta funds.

  • Value: Value investing is about uncovering undervalued stocks relative to their intrinsic worth. Smart beta funds focusing on the value factor typically target stocks with low price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios, low price-to-book (P/B) ratios, or other value-related metrics. These metrics help identify stocks with strong potential for growth.
  • Quality: Quality-oriented smart beta funds prioritise companies with robust financials, steady earnings, and minimal debt. Emphasising profitability, effective management, and solid governance, these funds aim to construct portfolios resilient to market volatility.
  • Momentum: Momentum-driven smart beta funds capitalise on the tendency of winning stocks to sustain their upward trajectory. These funds select stocks exhibiting strong recent price performance, betting on the continuation of positive trends in the market.
  • Low volatility: Low volatility strategies focus on stocks with historically stable price movements. By minimising exposure to high-risk equities, these smart beta funds offer investors a smoother investment journey, shielding portfolios from drastic market fluctuations.
  • Size: Size-based smart beta ETFs tilt their portfolios towards smaller company stocks, known as the small-cap factor. The rationale behind this strategy lies in the belief that smaller businesses have greater growth potential and room for expansion, offering opportunities for higher returns over time.

Advantages of smart beta funds

  • Diversification: Smart beta funds offer diversification beyond traditional indices like NIFTY 50 or SENSEX by targeting specific factors.
  • Potential for good returns: By focusing on factors with historically positive returns, smart beta funds may improve portfolio performance.
  • Transparency: Investors can understand how smart beta funds operate, as they follow transparent rules.
  • Less cost for active management: Smart beta funds typically have lower expense ratios compared to actively managed funds.


Smart beta funds offer a systematic approach to investing, blending elements of passive and active strategies. While they present potential benefits, investors should exercise due diligence and consider their overall financial plan and objectives when incorporating smart beta funds into their portfolio. Understanding the principles and factors behind smart beta funds is essential for navigating the complexities of the investing landscape.

Frequently asked questions

Is the expense ratio lower in smart beta funds?

The expense ratio in smart beta funds can vary but is generally lower compared to actively managed funds, offering cost-efficient investment options for investors seeking factor-based strategies.

Are smart beta funds subject to any tracking errors?

Smart beta funds may experience tracking errors due to factors like imperfect replication of indices, trading costs, and rebalancing strategies, which can affect the fund's performance relative to its benchmark index.

Are smart beta funds considered to be liquid funds?

Smart beta funds are not liquid funds. Smart beta funds vary in liquidity depending on factors like asset size and trading volume, but they generally offer liquidity similar to traditional index funds, allowing investors to buy and sell shares with ease.

Who should invest in smart beta funds?

Investors seeking a blend of active and passive investment strategies, looking to diversify their portfolios, and capitalize on specific market factors may find smart beta funds suitable for their investment objectives.

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