What does ‘UCITS’ mean and what are UCITS ETFs?
If you’ve ever bought a collective investment product, you’ve probably seen the term ‘UCITS‘ from time to time. UCITS is a set of safety standards aimed at protecting investors from unsafe investment channels.
What does UCITS mean?
UCITS stands for ‘undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities’. The UCITS legislation governs the marketing and distribution of a wide range of collective investment schemes.
It’s an EU directive that provides a regulatory framework for funds that are managed and based in the EU. The directive was created to ensure that investors are protected from fraudulent activities and misleading information by market participants and contain two key principles:
- The principle of best execution, which stipulates that brokers get their customers the best execution available for their orders1
- The principle of investor protection, which says investors should be protected from misleading, manipulative or fraudulent practices2
A UCITS-compliant fund can be marketed to ordinary investors because it adheres to common risk and fund management standards, designed to shield investors from unsuitable investments.
UCITS funds account for 75% of all collective investments by small investors in Europe. While UCITS is an EU regulation, the UK government took steps to ensure the framework would continue in the UK post-Brexit.
What is a UCITS ETF?
A UCITS ETF is an exchange traded fund that follows a system of safety measures in accordance with UCITS regulations. This means that its holdings must be diversified, with no single holding above 10% of the fund’s net asset value (NAV).
It must be liquid, allowing investors the flexibility to sell their shares at any time. Further, UCITS ETFs must be held separately from those of the fund provider and supervised by an independent custodian, to safeguard investors’ assets if the provider runs into financial trouble.
Examples of UCITS-compliant ETFs
- Vanguard FTSE 100 UCITS ETF tracks the performance of the FTSE 100, which is made up of the 100 largest firms in the UK
- iShares Core S&P 500 UCITS ETF - EUR represents 500 of the largest US companies
- SPDR FTSE UK All Share UCITS ETF offers exposure to over 600 shares listed on the London Stock Exchange
- iShares Dow Jones Industrial Average UCITS ETF tracks the performance of 30 large US companies, covering a wide range of industries
- iShares Core MSCI World UCITS ETF gives exposure to companies from developed countries
The advantages of UCITS ETFs
Investing in UCITS ETFs is often a popular choice due to the advantages that these funds offer. For one, investors enjoy added risk protection due to stringent rules on fund management, diversification, service provider administration and protection of assets.3
While these measures are aimed at protecting traders and investors, always bear in mind that all trading and investing incurs risk and you may get back less than what you put in. To help individuals safeguard their capital , UCITS-compliant funds have to provide:
- A simplified prospectus: given to investors before they open a position. It helps give them a clear understanding of the UCITS ETF they intend to get exposure to, as well as the costs and risks involved
- The KIID (key investor information document): a pre-contractual document with essential information about a fund, which helps investors make informed decisions about its risks
- Risk management in UCITS ETFs: a set of regulations which stipulate that funds should be diversified, with no single holding exceeding 10% of the fund’s total NAV. For ETFs using derivatives, exposure should be covered with collateral valued at 90% of NAV and meet minimum risk management standards. UCITS funds cannot use leverage other than on a temporary basis and up to a maximum of 10% of their NAV. Direct short selling is not permitted
- Liquidity: ensures that all investments remain open-ended, meaning investments can be redeemed any time an investor wishes to do so
- Transparent and regular reports: prohibits funds from investing in indices where calculation methodology isn’t easily accessible and free of charge
Learn more about risk and reward in trading and investing
UCITS EFT ratings
UCITS ratings offer a simplified summary of a UCITS ETF’s historical performance over a three-, five- and ten-year period, compared to other similar funds. There are two main ratings agencies; S&P and Morningstar, while MSCI provides sustainability ratings.
Standard & Poor’s (S&P) UCITS ratings
S&P has ratings on over 500 funds, including UCITS ETFs. It assigns credit quality and fund volatility ratings. These take into consideration each fund’s management track record and credibility, as well as its operating policies ad commitment to such policies, its risk preference and on the effectiveness of management’s internal risk measures.
Morningstar UCITS ratings
Morningstar gives UCITS ETFs from one to five stars based on their performance compared to similar funds. Mathematical evaluations of past performance, which take into consideration three- five- and ten-year ratings, are used to give an overall score.
MSCI sustainability ratings
MSCI sustainability ratings measure the ESG characteristics of funds and ETFs in order to give investors a better understanding of the risks involved. ETFs are given a rating from CCC (lowest) to AAA (highest). These are based on the weighted average score of an ETF’s holdings and its exposure to assets with the worst-rated ESG holdings.
How to trade or invest in UCITS ETFs and funds
You can get exposure to UCITS ETFS in two ways: by trading or investing. With us, you can invest using a share dealing account and take your position from as low as £3 comission.4
To invest in UCITS ETFs, follow these steps:
- Create a share dealing account with us or log in
- Search for the UCITS ETF you want to buy
- Select your deal size
- Open and monitor your position
Please note that retail investors only get access to UCITS-compliant ETFs, while professional investors will have access to a variety of non-UCITS ETFs, too.
Retail traders can take a position on both UCITS and non-UCITS ETFs through CFDs and spread bets to speculate on rising and falling prices. When trading, you’ll never take actual ownership of the underlying assets – a strategy best suited to short-term horizons.
What’s more, when you spread bet on shares, any profits you make are yours to keep because they’re exempt from capital gains tax. And since you never actually own the underlying asset, you won’t have to pay stamp duty, plus you pay zero commission as the cost of opening your position is covered in the spread.5
Learn more about how you can buy US ETFs in the UK
- UCITS stands for ‘undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities’. Its legislation governs the marketing and distribution of a wide range of collective investment schemes.
- UCITS ETFs follow a system of safety measures in accordance with UCITS regulations
- UCITS-compliant ETFs can be marketed to retail traders and investors as they conform to common risk and fund management standards
- You can invest in UCITS ETFs with us by opening a share dealing account, or trade the funds using a CFD trading or spread betting account
1 US Securities and Exchange Commission, 2011
2 iosco.org, 2003
3 carnegroup.com, 2019
4 Trade in your share dealing account three or more times in the previous month to qualify for our best commission rates. Please note published rates are valid up to £25,000 notional value. See our full list of share dealing charges and fees.
5 Tax laws are subject to change and depend on individual circumstances. Tax law may differ in a jurisdiction other than the UK.
This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG Markets Limited. In addition to the disclaimer below, the material on this page does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Consequently any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk. Any research provided does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any specific person who may receive it. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Although we are not specifically constrained from dealing ahead of our recommendations we do not seek to take advantage of them before they are provided to our clients. See full non-independent research disclaimer and quarterly summary.
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