In a recent article for the Wall Street Journal, author Mark Hulbert defends the use of ETFs in opposition to people who say direct indexing is a superior method of investing. Many brokerage firms that have created direct-indexing platforms say direct indexing is better as it allows investors to create a customized index without stocks that they don't want and also can strategically harvest tax losses. However, Hubert believes that most of direct indexing’s supposed advantages can be duplicated by ETFs at a lower cost. For instance, customizing an index can be duplicated. According to Lawrence Tint, the former U.S. CEO of BGI, the organization that created iShares, now part of BlackRock, anybody could achieve the same result by buying a generic index ETF and then selling short the stocks that we want to avoid. Tint also doubts that direct indexing’s ability to harvest tax losses outweighs the cost savings of investing in a low-cost ETF. He stated that, over time, an investor who sells his losers from his direct-index portfolio will increasingly be left with a portfolio of mostly unrealized gains. So, the benefit of being able to decide when to take tax losses will fall over time. An investor will also have to pay higher fees each year to maintain the direct index. In addition, he also noted that tax-loss harvesting is only applicable to taxable accounts.
Finsum:In an article for the Wall Street Journal, author Mark Hulbert defends the use of ETFs against direct indexing as its ability to harvest tax losses outweighs the cost savings of a low-cost ETF, while customization can be replicated by buying an index and shorting the stocks you don’t want.