Vanguard said today that index fund and ETF investors are going to be going through a life-change in the months to come as the company is adopting a host of new benchmarks for its signature funds including Total Stock Market (NYSE:VTI) and Emerging Markets Index (NYSE:EEM).
Are the indexes better? Maybe. Maybe not. But what they are is cheaper — or at least the costs to license the indexes will be cheaper, and faced with its first real competitive threat from the likes of Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCHW) which recently cut its own index fund costs to below-Vanguard levels, Vanguard is raising the bar and lowering costs further—or at least it will once the transition is complete.
Vanguard has been down this road before. In April 2003 when it began transitioning funds tracking S&P indexes to the MSCI indexes it is now dumping, Vanguard’s Gus Sauter said, “As the leading manager of index mutual funds for more than 25 years, we have formulated certain views of what makes for optimal index construction. The MSCI indexes incorporate most of the best practices we seek …”
Today, Sauter says that the new indexes from FTSE and CRSP “… meet Vanguard’s ‘best practice’ standards for market benchmarks.”
Say what you will about these changes, the bottom line is still the bottom line. Indexing, particularly through ETFs is going to get cheaper and cheaper and Vanguard is not going to let someone else, be it Schwab, iShares or any of its other competitors take the mantle of “lowest cost” from its shoulders.
Are the new indexes better? Nah. Are they cheaper. You betcha!