Vanguard is a well-rounded investment management firm with the industry’s lowest expense costs. Based in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, Vanguard has over 480 different mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) available to the public. As of Dec. 31, 2014, the firm has over 20 million investors totaling over $3 trillion in assets under management (AUM). The firm has become recognized as one of the most popular investment management firms, especially for the do-it-yourself investors looking for diversification at a lower cost. Vanguard offers several different types of international funds as mutual funds and ETFs.
Vanguard International Equity Funds
Vanguard offers 11 international mutual funds, all differing in strategy or investment philosophy. The broadest-based Vanguard fund in this sector is the Vanguard International Stock Index Fund. The fund is a low-cost way to get exposure to international and emerging-market stocks, with a low expense ratio of 0.14%. Managed by the Vanguard Equity Investment Group, the fund offers 46% exposure to Europe, 30% exposure to the Pacific region and the remaining in emerging markets. The fund has kept pace with the benchmark, giving investors an average five-year return of 1.31%.
Investors who are looking for a more active strategy that focuses on international growth should look to the Vanguard International Explorer Fund. This fund is run by the reputable Wellington Management Company and has performed well over the long term. The fund's objective is to invest in mostly smaller European and Pacific market companies that are expected to grow at a faster pace than the overall market. For an expense of 0.4%, the fund has over 350 stocks from over 20 countries. Since its inception in 1996, the fund has given investors an average annual return of 9.49%, versus the benchmark's return of 6.64%.
Vanguard International Bond Funds
Vanguard offers two mutual funds in the international space for fixed-income investors. The Vanguard Total International Bond Index Fund looks to provide investors with a well-diversified portfolio of investment-grade, non-U.S. bonds. It also uses hedging strategies to protect against future exchange-rate risks. The fund is run by Vanguard’s fixed-income group, and the annual expense ratio is at 0.31%. This gives investors exposure to a fund with over 3,900 different international bond positions to diversify their portfolios.
The Vanguard Emerging Markets Government Bond Index Fund provides exposure to bonds within the emerging-market areas, which are subject to more risk. With this higher risk exposure, investors are rewarded with a higher yield, currently at 5.34%. The Vanguard fixed-income group uses diversification and in-depth analysis of its bond selection process to reduce risk and volatility within the fund. For an annual expense of 0.34%, investors can invest in 867 emerging-market bond positions.
Vanguard International Equity ETFs
Nine different international equity choices are within Vanguard's ETF lineup. For 0.14% expense, investors can get the broadest exposure with the Total International Stock ETF (NYSEARCA: VXUS). The fund looks to track the performance of the FTSE Global All Cap ex-U.S. Index. Currently, the fund is invested 46% in Europe and 30% in the Pacific region, with the remaining in emerging markets. With top holdings that include Nestle, Roche and Novartis, the Total International Stock ETF gives investors access to international companies through a low-cost diversified fund.
Vanguard offers several solutions for investors seeking exposure to more targeted areas of the world. One example is the Vanguard FTSE Pacific Fund (NYSEARCA: VPL). For an expense of 0.12%, this fund holds stocks that are primarily invested in Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore. Investors looking for exposure to stocks such as Toyota and Samsung should look to this fund.
Vanguard International Bond ETFs
Vanguard offers two ETFs in the international bond arena. The Total International Bond Fund (NASDAQ: BNDX) is a great way to gain exposure to the international bond markets. The fund currently has an expense ratio of 0.19% and has 3,979 bond holdings within the portfolio. The fund is mostly invested in Europe, with over 56% weighted in this region. The Vanguard Fixed Income Group reduces the funds' risk by only choosing investment-grade bonds, leading to less overall volatility for investors.
The Emerging Markets Government Bond Fund (NASDAQ: VWOB) invests in emerging-market government bonds, with a dollar-weighted average maturity consistent with the Barclays Emerging Markets Government RIC Index. For an expense ratio of 0.34%, investors can gain exposure to 867 positions within rapidly growing countries. Although this investment carries more risk, the fund rewards investors with a high yield of 5.31%.