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January 9, 2024

Debunking the Myths Associated with Exchange-Traded Funds

Many potential investors are just as misinformed as they are informed about ETFs. The following helps to dispel some of the most commonly held ETF misconceptions.

Myth #1: Trading volume dictates an ETF's liquidity

False: An ETF’s liquidity is not established by its trading volume but by its underlying holdings. At minimum, an ETF or mutual fund will be as liquid as its underlying holdings. 

ETFs are open-ended investment vehicles (similar to open-ended mutual funds). They can issue new shares or withdraw existing shares in the market to meet investor supply and demand. This helps explain why metrics like assets under management (AUM) or trading volume are not helpful in estimating the liquidity of an ETF. 

An ETF that invests in large companies will have relatively higher liquidity as these stocks trade millions of shares daily. By contrast, ETFs that invest in smaller or less liquid stocks may experience relatively lower liquidity, which can increase price swings, similar to a mutual fund structure. 

Investors and advisors should evaluate an ETF’s underlying holdings to determine liquidity, not its trading volume or AUM. If there is no liquidity concern with a mutual fund that invests in similar securities as an ETF, there should be no concern with regards to the liquidity of an ETF. 

Myth #2: ETFs with higher trading volume are better investment options than ETFs with lower trading volume

False: An investor or advisor should evaluate an ETF’s merit based on its underlying holdings and investment objective rather than trading volume. The popularity of ETFs in Canada has led to a proliferation of new options in the industry. As a result, many ETFs do in fact have low average daily trading volume. However, as previously mentioned, trading volume is not indicative of an ETF’s liquidity or viability, and many of these securities can act as large diversified core solutions in an investor’s portfolio. 

Before you choose any kind of security, including ETFs, it’s important to understand the role they will play in your overall investment strategy. 

Myth #3: ETFs are more risky than mutual funds

False: ETFs have similar characteristics to mutual funds but trade on an exchange. There is nothing inherently different about an ETF that would expose investors to increased risk relative to a mutual fund. The most significant influences on any ETF or mutual fund’s risk profile are the risks associated with investing in the financial markets, the type of individual securities that the fund invests in, and the investment style and strategy of the fund.

Myth #4: ETFs are not suited for long-term investors

False: Like mutual funds, exchange-traded funds are effective portfolio construction tools. While ETFs may be used by active investors as short-term trading vehicles, they can also be used effectively as buy-and-hold investments for long-term investors. Whereas one investor may purchase a particular ETF to hedge, another may buy the same ETF for a completely different strategy, such as to grow capital. 

The product design and versatility of ETFs allow investors with similar or different investment objectives to own the same product and still accomplish their respective goals. 

Myth #5: ETFs are so simple that you don’t need professional advice to invest in them

False: The growth of the ETF industry has resulted in greater choices for investors. But with over 1000 ETFs now available in Canada, it has become even more difficult to pick the right solution for you. Investors should conduct proper due diligence and work with an advisor, where possible, to design an appropriate asset allocation strategy, then choose the individual investments that can help them meet their objectives, whether they be mutual funds or ETFs.

As investors’ needs continue to become increasingly complex, education to simplify the products and enhance the understanding of ETFs is crucial. Visit our ETF data page or speak to your financial advisor about how ETFs can add value to your portfolio and help you achieve your financial goals.


Commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with an investment in exchange-traded funds (ETFs). You will usually pay brokerage fees to your dealer if you purchase or sell units of an ETF on recognized Canadian exchanges. If the units are purchased or sold on these Canadian exchanges, investors may pay more than the current net asset value when buying units of the ETF and may receive less than the current net asset value when selling them. Please read the prospectus before investing. Important information about an exchange-traded fund is contained in its prospectus. The indicated rates of return are the historical annual compounded total returns net of fees and expenses payable by the fund (except for figures of one year or less, which are simple total returns) including changes in security value and reinvestment of all dividends/distributions and do not take into account sales, redemption, distribution or optional charges or income taxes payable by any securityholder that would have reduced returns. ETFs are not guaranteed; their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated.

This document is provided as a general source of information and should not be considered personal, legal, accounting, tax or investment advice, or construed as an endorsement or recommendation of any entity or security discussed. Every effort has been made to ensure that the material contained in this document is accurate at the time of publication.  Market conditions may change which may impact the information contained in this document. All charts and illustrations in this document are for illustrative purposes only. They are not intended to predict or project investment results. Individuals should seek the advice of professionals, as appropriate, regarding any particular investment. Investors should consult their professional advisors prior to implementing any changes to their investment strategies. 

Certain statements contained in this communication are based in whole or in part on information provided by third parties and CI Global Asset Management has taken reasonable steps to ensure their accuracy. Market conditions may change which may impact the information contained in this document.