LIC vs ETF: Know The Difference

LIC vs ETF: Know The Difference

Last Updated on 2 April 2024 by Ryan Oldnall

In the investment landscape, choosing the ‘right’ investment can seem complex, leading to analysis paralysis for many. The abundance of investment acronyms, such as ETFs and LICs, further contributes to the confusion, making it challenging to decide where to invest for optimal returns.

As we delve into Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) and Listed Investment Companies (LICs), our goal is to simplify the topic.

Each comes with distinctive features, offering chances for financial growth. Grasping the fundamentals is important to make informed decisions on what suits you and your financial objectives.

This article clears up the jargon, succinctly explaining definitions, structures, compositions, and key considerations.

What Is An ETF: What’s Inside?

Definition: Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) are financial powerhouses, serving as versatile “wrappers” around diverse assets. This innovative investment vehicle enables cost-effective access to diversification, appealing to investors aiming to distribute risks across various markets.

Composition: Within the comprehensive “wrapper” of an ETF, you find a diverse array of assets. While equities often take the spotlight, ETFs can also include other asset classes such as infrastructure, commodities, bonds, or cash.

The composition can be actively managed by a portfolio manager or passively determined by tracking specific indices. Notably, seemingly similar ETFs may vary significantly in their internal makeup.

The most insightful analogy, as described by Owen Rask, envisions an ETF as a box of favorites. Picture this: within that single box, each chocolate represents individual shares of a company.

For instance, Crunchy might symbolize BHP, Twirl could be likened to CBA, and so forth. The key insight here is the abundance of each chocolate, often in varying quantities, within the box of favorites parallels the diverse shares within the ETF.

The box of favorites in the ETF aligns with the chocolates representing the individual shares.

Examples: In the Australian market, iShares Core S&P/ASX 200 ETF (IOZ) provides exposure to the ASX200 index, representing the 200 largest companies.

The immensely popular iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) monitors the price and yield performance of U.S. large-cap stocks, mirroring the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Performance Considerations: Past performance is not indicative of future results. ETFs feature intriguing aspects, such as leveraged variations.

For instance, thematic ETFs like ACDC aim to expose investors to global companies in electro-chemical storage technology and mining firms producing battery-grade lithium.

Liquidity: For smoother transactions, investors should prioritize highly liquid options. A key advantage of ETFs is their open-ended structure, allowing seamless buying and selling.

This flexibility minimizes tracking errors and maintains the ETF’s value close to its Net Asset Value (NAV). Most ETFs are highly liquid and traded in significant volumes.

Fees: When it comes to ETFs, the Managed Expense Ratio (MER) is a game-changer, with impressively low fees for a large number of ETFs.

Take BetaShares Australia 200 ETF (A200), giving you exposure to the top 200 Aussie companies. The cost? Just a 0.04% annual management fee, translating to a pocket-friendly $0.40 for a $1000 invested.

Not all ETFs are this cheap, but many have come down in cost over time, and even the more expensive options still provide good value for what they offer. The upfront cost transparency and ease of purchasing make ETFs a highly desirable investment choice.

When you look at an ETF more closely, they are just that box of favorites. You buy a box, and in that box, you get a large assortment of various quantities and types.

Instead of buying an individual bag of twirls, crunchies, etc., you box, the pre-mixed option. Now let’s shift onto Listed Investment Companies, LICs, which aren’t as simple as ETFs.

LIC vs ETF: Know The Difference

What Is A LIC?

Definition: Listed Investment Companies (LICs) emerge as financial instruments on exchanges, providing exposure to actively managed diversified portfolios. Unlike ETFs, LICs focus on actively chosen investments, leveraging fund managers’ expertise for portfolio curation.

Composition: LICs primarily consist of actively managed investments in equities or fixed income, created by fund managers to maximize returns. Importantly, daily holdings remain undisclosed, meaning investors have limited transparency in their operational approach.

Structure: LICs operate with a closed-ended structure, impacting market dynamics with a fixed number of shares. This structure may cause share values to deviate from the Net Asset Value (NAV), leading to trading at a discount or premium influenced by market forces.

Performance Considerations: Post-listing, LICs may experience deviations in share values from the NAV. While buyers can elevate prices above NAV, LICs often trade at a discount, introducing complexity for investors.

ETF vs LIC: Comparison and Considerations:

Fees: In terms of fees, ETFs take the lead with their generally lower costs. The Managed Expense Ratio (MER) for ETFs tends to be more economical compared to the fee structures of actively managed LICs.

Transparency: The transparency of holdings becomes a pivotal distinction. ETFs excel in this aspect, providing investors with a clear view of the underlying assets on a daily basis. In contrast, LICs maintain a level of secrecy, with daily portfolio disclosures absent from their operational framework.

Management Style: LICs and ETFs are very different in their management styles. LICs entrust fund managers with the task of active management, aiming to outperform the market.

On the flip side, ETFs often adopt a passive management strategy, mirroring the performance of the indices they track.

General Considerations: Investors are advised to tread carefully, recognizing that the quality of ETFs or LICs can vary significantly. Lower fees, transparency, and the ability to track performance against NAV emerge as critical factors in making informed investment decisions.


In the investment world, choosing between Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) and Listed Investment Companies (LICs) isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision. It depends on your preferences, risk tolerance, and investment goals.

LIC vs ETFs: Looking at Advantages:

ETFs, with their open-ended structures, low fees, and transparent holdings, appeal to those favoring simplicity and cost-effectiveness. Conversely, LICs attract investors in search of fund manager expertise and an actively managed approach..

LIC vs ETFs: Considerations:

ETFs provide liquidity and facilitate easy buying and selling, minimizing tracking errors. In contrast, LICs, with their closed-ended structure, may introduce complexity and lead to share value deviations.

Fees are a crucial factor, with ETFs generally being more cost-effective. Transparency and management style (passive for ETFs, active for LICs) also come into play.

Ultimately, the decision between ETFs and LICs is personal. Whether you prefer the simplicity of ETFs or the actively managed approach of LICs, it’s about understanding your needs.


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