New Vanguard stock fund worth a look for expats

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On 25 March, Vanguard launched a new set of all-world exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that are highly relevant for any expats or people living in developing countries. One of them could become the only stock fund you need in your portfolio.

Here’s the lowdown:

V3A: Vanguard ESG Global All Cap UCITS ETF (USD/GBP/EUR)

Any members of my Expat Investing Academy will know what all these acronyms mean, but for those of you left out in the cold, I’ll break down what they mean and why I think they make an exciting combo.


Vanguard is one of the top 3 largest fund managers in the world. As the pioneer of passive index investing, it’s highly respected. It also recycles your fees into improving its systems to reduce fees further, rather than trying to make a profit. So along with iShares from BlackRock, it’s pretty much all you need to look at when choosing a fund.

Global All Cap

The ETF invests in the FTSE Global All Cap index, which has 8,937 stocks across 49 countries – both developed countries and emerging markets. It’s slightly different to the FTSE All World Index used by the popular VWRA ETF, in that it has small companies (small caps) as well as large and medium-sized companies. Hence the name All Cap: companies with all sizes of capital.

It’s nice to have some small cap exposure. Smaller companies tend to grow faster than anyone else, though they can also have a tough time during recessions.

This index allocates money across countries in the same way the world’s stock market does. If you add up the total value of each country’s stock market, you will get more or less the same distribution across countries.

As we don’t want to be taking bets on the performance of individual countries, this is a great way to get exposure to the world and then get on with your life.

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ESG stands for Environmental, Social, Governance. ESG has gone BIG in 2021, with more and more investors, fund managers and companies committing to ESG policies.

V3A becomes ESG-friendly by investing in the FTSE Global All Cap Choice Index. It’s a variant of the Global All Cap Index that screens out 1,433 companies (about 16%) with poor ESG records:

– Non-renewable energy sector
– ‘Vice’ sectors including tobacco
– Weapons manufacturers
– Companies with poor diversity or a history of controversial activities

The screening of haram sectors makes it fairly suitable for Islamic investors, except it doesn’t screen out companies with high debt levels.

I’d say negative screening is the first level of ESGness, with 1433 stocks being removed. The index isn’t rebalancing strongly in favour of high ESG scores, but the screening process does tilt the Choice index slightly across sectors and countries:

– A higher weighting for tech, retail, healthcare and banks
– A lower weighting for oil & gas and industrials
– A higher weighting for US & China, a lower weighting for UK and France

So the fund is 58.6% US instead of 56.5%, 25% tech instead of 21%, and the top 10 holdings comprising 16% of the total value instead of 13%.

Over the past 5 years, the Choice index has outperformed the Global All Cap index by 10% and made 16.1% per year instead of 14.8%. While that’s a short timeframe for making judgements, it’s decent return and ESG-friendly companies are expected to carry on outperforming over the long term.


For non-US citizens, UCITS ETFs are the only way to go, as they avoid the nasty 40% estate tax on death. UCITS is a European standard and V3A is domiciled in Ireland for tax and reporting purposes.

Currencies & Dividends

V3A is available now from the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in USD and GBP and from IBIS (Vienna) in EUR. All ETFs have a ticker code, usually 4 letters long:

V3AA LSE:    USD Accumulating (dividends reinvested automatically)
V3AA IBIS2:  EUR Accumulating
V3AB LSE:    GBP Accumulating
V3AL LSE:     USD Distributing (dividends paid as cash into your account)
V3AL IBIS2:   EUR Distributing
V3AM LSE:    GBP Distributing


Fees for V3A are 0.24% per year, compared to 0.22% for the Vanguard FTSE All-World UCITS ETFs (VWRD/A/P/L). The additional small cap companies is likely the main driver of this. I’m not too worried about the 0.02% difference – that’s pretty minor overall and a reasonable price to pay for greater diversification and for sticking it to Big Tobacco.


As with any new fund, this one might not take off and if it doesn’t grow above at least $100 million in volume (amount invested), it may not be economical to run and Vanguard could close it. These seems unlikely, given the amount of interest in it so far and what a broad index it covers.

As the fund grows, it will cover more and more shares in the Choice index. The spread – being the difference between the buy price and sell price in the market, will narrow as well so you pay less of a premium as the ETF becomes more heavily traded. Currently the spread is slightly above that of VWRA, but not by much.

The factsheet for each V3A ETF variant will have more details in a few weeks’ time once they have been trading for a month. It’s worth googling V3AA factsheet (or whichever variation you are interested in), Given it’s so new as well, you can take a look at the components and history of the index it’s build around in the factsheet for the FTSE Global All Cap Choice Index here.

As for investing, you can dive in now or you can wait a bit till it’s more established. Either way, this is an exciting new set of ETFs heading straight for the top of my list.

Any questions or comments? Add them below.

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14 thoughts on “New Vanguard stock fund worth a look for expats”

  1. Hi Steve,

    If one is trying to re-create Vanguard Life Strategy, as per your other guide, would you recommended splitting your stock ETF between this and the VWRA?

    So you would have two stock ETFs and one bond ETF.


      1. Hi Steve,

        I asked as I had been reading about the Boggle philosophy for investing, where it champions the 3 fund portfolio.

        However, since asking you the question, I have realised they advice that for US investors. The 3 funds being Bonds, US stocks and the 3rd being International stocks. So as an expat investor, that make up isn’t relevant.

        Although I note their advice on non-US portfolios where they talk about 2 – 5 fund portfolios: https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Simple_non-US_portfolios

        They suggest a 3 fund to get exposure to emerging markets, however as I understand VWRA & V3AA both include emerging markets already, so a 2 fund portfolio is adequate.

        They also talk about a 5 fund portfolio to include Small cap coverage. However you mention the new V3AA includes Small Cap.

        So if I wanted to have a portfolio that covered all world, emerging markets and small caps, a 2 fund is all I need as you advise. V3AA and IGLA.

        So my next question is, for my first foray into long-term expat investing, would you suggest I start off with this new V3AA, or stick with VWRA?


        1. Steve Cronin

          Hi Max, yes I would keep it simple with a 2 fund portfolio. A 5-fund portfolio is completely unnecessary. Small caps are never going to make a huge difference – the bigger difference for VWRA vs V3AA is the lack of fossil fuel / tobacco / gun companies in V3AA. If that appeals to you, go with V3AA, if not go with VWRA.

  2. Hi Steve,

    What are your thoughts on when to exit Vanguard ETFs and hold onto cash. Have read a lot recently where people saying the market (US) is very overheated?

    A quote from a Bloomberg article referencing David Wright “What’s underpinning Wright’s bearishness isn’t the Fed, inflation or the war. It’s the zealous behavior of investors during the past few years that sent everything from meme stocks to cryptocurrencies soaring. The stock market gains helped U.S. household wealth balloon to a record $150 trillion, or more than six times the size of the American economy, according to data compiled by the Fed.”

    If the market is overheated and due a correction then do we look to sell up and wait it out and then buy back in? Or take the hit and wait 4,5,6,10 years to make back what we have lost?

    1. Steve Cronin

      Hi Gary, I would never exit the market and move to cash just because the market is going down or I think it will go down. That will drive you crazy. Maybe you will do well, maybe you won’t. Remember March 2020 – people moved to cash and then the market rebounded hugely and they were stuck. What you do is maximise the things you actually have control over – which is boosting your income and reducing your expenses – so you can invest as much as possible each month. Then it doesn’t matter what the market does. Your investment horizon should be in multiple decades. Reading all these opinions and acting on them will make you very uncomfortable and much more likely to underperform than if you keep investing through the ups and downs and stay invested.

  3. greetings to all….. I have been told that expats are not allowed to buy mutual funds AND ETF’s if you reside in the European Union. This is due to regulations, I believe. Also, they become a tax nightmare. Now I am confused about ETF’s. Could someone please clarify this for me? Thank you. Greetings from Spain.


    1. Hi Luis, UCITS ETFs are specifically approved in Europe for use across Europe. So if you are resident there then it shouldn’t be a problem. I am not an expert on Spanish tax regulations though, and these will change all the time, so get proper advice from a Spanish tax expert if you are concerned.

  4. Great article Steve.

    If Vanguard decides to close it, what happens to us as investors? do they rearrange our fund into other ETFs? How does it work?

    1. Steve Cronin

      Hi Ayman, you would get the cash back at the value from when they closed it. I really doubt they will close these ones though.

  5. Speaking of new ETFs…any insight on the new TSX Ethereum ETFs? ETHH, ETHX, ETHR…They are listed on IB. A good way to invest in crypto without the coin confusion and addition to my couch potato portfolio? Better options? Understanding The crypto wallets, number of platforms and geographic implications/restrictions is a lot to process.
    -Cdn expat in UAE


    1. Steve Cronin

      Hi Bonnie, no idea. Binance seems super easy to use to buy crypto if you have a bank account outside UAE. But be careful, crypto is extremely volatile and I wouldn’t invest until you have your expat investing for retirement really nailed down. It is indeed a lot to process and your retirement fund is MUCH more important than fun money that you could lose.

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