This article was written by Steve Green, an experienced professional global investor that blogs weekly about how to best invest in the Vietnam stock market. You can follow his site via the link here, VIETNAM STOCK MARKET – Exploring how to best invest in the Vietnam stock market. (vietnamesestockmarket.com).
Articles that focus on whether foreigners can invest in the Vietnam stock market often focus on direct ownership of the shares. I shall focus on this aspect to the question towards the end of this blog post, but it is worth noting some other important points.
- That foreigners can get exposure to the Vietnam stock market in a simpler manner.
- Such simpler methods are in the long run positive for strong growth in flows of capital towards the Vietnam stock market.
- The likelihood also that there will be further relaxation in the future in regard to foreign ownership limits (FOLs) of listed companies on the Vietnam stock market. Another factor that can boost flows into the Vietnam stock market going forward.
I shall now begin to discuss the variety of ways foreigners can get exposure to the Vietnam stock market.
Focusing too much on direct ownership of Vietnam stocks earlier on in the journey can potentially discourage investment due to the more complicated process. A lot depends on your realistic target in terms of the percentage allocation of an overall portfolio you want allocated to Vietnam stocks. Jumping through the variety of hoops with direct ownership becomes less compelling if we are only talking about allocating a few percent of the portfolio to Vietnam.
Nonetheless owning Vietnam stocks directly certainly can still be worth consideration. It opens up the door to investing larger allocations to stocks that are too small for the big institutions to consider.
- Invest in a Vietnam ETF
- Invest in a Vietnam Closed End Fund (CEF)
- Invest in a large Vietnam managed fund (open ended)
- Invest in a Vietnam fund that targets smaller stocks (open ended)
- Invest directly in Vietnam stock market owning stocks yourself
I shall now focus more on the logistics (the how to invest) of investing in the Vietnam stock market using the above methods. In previously blog posts I have discussed the pros and cons (the why to invest) in choosing between some of the above, so I shall link back to those when applicable.
There are a few Vietnam ETFs that are listed on some of the largest and well known stock exchanges in the world. Therefore one shouldn’t be put off investing in the Vietnam stock market because they think one must develop relationships on the ground with stock brokers in Vietnam.
For many investors outside of Vietnam, to be reading this post you may well already have a stockbroking account that has access to some of these large stock exchanges throughout the world. Stockbrokers globally have been eager to tap into this trend. That is, slowly investors are realizing they often have too much “home country bias” within their own portfolios. Therefore global stockbrokers have been quick to offer capabilities for their clients to invest on other global exchanges.
It is therefore quite common that investors have quick access already to buy stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange, or Hong Kong Stock Exchange. That means that many prominent Vietnam ETFs are very accessible as I have noted in other blog posts the major exchanges that they trade on. For more information on some of the Vietnam ETFs that may be already easily accessible, check out my discussion on WHAT IS THE BEST VIETNAM ETF ON THE STOCK MARKET? – VIETNAM STOCK MARKET (vietnamesestockmarket.com).
In terms of closed end funds (CEFs), historically the London Stock Exchange has been known to list many CEFs that focus on alternative asset classes such as Vietnam stocks. If you have access to the London Stock Exchange via your current broker (if not, many brokers can easily provide this), you can easily get exposure to the Vietnam stock exchange quickly via a CEF.
To learn more about three well known Vietnam CEFs on the London Stock Exchange, refer to my previous discussion here about the BEST VIETNAM CLOSED END FUNDS (CEFs) ON THE STOCK MARKET? – VIETNAM STOCK MARKET (vietnamesestockmarket.com).
Although I suspect most investors nowadays find investing via a stock exchange listing preferable, when it comes to a fund some prefer being able to redeem at NAV. CEFs don’t necessarily always allow such an opportunity. From a behavioral point of view, some investors may even see the stock exchange listing as too much of a temptation to not stick with the fund long term. i.e., a sell is always a mouse click away.
Some of the more well-known Vietnam fund managers such as Dragon Capital and VinaCapital offer open ended products. Investors may get comfort that these two fund managers have products that are under regulation from the UCITS structures (Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities). These were introduced decades ago in Europe with objectives set out rules for open ended structures that ensured flexibility, transparency and liquidity and overall rules that would protect investors, with retail investors in mind.
A couple of such setups were touched on this post when I discussed some of the larger Vietnam open ended managed funds here, WHAT ARE THE BEST VIETNAM FUNDS TO INVEST IN? (OPEN ENDED) PT 1 – VIETNAM STOCK MARKET (vietnamesestockmarket.com).
A range of third party platforms are often setup already to cater for these types of product offerings. These factors may mean this type of structure can be a relatively simple way to access the Vietnam stock market. This is in particular for foreign investors across key financial centers such as Switzerland, UK, Germany, Singapore and many others that are familiar with this sort of setup.
As you move down the spectrum in terms of the sizes of the Vietnam managed funds, areas such as daily or monthly liquidity, common rules and exchanges, standardized settlement procedures etc. often require more investigation.
If you want to get more into searching for Vietnam funds I covered more in a follow up to the Vietnam funds post above, in this blog post here, WHAT ARE THE BEST VIETNAM FUNDS TO INVEST IN? (OPEN ENDED) PT 2 – VIETNAM STOCK MARKET (vietnamesestockmarket.com).
Whether that is worth the required effort from an individual investor’s perspective may depend on how much of your portfolio you plan on allocating to the Vietnam stock market. This might be a bit of a dilemma and is quite subjective. It is starting to perhaps head a little more towards the amount of time you might have to devote to setting up relationships with Vietnam brokers and picking your own stocks. Now admittedly it is a fair way short of going to those lengths, I am just making the point it requires a bit more due diligence than simply buying a Vietnam ETF like VNM.
Some may be surprised to learn that Vietnam is an open market in terms of a foreigner being able to invest directly there. In fact, in 2015, the government allowed most companies to remove foreign ownership limits (FOLs). Over time it is predicted that more of this trend will continue.
However it is fair to say for the average foreigner, achieving the setup to trade stocks directly on the Vietnam stock market is not quick and simple like getting setup in your home country. For more serious investors though, it could be worth consideration if your research uncovers specific smaller Vietnam companies that you wish to obtain direct exposure to.
It must be said that whilst not impossible to setup these types of relationships without being “on the ground” in Vietnam, it does make it trickier and more time consuming compared to if you were there.
You may find stockbrokers in other parts of Asia to go through them to trade in the Vietnam stock market, however I suspect brokerage charges / other account charges may start to look unattractive.
- Find a stockbroker in Vietnam to get the account opening forms / procedures.
- Power of Attorney / letter / FATCA – letter of good standing and photocopy of passport notarized / legalized at embassy. Power of Attorney and FATCA compliance for US citizens where applicable.
- Apply for a securities trading code with the Vietnam Securities Depository Centre (VSD), which is the central body that regulates the buying and selling of securities.
- Open a foreign indirect investment capital account at bank will be required for settling share transactions in VND. Another bank account will be opened for where you transfer your initial investment money into Vietnam from your home country.
- Sign agreement with broker, authorization letter for potentially transferring money from the stock account to back to your home country.
A boom has begun in the opening of Vietnam stock broking accounts but has a long way to go.
I have very much simplified the steps above for the purpose of this blog post. The steps required will need to be strictly followed in terms of all the minor little details so likely not to be as simple as it sounds. I have personally had business dealings as a foreigner, and it can be time consuming checking you have everything in order in terms of correct steps done by Notary / Embassy etc. and waiting for such steps. Also of course no one does any of this for free for you!
In a later blog post I hope to go through in a bit more detail what such steps involve. I ideally want to make the blog more about practical experiences in going through such steps. A lot of information I come across online is often provided from those without any direct interest in the Vietnam stock market, seems like it is written by robots / AI etc.! Whilst at the time of this article I don’t currently have any direct holdings in the Vietnam market in the future I shall be eventually going through some of these steps I just mentioned.
Feel free to subscribe to future blog posts if you want to be updated on my experiences accordingly. Also don’t hesitate to comment below on sharing your experiences in some of the methods above when it comes to investing in the Vietnam stock market.
Finally, obviously weigh up the risks / rewards before taking any steps. Of course do your own research before considering investing in the Vietnam stock market, this article is not in any way to be considered as financial advice.
You may however want to start at some of my earlier blog posts to way up the pros and cons of investing in the Vietnam stock market. Refer to the below links.
The link here includes more of the bullish points when asking yourself Should I invest in the Vietnam stock market? – VIETNAM STOCK MARKET (vietnamesestockmarket.com).
But perhaps more importantly think about the RISKS. The Risks of investing in the Vietnam stock market – VIETNAM STOCK MARKET (vietnamesestockmarket.com).