Exploring Owners of Vanguard Group

Exploring Owners of Vanguard Group

4 Min.

Vanguard Group is the second-largest investment firm in the world after BlackRock. It is the biggest issuer of mutual funds globally and the second-biggest issuer of ETFs. Vanguard is unique in that it is owned by its various funds, which in turn are owned by its shareholders. Unlike most publicly traded investment firms, Vanguard has no other owners than its shareholders.


Vanguard's investment management structure is notably distinctive, being owned by its funds, and the funds, in turn, are owned by the shareholders. This arrangement designates the shareholders as the true proprietors, setting Vanguard apart from most publicly-owned investment firms. Consequently, the company operates without external investors beyond its shareholder base.

The unique ownership model of Vanguard enables the company to impose remarkably low expenses on its funds. Leveraging its expansive scope, Vanguard has successfully diminished its expenses over time. In 1975, the average expense ratio for Vanguard funds stood at 0.89%. Fast forward to the close of 2023, and this figure has substantially decreased to an impressive 0.08%.

Vanguard's Prominent Position and Mission

As of April 2023, Vanguard manages assets totaling $7.7 trillion, securing its position as the second-largest globally, with BlackRock leading at $9 trillion in assets under management (AUM). Headquartered in Pennsylvania, Vanguard holds the distinction of being the world's largest mutual funds issuer and the second-largest issuer of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). In 2023, it has 203 U.S. funds, 227 international funds, and boasted a substantial investor base exceeding 50 million. Among its notable offerings is the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBTLX), which is recognized as one of the largest bond funds globally.

Vanguard is dedicated to "taking a stand for all investors, treating them fairly, and providing the best chance for investment success." Its commitment lies in stability, transparency, low costs, and effective risk management. As a leader in offering passively managed mutual funds and ETFs, Vanguard is perceived by some experts as structurally adept at avoiding conflicts of interest prevalent in other investment management firms. This stands in contrast to publicly traded investment management firms, which must balance the interests of both shareholders and fund investors.

Vanguard's Evolution and Pioneering Vision

In 1951, John C. Bogle commenced his tenure at Wellington Management Company, progressing through various roles to ultimately assume executive and presidential positions. A dispute in 1974 led Bogle to establish The Vanguard Group of Investment Companies, inspired by a British ship symbolizing leadership.

Bogle's brainchild, the First Index Investment Trust (now Vanguard 500 Index Fund, VFIAX), emerged in 1976. Despite a slow start, its success burgeoned, influencing other mutual funds to emulate its index investing approach by the 1980s.

Transforming Vanguard into a haven for retail investors seeking cost-effective wealth-building sans broker services, Bogle envisioned low-cost investing and transparency for non-institutional investors. Today, Vanguard offers some of the largest index funds in the industry, with an average expense ratio of 0.09% in 2022, remarkably lower than the mutual fund industry average of 0.54%.

Pros and Cons of Index Investing


Index investing offers cost advantages due to lower fees from passive management and minimal turnover. This simplicity is beneficial for new investors with limited resources, as stocks on indexes undergo a thorough evaluation. Additionally, index funds provide diversification across hundreds of companies, surpassing the selective focus of hand-picked stock portfolios.

Index funds tend to outperform actively managed ones, given the associated fees and costs. While returns may not consistently surpass others, active fund managers often fall short, as demonstrated by over half underperforming the S&P 500 in one year, escalating to over 91% over ten years.


Returns from index funds are confined to those of the underlying index, lacking flexibility. The absence of reactivity prevents investors from capitalizing on undervalued or overvalued stocks within the fund. Short-term investors face downside risk, as index funds are better suited for long-term buy-and-hold strategies. Index investing limits strategic exposure, tying investors to the fund and index managers' strategies. This limitation curtails personal investment strategies unless integrated into an overall strategy.


For numerous investors, index funds present a compelling option. Both mutual funds and ETFs that mirror indexes boast minimal costs. By aligning their holdings with index performance, these funds reduce fees, providing investors, including those affiliated with Vanguard, with company ownership as a supplementary advantage. Broad indexes like the S&P 500 feature stocks curated by adept investment professionals. Consequently, index fund investors gain the benefits of professional investment advice, effortlessly tracking indexes without the need for direct consultation with an advisor.

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Vanguard Group