Best Small Cap ETF (Russell 2000 ETF, Dividend, Value and Growth ETFs)

Small Cap ETF are for investors that want small cap stock exposure without the headaches from large shocks of individual small cap stocks. It provides diversified exposure to a basket of small cap stocks which is a safer way of investing.

The tradeoff of using a ETF rather than direct small cap exposure is that the returns are lower. However unless you have an edge in consistently beating the market in picking small cap stocks. Small Cap ETF is the recommended route for most investors.

Best Small Cap ETF List

Investors can choose a universe of small cap ETFs that are designed to capture specific niches across the small capitalization stock sector.

Name Symbol ETF Type Holdings
iShares Russell 2000 ETF IWM Small Cap Index ETF 2000
iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF IJR Small Cap Index ETF 600
Vanguard Small-Cap ETF VB Low Cost Small Cap ETF 1500
iShares Russell 2000 Growth ETF IWO Small Cap Growth ETF 1206
iShares Russell 2000 Value ETF IWN Small Cap Value ETF 1400
Vanguard Small-Cap Value ETF VBR Small Cap Value ETF 820
Vanguard Small-Cap Growth ETF VBK Small Cap Growth ETF 750
Emerging Market Small Cap Fund DGS Small Cap Emerging Market ETF 600
Small Cap Dividend Fund DES Small Cap Dividend ETF 720
FTSE All-World ex-US Small Cap Index ETF VSS International Small Cap ETF 3400


List of Small Capitalization ETF shows the variety of small cap index funds available to investors. All the exchange trade funds are passive index funds. This means they track a particular index which only includes small cap stocks that fits in to the specific criterias.

Best Small Cap ETF – Russell 2000 ETF

One of the best small cap ETF is the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM ETF) which tracks the most well known small cap index, Russell 2000. It is the largest small cap index which includes 2000 largest domestic small capitalization stocks in the US.

On a sector chart and map for IWM ETF shows that no major sector that dominates the fund unlike the NASDAQ ETF.

Russell 2000 ETF

Historically Russell 2000 and IWM ETF is the go to small cap index and small cap index fund for investors that want a small cap exposure in their portfolio. Upside of using IWM ETF over investing in individual small cap stocks is that with 2000 stocks in the portfolio. Investors will receive small cap exposure without individual stock specific risks.

iShares Core S&P Small Capitalization ETF (IJR) and Vanguard Small Capitalization ETF (VB) are alternative small cap etfs. One primary differentiator of IJR to IWM is that it only includes 600 stocks which results in a lower gross expense ratio of 0.10% vs 0.20%. Vanguard’s VB also follows vanguards principal of low cost index funds. It has an expense ratio of just 0.09%.

Smart Beta Small Cap ETF

The trend beyond typical passive index funds approach to investing is new ETF that aim to target specific types of stock. There are 2 primary paradigms investors sees stocks, value or growth. For those are leaning towards a particular end of Value or Growth there are also small capitalization ETF that invests in only in stocks that fits those criteria.

Small Cap Value ETF

iShares Russell 2000 Value ETF (IWN) further breakdown the Russell 2000 into stocks that are perceived to be undervalued by the market. Investors in IWN should note that more than 40% of the fund is invested in financial small cap stocks.

Small Cap Growth ETF

There is usually some crossover between value and growth. For investors that are looking for a group of small companies that are about to become large cap stocks then look no further than Vanguard Small Cap Growth ETF (VBK). VBK invests in over 700 small cap growth stocks. With a R squared correlation of 0.9 and beta of 1.1 means that this small cap growth ETF tracks the broader market movement 90% of the time and when it does it will move 110% of what the market moved.

Small Cap Dividend ETF

One interesting approach in investing in small cap stocks that pays dividends. Since it is easier for small companies to grow earnings. Investing in small cap dividend stocks means that dividend growth will outpace the rate of growth of the broader market. One difference to other small cap stocks is those companies that already pay dividends means that future earnings will most likely to be paid out as dividends.

Like dividend index funds, Wisdom Tree Small Cap Dividend ETF (DES) is just one of many small cap ETF that invests in stocks that pay dividends. It tracks the smallest stocks in Wisdom Tree Small Cap Dividend Index. While typical ETF weights are determined by the relative size of the stocks. DES differentiating from others by weighing the stocks in the portfolio by the dividends companies pay. Hence DES are weighted to large dividend paying stocks.

3x Leveraged Small Cap ETF

Direxion Daily Small Cap Bull & Bear 3x ETF (TNA and TZA) are the long and short option for investors that would want to take a leveraged bet on the small cap sector. Investors should note that these are trading vehicles rather than instruments for long term investments.

The underlying index is the Russell 2000 so essentially TNA and TZA aim to track 3x the daily up and down change in the Russell 2000. The downside of investing in 3x leverage small cap ETF is that the expense ratio is much higher for leveraged ETFs than typical passive index funds. It averages around 0.90%.

International Small Cap ETF

There are two ways investors can invest in international small cap ETFs. First investors can use international small cap ETF like FTSE All-World ex-US Small Cap (VSS) which focus on developed and emerging market small cap stocks. Emerging Market Small Cap Fund (DGS) provides concentrated exposure on small caps in the emerging markets only. Alternatively, investors can also use emerging market bond ETF can provide higher yield than domestic bonds.

Related: The Chinese market is in a bull market. Find out the best Chinese ETF use to ride the boom.

Small Cap Sector Analysis

Interestingly the map of small cap sector trends across the list of small cap ETFs. Financials, Information Technology and Industrials are 3 sectors that are consistently represented in these ETF. IWM has the largest exposure to Financials at 40% of the AUM.

On the other end of sector allocation shows traditional defensive sectors like Utilities and Telecommunications are under represented. This could be due to these being mature sectors that has slower level of change.

Best Small Cap ETF

Read our in depth sector specific ETFs below if you want direct exposure to the above sectors.

Health Care Sector ETF steady dividend and growth.

Base Metal and Miner ETF for leveraged global economy growth exposure.

Best Utilities Investment Fund as defensive anchor in the portfolio.

Breakdown of the energy sub sector by sub sector with Energy ETFs.