Cathie Wood’s Ark funds are creating about as much frustration in the UK as they are hype. From disruptive innovation to autonomous technology, the narratives behind these exchange traded funds can be as exciting as some of their stellar returns.
And yet UK investors generally find them impossible to access. That is because they do not come in the European Ucits format and have not met other criteria for non-Ucits ETFs to be sold to the likes of UK investors.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. As noted by Matt Brennan, head of passive portfolios at AJ Bell, the barriers to investors buying non-UCITS ETFs are there to protect them from “unnecessary charges, risks and taxes”. The Ucits rules force funds to meet certain requirements around disclosure and diversification, while the currency and tax implications of going down the non-Ucits route can be painful.
More heartening, however, is the fact that alternatives exist. Plenty of thematic ETFs focus on similar trends to the Ark funds, even if the underlying exposures are not exactly the same.
Take Ark Innovation ETF (ARKK), which focuses on the introduction of a “technologically enabled new product or service that potentially changes the way the world works”. Sam Dickens, portfolio manager at IG, suggested HAN-GINS Tech Megatrend Equal Weight Ucits ETF (ITEK) as an alternative.
This fund has a similar focus on innovation and targets the leading trends of the future. Dickens noted that the HAN-GINS fund has had returns that are “strongly correlated” with those of Ark Innovation, although the latter had raced ahead since 2020 in part because of its hefty stake in Tesla. The HAN-GINS fund, to its credit, has greater levels of diversification that might pay off in tough times.
The options do not end here. IG recently published an article highlighting other potential alternatives to Ark funds such as the Ark Autonomous Technology and Robotics ETF (ARKQ).
One option could be iShares Automation and Robotics Ucits ETF (RBTX), for example, while investors who like the look of the Ark Fintech Innovation ETF (ARKF) might also find Invesco KBW Nasdaq Fintech Ucits ETF (FTEK) appealing.
Thematic funds are not difficult to find in the UK and the products available continue to proliferate, leaving you with plenty of options.
These are not direct replacements for an Ark fund, but the full disclosure of holdings made both by Wood’s products and Ucits ETFs means that you can compare the portfolios fairly easily.
Investors can also take inspiration from either, when it comes to individual holdings, or even have a mixture of funds and stocks to imitate a specific portfolio.
Dickens noted that Ark Innovation ETF fans could buy the HAN-GINS fund for similar exposures and then build “appropriately sized” positions in big Ark bets such as Tesla, Square, Roku, Teladoc Health and Zillow Group. But anyone wanting to build their own personal Ark fund should remember how volatile these portfolios can be.
Although the Ark funds are ETFs, most are actually active funds and UK investors inspired by Wood could look to stockpickers closer to home. With her zealous focus on innovation and future trends, Wood calls to mind the teams behind funds such as Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust.
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