I have talked at length about many stock market indexes on this blog. For instance, I have talked about the S&P 500 index and the Russell 3000 index. However, these are U.S. stock market indexes. Since this is a Swiss blog, I thought it was about time to spend some time on the official indexes of the Swiss Stock Market.
As it turns out, there are many Swiss Stock Market Indexes. This is a small stock market (about 2% of the world capitalization). But it is one that is considered quite stable. Therefore, there is quite more interest in this stock market than the small market capitalization would make us think.
In this post, I am going to go over all the indexes from the Swiss Stock Market. If you prefer visuals over texts, head to the end and discover a nice infographic I made for the different Swiss Stock Market Indexes.
The Swiss Stock Market
In Switzerland, we have two different exchanges:
- The SIX Stock Exchange, formerly SWX Stock Exchange, founded in 1850.
- The BX Stock Exchange, formerly Berne Exchange, founded in 1880
The first one is much larger and much more well-known than the second one. It is interesting to note that several exchanges (Basel, Geneva, and Zurich exchanges) have been merged into SIX in 1995. Berne Exchange (BX) had the option of merging as well. But they decided not to take part in the merger.
There are about 270 shares in the entire SIX stock exchange. When we compare that to the about 2800 shares of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), this shows that Switzerland is really small!
Another interesting fact about the SIX Stock Exchange is that this is the first exchange in the world to have a fully automated system for trading and clearing. This is pretty cool for such a small exchange!
In this post, we are going to focus on SIX Stock Exchange since almost everybody is trading on this exchange for Swiss securities. Therefore, the Swiss Stock Market Indexes presented in this post will all be about SIX only.
If you want to invest in the Swiss Stock Market, the best way is to invest through an index. That way you will replicate the performance of the entire Swiss Market. If you want to integrate some Swiss shares in your index ETF portfolio, you have a lot of choices.
Swiss Market Index (SMI)
The most well-known index is the Swiss Market Index (SMI). It contains the stocks of 20 of the largest Swiss companies. This index is directly operating by the SIX Stock Exchange. It was introduced in 1988.
For inclusion into the index, a company has to pass a few conditions based on trading volume and liquidity. And then, out of this list, they take the 20 largest companies by market capitalization. However, it is generally always the 20 largest companies for the entire Swiss Stock Market. SIX chooses the constituents of the index once a year.
Before 2007, there were 25 companies in the index. After that, SIX decided to change the index to only 20 companies and removed give companies from the index.
Even though it only has 20 companies, the SMI represents about 80% of the entire Swiss Stock Market. There are few giant companies in Switzerland such as Nestlé, Roche, and Novartis. These companies are dwarfing most of the other companies.
Originally, the index was fully market capitalization weighted. However, in 2017, they decided to add a new rule to the index. Now, no single company can be more than 18% of the index. I talked before of the three giants. In terms of market capitalization, they are representing more than 60% of the index. Therefore, they introduced this capped weighting to reduce their impact on the index to at most 18% each. SIX is updating the weightings on a quarterly basis.
The biggest company of the index is Nestlé. It is almost at the same level as Roche because of the 18% rule.
If we want to invest in the index, we need to choose an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). There are two main ETFs for the SMI index:
- iShares SMI: 2.1B of assets and a TER of 0.35%
- UBS SMI A-Dis: 1.7B of assets and a TER of 0.21%
Out of these two, I would invest in the UBS SMI ETF. It is a bit smaller, but not too much, and TER is about 40% cheaper! I do not know why the iShares ETF has such a large TER. They have a lot of funds that are significantly cheaper than that.
Swiss Performance Index (SPI)
The Swiss Performance Index (SPI) is probably the second most used Swiss Stock Market index. It contains about 230 shares, almost all the shares from the entire market. There are only two rules for inclusion in the SPI:
- At least 20% of free float shares. This means that at least 20% of the shares should be available to the public.
- Not an investment company.
SIX chooses the constituents of the index on a quarterly basis. The index was introduced in 1987, one year before the SMI.
The biggest company is once again Nestlé with a nice leg over the second two, Roche and Novartis. These three companies are making up 50% of the market.
Let’s look at the available ETFs for the entire SPI:
- ComStage SPI TR UCITS: 10 million CHF of assets and a TER of 0.40%
- iShares Core SPI. 1415 million CHF of assets and a TER of 0.10%
- UBS ETF SPI A-dis: 766 million CHF of assets and a TER of 0.17%
Between these three ETFs, the choice should be obvious. The iShares Core SPI ETF is both the biggest and the cheapest of the three ETFs. The UBS ETF is not bad but a bit too expensive. I do not see any reason anyone would want to invest in the ComStage ETF, it is both too small and too expensive.
Swiss Market Index Mid (SMIM)
The SMI MID (SMIM) is an index contains the 30 largest companies from the Swiss Stock market index that are not in the SMI index. If you take the 50 largest companies from the SPI, you can put the 20 largest into the SMI and the 30 others into the SMI. If you consider these 50 companies together, you get the SMI Expanded index. Since there are no available ETFs for the SMI Expanded, I will not cover it into details.
SIX manages this index in the same way it is managing the SMI one. They update the index once a year. On the other hand, there is no maximum on a company’s weight. This is not necessary since the biggest company is less than 10% of the index.
SIX made this index available in 2004 but its price reference dates back to 1999. It is a much recent index than the SMI.
This time, the biggest company is Partners Group Holding AG, a company from the financial sector.
I have found two ETFs for this index:
- iShares SMIM. 1289 million CHF of assets and a TER of 0.45%
- UBS ETF SMIM. 864 million CHF of assets and a TER of 0.28%
This another example where the iShares ETF is much more expensive than the UBS one for some obscure reason. Here, I would definitely invest in the UBS ETF.
Swiss Leader Index (SLI)
The Swiss Leader Index (SLI) is an alternative to the SMI. It comprises the 20 companies from the SMI and the 10 largest companies of the SMIM. Simply put, the SLI is the index representing the 30 largest companies of the Swiss Stock Exchange. The SLI is quite recent, it was introduced only in 2007. But for consistency, its pricing was normalized back to 1999.
Not only does this index has 10 more shares than the SMI, but there is also another big difference. They put a strong upper limit on the weight of each company. The four largest companies have a maximum of 9%. And the other 26 companies have a limit of 4.5%. This is the only time I have seen limits like this! This index was mainly introduced for this reason.
Logically, the biggest company in the index is Nestlé. But this time, the weighting is less than 9%.
There are three ETFs available for the SLI index:
- iShares SLI: 405 million CHF of assets and 0.35% TER
- UBS ETF SLI: 327 million CHF of assets and 0.21% TER
- Xtrackers SLI UCITS: 32 million CHF and a TER of 0.35%
Given the almost same size and the lower TER, I would choose the UBS ETF SLI and not the iShares SLI ETF. The Xtracks SLI fund is simply too small for my taste. And 0.35% TER is too high for me.
Other SPI Indexes
Now, there are also a few more indexes from the SPI Family.
We can start with the SPI Large. This index comprises the 20 largest companies from the SPI with the same rule as the SMI. SIX deprecated this index when they reduced the number of shares in the SMI from 30 to 20. Therefore, the SPI Large is now entirely equivalent to the SMI.
Since they changed the weightings of the SMI in 2017 to a maximum of 18% per company, they introduced the SPI 20. This is the equivalent of what the SMI was before 2017. The SMI and the SPI 20 contain the same list of stocks. But the SPI 20 does not have any upper limit on a company’s weight.
We can split the rest of the SPI into the SPI Mid and the SPI Small. The SPI Mid has 80 companies. These are the largest 80 companies from the SPI not in the SPI Large. The SPI Small index contains all the companies that are not in SPI Large and SPI Mid.
Finally, there is one more index, because why not. The SPI Mid and SPI Small put together are forming the SPI Extra. Another way to put it is that SPI Extra is all SPI but SPI Large.
Out of these indexes, only the SPI Mid has an available ETF: UBS SPI Mid A-Dis, with 159 million CHF of assets under management and a TER of 0.29%.
Visual representation of the indexes
Since most of the indexes are linked together and some indexes are simply a combination of other indexes, we can visualize them quite nicely. It will probably make sense to the visual readers. Since I did not find a recent infographic that is free for use, I decided to do it myself.
I am quite happy with the result. It is probably not much for you. But I am really bad at any graphics task. So without further ado, here is my fancy infographic:
I think it is really easy to visualize the different indexes using this infographic. You can see the size of the indexes and you can also the relations between the different index.
If you want to reuse this infographic, feel free but I would ask that you cite this article as the source.
What do you think of my not-so-fancy infographic?
Indexes from other providers
I went over all the SPI, SMI and SLI families first because they are provided directly by SIX Stock Exchange. For me, it makes more sense to have an index that is coming from the same countries as the shares themselves. Therefore, I will not go into details of all these indexes. But it is good to know that the SIX indexes are not the only one out there.
The first one is the Dow Jones Switzerland Titans 30. Cool name, right? This index contains the 30 largest and most liquid companies in the Swiss Stock Market index. This is almost the same as the SLI index but without the upper limit on the weights. I would rather use the SLI instead of this done even though it sounds less cool!
Another one is the NASDAQ Alphadex Switzerland index. This one is really weird. It contains 41 companies. Instead of using a simple market capitalization weighting, it is using the Alphadex methodology. The idea is that they are trying to beat the market by using a smarter selection instead of replicating the market performance. For this single reason, I would not invest in this index. We know that we cannot beat the market on the long-term.
MSCI offers several Switzerland indexes:
- MSCI Switzerland. It tracks the 38 largest companies of the Swiss Stock Market.
- MSCI Switzerland 20/35. It is the same as the previous one except that the largest stock is limited to 35% and all the other companies are limited to 20%.
- MSCI Switzerland IMI. It contains the 118 largest companies from the Swiss Stock Market.
And MSCI has currency hedged versions of all these indexes. This leads to many ETFs and indexes available.
Personally, I am not fond of all these indexes. They do not offer any advantage compared to the indexes from SIX. And some are simply the same as existing SIX indexes. But of course, as usual, feel free to choose the index that suits you the most!
Even for the small Swiss Stock Market, there are many available indexes. All sizes of companies are present. Since some of the indexes changed over the year, there are also some duplicates. And since there are three giants in the Swiss Stock Market (Nestlé, Novartis and Roche), they had to do some fancy things with a limit on the weights of each company in order to have a better representation of more companies.
I do not really have a favorite index out of all of them. Nevertheless, some indexes make more sense than others. The SPI, SMI, and SLI are the indexes that make the most sense to me. If you really do not know what to invest in, you should probably invest in the SPI. This is the wider available index. And it is also the one with the cheapest ETF.
Personally, I am investing in a dividend-oriented ETF with some companies from the SPI. But I am planning to move to SPI soon. I will definitely keep you up to date as I do that.
As for the ETFs for these indexes, there are good ETFs available for the most important of the indices. This plays out between iShares and UBS. Sometimes, the UBS ETFs are cheaper, sometimes the iShares ETFs are cheaper. For each index, it is necessary to choose the best ETF to invest in.
Do you know any other Swiss Stock Market index? Do you invest in any of them?