How To Invest In Scandinavia And The Nordic Region (How Can You Invest In Scandinavia?)

Last Updated on July 20, 2021 by Oddmund Groette

The Nordic region is small, with only 28 million people, but nearly all the main investment possibilities are represented. The Nordic Juggernaut is Nasdaq Stockholm, which has the most companies listed and is the biggest in market capitalization. However, the most prominent company is Danish: the insulin giant Novo Nordisk with a market cap of almost 200 billion USD.

In this article, we look at how you, as a foreigner, can invest in Scandinavia and the Nordic region. You can invest directly through a few select brokers, or you can use your local broker where you reside, invest via ADRs, or buy ETFs and mutual funds.

The Nordic region has outperformed

Why would you invest in the Nordic region? The Nordic region consists of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. According to Triumph Of The Optimists, all countries have outperformed the US markets between 1965 and 2015 (Iceland was not included):

 

Stock market performance in the Nordic region has been equal or better than in the USA.

Since the year 2000, the MSCI Nordic has outperformed both the MSCI World and the MSCI Europe massively. We believe this is no coincidence and expect more outperformance in the decades to follow. Many pundits have called for the trend to revert to the mean and end the outperformance, but we believe the difference is more structural than cyclical.

Why is the Nordic region a good investment? The Nordic region is innovative, productive, has stable public finances, rule of law, great trust among people, low crime, practically no poverty, and low corruption. Moreover, every country scores high on the ease of doing business. We have previously written a separate article about why we believe the Nordic is a great region to park your money:

The Nordic exchanges are home to about 1 000 listed companies plus smaller OTC stocks. However, each country has its sectors that are overweight their respective indexes. For example, Norway is very exposed to oil and fish farming, while Finland to its resources from its vast forests. However, if you want to dive further into the local market, we recommend the articles we have written about the best dividend stocks:

Assuming you live outside the region, how do you go about investing in the Nordic region? Below we discuss specific methods to get exposure to the Nordic region:

Option 1: The easiest and smartest way: buy ADRs of Investor AB

We believe the most intelligent way to get exposure is to buy shares in Investor AB. Investor AB is an investment company controlled by the Wallenberg family and has outperformed the Swedish market for over 100 years, which is no coincidence and which we believe will continue. By investing in Investor AB you get a broad diversification over the whole region via their investment portfolio. Investor’s “management fee” is only 0.11%, and management is competent and able. Investor AB is a proxy for a mutual fund but with management fees even lower than a passive fund and historical returns better than most actively managed mutual funds. We believe these are pretty good arguments for investing in Investor AB!

Please read our previous article about Investor AB:

Investor AB is not the only Swedish investment company worth investing in. Sweden has many other investment companies with respectable track-records.

Option 2: Open an account with a local Nordic broker

If you’re a resident in the Nordics or the EU/EEA, you can open an account in some of the Nordic online brokers like, for example, Avanza or Nordnet. They are both solid, cheap, and have been around for a while. They offer easy access to all four markets, a wide range of international stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds.

Buy ADRs

If you don’t live in the EU, you can’t open an account in any Nordic broker. However, most brokers all over the world offer access to US stocks. Many of the Nordic companies are leaders in their industry, and they trade as ADRs on NYSE, Nasdaq, and OTC. Thus, you can invest via ADRs:

Open an account at Interactive Brokers (IB) or Saxo Bank

Because of strict anti-money-laundering checks and requirements, it’s challenging to open broker accounts outside your jurisdiction. However, a few options exist, but they have been reduced dramatically over the last five years. Which broker depends on your jurisdiction.

However, at least a few brokers welcome customers from more or less all corners of the world: Interactive Brokers (IB), Saxo Bank, Zacks (which use technology and back-office resources from IB), and First Trade.

IB is an established broker that offers worldwide access to many different markets, both in stocks and derivatives. It’s a public company that trades on the Nasdaq (tickercode is IBKR). IB is one of the few brokers that accept residents from all corners of the world- they claim to have customers from 210 different countries but expect to go through a very rigid AML check before you deposit money. Make sure you have bank statements available to prove your source of wealth. IB lets you invest directly in Swedish and Norwegian stocks plus many ETFs and mutual funds. IB is more geared toward active traders and charge you 10 USD a month if you’re inactive. Be aware that IB keeps your holdings in “Street Name”, please read this article for more info.

Saxo Bank is another alternative, but just as IB it aims to attract more traders than investors.

Mutual funds

The safest method is probably to invest via mutual funds. There are plenty to choose from in Europe. The US asset manager Fidelity has, for example, its Nordic fund called Fidelity Nordic Fund (FNORX), which is an active fund that has outperformed its benchmark over the last ten years. Most international asset managers offer funds specifically aimed at the Nordic region.

ETFs

An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is a collection of securities that has the mandate to track an index or invest according to specific criteria. They trade like ordinary stocks on an exchange and are attractive because of low costs and stock-like properties. Read here for more about ETFs.

ETFs have grown tremendously since the GFC in 2008/09 but are yet to get challenged in a severe recession. Because of this, we are a bit cautious about ETFs. We recommend reading Howard Marks thoughts on ETFs before allocating significant parts of your assets into ETFs.

Below is a sample of ETFs that offer a broad diversification to the Nordic region:

  • iShares Sweden (EWD – USA)
  • Global FTSE Nordic region (GXF – USA)
  • iShares MSCI Norway (ENOR – USA)
  • iShares MSCI Finland (EFNL – USA)
  • iShares MSCI Denmark (EDEN – USA)
  • XACT Norden (UCITS ETF)

Conclusion:

Wherever you reside, we believe you can get smart diversification by investing in the Nordic region. Not only has the region delivered excellent historical returns, but additionally, you most likely reduce volatility in your portfolio. We believe the easiest and smartest option is to buy shares in Investor AB, either through the US-listed ADR or direct via your broker. Alternatively, purchase units in a mutual fund or ETF.

 

Disclosure: We are not financial advisors. Please do your own due diligence and investment research or consult a financial professional. All articles are our opinion – they are not suggestions to buy or sell any securities. 

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