June 12, 2024

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Understanding ETF settlements

ETF currency risk: How to handle it | justETF

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have gained prevalence among individual and institutional investors. This trend is primarily due to their remarkable versatility, accessibility, and efficiency in the investment landscape. By providing an effortless means to diversify one’s investment portfolio, ETFs have revolutionised how investors approach their financial goals.

The time frame can vary when it comes to settling after a transaction. The settlement period for ETFs is typically two business days, but it’s important to note that this can vary depending on the specific ETF and the market on which it is traded. The settlement process can influence such factors as weekends, holidays, and market conditions. While ETFs offer a convenient and effective way to diversify investments, it is crucial to consider the settlement timeframe to manage expectations and make informed investment decisions.

The settlement period

Traditionally, the settlement period for ETFs, like stocks, is two business days, also known as T+2. It means the transaction will settle two business days after the trade date. For example, if an investor executes a buy order for an ETF on Monday, the settlement will occur on Wednesday. Similarly, if an investor sells their ETF shares on Tuesday, the settlement will occur on Thursday.

The two-day settlement period is a standard practice in the financial markets and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This timeframe allows enough time for the trade to be cleared, confirmed, and transferred between the parties involved. It also provides a buffer period for potential discrepancies or issues during the settlement process. 

Factors affecting ETF settlements

While T+2 is a general rule of thumb for ETF settlements, several factors can alter the timeframe. These include weekends, holidays, and market conditions.


As mentioned, Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) typically settle two business days after the trade date, following the standard T+2 settlement cycle. The settlement will occur the following Tuesday if a trade is executed on a Friday. This extended timeline is due to the inclusion of weekends, as financial markets are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, allowing the necessary processing and clearance procedures to occur. 

Investors must remember this settlement timeline when planning their trades and managing their investment portfolios. By understanding the intricacies of settlement cycles and accounting for weekend closures, investors can navigate the ETF market more confidently and clearly.


During holidays, it’s important to note that the settlement period for ETFs can be affected. If a holiday falls within two days of a trade execution, the settlement will occur on the next business day. For instance, if an investor executes a trade on Tuesday and Thursday happens to be a holiday, the settlement will occur on Friday instead of Wednesday. This adjustment ensures that transactions are processed smoothly, taking into account any potential disruptions caused by holidays.

Market conditions

Market conditions can also play a significant part in ETF settlements. During high market volatility or disruptions, the settlement period may be extended beyond two days. This extension could occur due to various factors, such as delays in trade confirmation, processing, or communication between both trading parties involved in the transaction. 

It is vital for investors in Singapore to closely monitor their trades during these scenarios and stay vigilant for any potential updates or changes in the market. Investors can navigate such situations with greater confidence and adaptability by staying informed and proactive.

Importance of understanding settlement timeframe

Understanding ETF settlement periods is crucial for investors as it directly affects their investment decisions and expectations. By knowing the typical two-day timeframe and potential factors that can alter it, investors can plan their trades accordingly and avoid unnecessary surprises.

Being aware of the settlement timeframe also allows investors to manage their expectations. ETFs are a new investment product and may only sometimes follow traditional market practices. It is important to note that while most ETFs follow T+2 settlements, some may have different timelines depending on the underlying assets and markets they are traded on.

It is essential to consider the settlement timeframe when managing risk. ETFs can impact an investor’s portfolio diversification and liquidity, especially during volatile market conditions. By understanding the potential factors that can extend the settlement period, investors can better manage their exposure to potential risks.

Benefits of using a broker

Individual investors typically purchase ETFs through a brokerage firm, whereas institutional investors can directly execute trades with the fund’s issuer. Using a broker to trade ETFs can offer several benefits, including efficient and timely settlements.

Brokers like Saxo Capital Markets PTE have access to advanced technology and resources for faster order processing and confirmation. This trading technology can significantly reduce the time it takes for a trade to settle compared to directly dealing with the fund’s issuer. Brokers also have a team of experts who can assist investors in navigating potential issues that may arise during the settlement process.

Brokers offer an additional layer of protection and security for investors’ transactions. They act as intermediaries between buyers and sellers, ensuring that all parties fulfil their obligations during the transaction. It can provide investors peace of mind, especially during market turmoil.

All in all

ETFs offer a convenient and effective way to diversify investments. However, understanding the settlement timeframe is crucial for investors to make informed decisions and manage expectations. While T+2 is a general rule of thumb, it is essential to note that weekends, holidays, and market conditions can impact the settlement process. By being aware of these potential changes, investors can plan their trades accordingly and manage their risk effectively.