Last week we considered the pros and cons of adding international stocks to your portfolio, this week we look at how.
How can I invest in international shares?
There are a number of ways to invest in international shares:
You could pick a handful of stocks and try to invest directly. This is a little tricky, because foreign stocks are listed on foreign stock exchanges, which are not easily accessible. Some brokers in Australia do allow you to purchase stocks listed on certain foreign exchanges.
However, before you do this it is important to consider the impact of foreign exchange on your investment. If your international share portfolio rises by 10%, but the Australian dollar appreciates by 10%, then your net return will be 0. It is hard to manage this foreign exchange rate risk when you purchase shares directly.
Exchange Traded Funds
It is possible to invest in international equities via an exchange traded fund (“ETF”). This means that you can purchase the international equity ETF on the Australian stock exchange (the same way you would a share) and get access to a number of international stock markets. The upside is that you get access to a diversified international portfolio, through a purchase in Australia, and you can choose a hedged portfolio (more on that below) to minimise your foreign exchange rate risk. The downside is that you will pay a fee for this management, usually around 0.3% to 0.5%p.a.
Another option is to invest via a fund manager, this allows you to invest in a professionally managed portfolio of international stocks. This is a simpler option that investing directly in a number of different stock exchanges, and you get access to professional investment expertise, including expertise in managing foreign exchange rate risk.
The downside is that this will cost you between 1-2% p.a. According to the SPIVA report just over 10% of international managed funds in Australia outperformed the index over the last 10 years.