Best Index Funds

Top index funds available to Brits.

Updated: October 28, 2023

Index funds track the performance of a market index, such as the FTSE 100 or Dow Jones. In general, if the index performs well so does the fund. 

All in all, index funds are a kind of mutual fund. Professional investment managers on your behalf fine-tune it. And because indexes list the top-performing companies on the planet, index funds have the potential to be suitable long-term investments, depending on who your money manager is and what index you are tracking.

In this guide, we cover some of the best index funds today. 

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1. Emerging Markets Equity Fund (GQGRX)★★★★★Click Here
2. iShares Emerging Markets Dividend ETF★★★★★Click Here
3. Schwab S&P 500★★★★★Click Here
4. Invesco EQV Emerging Markets All Cap A GTDDX★★★★★Click Here
5. Legal & General All Stocks Gilt Index Fund (Class C)★★★★★Click Here
6. Vanguard Global Bond Index Fund★★★★★Click Here
7. Fidelity Index World Fund★★★★Click Here
8. iShares Core FTSE 100 ETF★★★★Click Here
9. Vanguard LifeStrategy 100% Equity Fund★★★★Click Here
10. HSBC FTSE 250 Index Fund★★★★Click Here

At a Glance, Pros and Cons of Index Funds

There are many many reasons why you might want to track an index fund. But is it the right choice for you? This is a section for you if you want an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of investing in an index fund.

Pros

Price. There’s no such thing as a free lunch and economics. There will always be expenses associated with your investment, and index funds are no different. But relatively, owning an index fund incurs low fees because it’s a passive investment strategy.

Diversification. This is one of the leading reasons to have an index fund. If you are overexposed to a specific asset or industrial sector, the market may be harsh on you. And while it’s very difficult to buy all of the investments that comprise an index, investing in an index fund gives you an affordable workaround.

Steady growth. Buying individual stocks or even mutual funds gives you a more exciting prospect for ROI. But in many ways, index funds are a way to hedge against a volatile market. They can offer steady growth for long-term investors who want ways to hold the value of the capital. This may be a growth of say 7-10% over a long period of time.

Average investor’s choice. If you want to passively buy and hold stocks but you do not want to have a financial adviser or manager, then investing in an index fund gives you an independent way of storing your capital. It’s low cost, has a good level of diversification and can offer steady growth.

Cons

Vulnerable to market crashes. Remember the credit crunch of 2008? Index funds are not immune to market swings or crashes. If the market plummets as a whole, so does the index. An example of this happening is when there’s a big market depreciation and a particular index like the FTSE 100 follows. So in some cases, strong individual stocks could perform better than the index at times of depression such as in the UK regarding banks.

Not responsive. There isn’t a large amount of flexibility because index funds are largely a passive investment approach. So there’s not a lot of trading in and out of investments. On each side of the pendulums, this means it’s harder to take advantage of market opportunities, and harder to avoid brick walls.

Limited growth. There will really be a point in hiring our financial professional to manage your index fund because it’s largely passive. So you don’t get the benefits of learning to understand how to manage your investments as you do with a money manager. And you don’t get the sexy potential for high-growth to the degree that you do with mutual funds and individual stocks.

10 Leading Index Funds – UK Reviews 2023  📘

Some of the most valuable index funds are no longer available for British and northern American consumers… 

There is a major economic and resource war occurring between the collective West and emerging nations. The three biggest superpowers at the centre of this struggle are the US, Europe, China and Russia. Therefore, some of the most valuable index funds are no longer available for British and northern American consumers, as a result of the struggle.

Otherwise, I would recommend (not as a financial adviser but just using common sense) index funds that are heavily packed with Russian and perhaps Chinese high-performing companies. (Although, getting the timing right is another matter; right now may be the wrong time).

However, the various institutions that regulate access to these markets are steadily liquidating offerings that give you exposure to the Russian and Chinese markets. 

For instance, in the US, the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) has provided relief to BlackRock to liquidate its most Russian-heavy ETF. Here are two liquidation examples which featured over 90% of Russian companies in their total holdings:

  • iShares MSCI Russia ETF   
  • VanEck Russia ETF

However, we still made the effort to include ETFs that give you access to the emerging markets. Without further ado. It’s time for the leading index funds. Each can be invested in from the UK and fits the necessary criteria, as are set by key financial regulators such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

1. Emerging Markets Equity Fund (GQGRX) – Top Index Fund for Russia

This is perhaps the top index fund for Russia (at least, of those that haven’t been liquidated…)

After the initial invasion of Ukraine, it was initially believed by many that having investments in index mutual funds with a strong percentage of Russian holdings included inside it was a bad idea. The market panics and we saw a flood of Russian-exposed funds have reduced yields in February.

The GQG Partners Emerging Markets Equity fund (GQGRX). The GQGRX is notable for having a relatively large number of Russian holdings – at 16.6% when we last checked. The initial attack saw it, on the 23rd of February, have reduced a yield of -2.6%…

However, as the battle went more and more in Russia’s favour and the strength of the Rouble chugged along to parity with the USD, sentiment among investors changed in accordance.

So we place the GQGRX equity fund in the number-two slot of emerging market (EM) index funds with good Russia exposure. Notable is that 10% of the portfolio is allocated to Brazil, which saw a nearly 20% increase in the first half of the quarter of 2022.

And especially important about this find is that almost 18% of the portfolio is dedicated to the energy sector – which has been the highest performing global sector in early 2022.

This fund focuses heavily on materials, which represents almost 13% of its assets – this is almost double the typical commitment to materials that EM funds dedicate. It has a low emphasis on consumer cyclicals: 8% compared to the average of over 13%. And in terms of energy stocks, more than over 21% of assets are focused there.

Pros

✔️ Almost 18% of the portfolio is dedicated to the energy sector 

✔️ Focuses heavily on materials, which represents almost 13% of its assets 

✔️ Low emphasis on consumer cyclicals: 8% compared to the average of over 13%

✔️ Over 21% of assets focus on energy stocks

Cons

❌ No guarantee it will track the best candidates

❌ Fund may get liquidated or rejigged

2. iShares Emerging Markets Dividend ETF – Top Index Fund for BRICS+ Nations

BRICS is an emerging partnership of developing economies. It began with Brazil Russia India and China. South Africa was a later addition. And now BRICS+ is potentially adding more members to the collective. 

BRICS have specific objectives that include facilitating regional development, encouraging more representation of emerging economies, streamlining the use of key resources including trade, bolstering a multilateral trading system as opposed to a global structure and offering assistance in times of disaster.

But the jargon aside. At the heart of why these nations are becoming more relevant is that they are expanding in economic strength. They're becoming more relevant as a key driving force of worldwide economic development.

With this reality becoming more and more obvious, an informal alliance has grown into specific treaties – 2022 has notably been the year of overt partnership agreements.

Four years ago (2018) the sum GDP of the BRICS countries made up almost ⅓ of global GDP (in terms of their spending power). The total population is over 3 billion, which makes up over 40% of the world’s total population.

There has even been a BRICS bank created called the New Development Bank (NDP) in order to facilitate collaboration between these countries. Its headquarters were in Shanghai, China.

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The iShares Emerging Markets Dividend ETF aims to track investments from the Dow Jones EM Dividend Index comprised of significantly strong dividend offering equities from emerging markets. 

The index follows the performance of 100 top-performing dividend emerging market firms, filtered according to the amount of dividend ROI and other hedging components. That said, it’s a near 10-year low in terms of the value of its holdings. So who knows what it will do?

Pros

✔️ Tracks many emerging assets

✔️ 12.55% of holdings are in the energy sector

✔️ Spread across many continents

✔️ 43.6% Asia Emerging, 32.5% Latin America, 6.4% Africa and more

Cons

❌ No guarantee it will track the best candidates

❌ Fund is nearly at an all-time low

3. Schwab S&P 500 – Popular Index Fund 

The S&P 500 stands for the Standard and Poor’s 500. This stock-market index tracks the performance of the 500 largest companies as listed on the exchange in the United States.

Now, the obvious problem with this index fund is that it is heavily dependent on the success of US companies in the future. However, we are seeing troubling signs that the US economy may be dipping towards a long-lasting depression.

Many nations around the world are in the process of “de-dollarisation”. And the USD is no longer realistically the standing world currency.

Although the dollar is strengthening currently, there are many signs that this is the last gasp before it collapses, although not nearly as bad as it will in Europe, with the customer-favourite Tesco Bank closing in 2021. This means that any investment in the S&P 500 will follow that same downward curve.

Nevertheless, this is your choice index fund if you want to track the S&P 500 index. It doesn’t do direct investment in stocks, of course, as with any fund but instead amalgamates a pool that represents the index as a whole.

Reportedly, the investment strategy of this index fund is to actively look for holdings that are overvalued and undervalued. So there is an active management component. The managers are Van Hoof and associates Incorporated, who reportedly has nearly a century of financial experience.

The index fund reportedly focuses on tracking high value and high dividend components in the S&P 500. And the objective is steady growth as opposed to high ROI. In order to invest in this index fund, it can be done through the main website or through a brokerage firm that has access. For instance, eToro.

Keep in mind that, when we last checked, investors had to make a minimum account deposit of £2,000 in order to invest in the S&P 500 index fund through this provider. It’s worth mentioning that the S&P 500 has historically performed relatively well compared to other indexes.

There is a wide capturing of market sectors, and types of companies. However, there is no guarantee that this track record will continue in the future – particularly with the extreme changes we are seeing across global markets.

So overall this is an obvious option for anyone who is indeed wanting to invest in the S&P 500 index.

Pros

✔️ Invest in the S&P 500 index

✔️ Good past track-record

Cons

❌ Signs the US economy is dipping into a depression

❌ Minimum deposit of £2,000

4. Invesco EQV Emerging Markets All Cap A GTDDX – Top EM Index Fund 

Just a quick word on investment information: a great information war is taking place. Any information that this article provides may expire by the time you read it.

For instance, you may find that the holdings included in this EM index fund completely change by the time that you invest in it. Holdings in Russian companies may dwindle. There may be less emphasis on the energy sector in EM markets or key resources. So what is the answer?

Financial markets fundamentally operate by speculating on resources. There is no actual production involved, just profit from speculation on resources. This is why they are called ‘derivatives.’ True investment is much more simple, practical and down-to-earth.

These are things like investing in a family, growing a garden where you can produce your own food, participating in a high-trust community, keeping yourself fit and low stress, seeking something beyond you that is meaningful – and so on. 

So keep some distance between you and the madness. Do some hedging and diversification where it seems wise. But remember investment should bear actual fruit.

That said, the Invesco EQV Emerging Markets All Cap A GTDDX index fund is managed by a team of experienced investors. The Invesco team has had a lot of success over the years with this offering.

The portfolio again 2022 with 12% of its assets being based in Russia. And during the Ukrainian conflict, managers of this portfolio rejigged some of their holdings but kept quite a strong Russian focus

As time goes on and the Russian rouble continues to grow in strength, is going to be a no-brainer to invest in Russia. However, for the time being, a lot of these portfolios are a heavy risk of social peer pressure. You may find that a portfolio that had a competitive waiting gets peer pressured into trimming its advantage. 

Pros

✔️ Popular EDM index fund

✔️ Contains Russian holdings

Cons

❌ Holdings may radically change

❌ Portfolio vulnerable to social influences

5. Legal & General All Stocks Gilt Index Fund (Class C)

If you’re looking for an index fund that takes a walk on the wild side, this all stock index fund is a good one. And since it’s a fund, it’s still a diverse thing that really isn’t all that scary in the end.

The fees and returns are comparable to any other index fund out there, although the downside in 2022 has hurt a bit. This could make it a great time to get in, though.

The fund focuses heavily on stock, with some corporate bond ownership intertwined into the mix. The team behind this fun is highly experienced, and their track record really says a lot. Since this is a gilts fund, it’s specific to the UK, as well. 

If you aren’t familiar with gilts, they are issued specifically by the UK government. Having a fun built heavily around local entities can sometimes be a strong attraction factor for investors. The overall object is to provide both growth and income, so it’s a great middle of the line fund with the best of both worlds. 

As far as how much is stocks and how much is bonds, this can vary. The fund rules allow for 25% or more of the portfolio to be bonds, but this isn’t always the percentage. That means stocks might be as high as 65% at times, and lower in other times. 

The Legal & General all stocks gilt index fund pays out income on a bi-annual basis, typically. It’s a low investment cost to get into, and has been working the market since 1981. The fees are relatively low, hanging around at approximately 0.15%.

Pros

✔️ Designed for income and growth

✔️ Low minimum investment

✔️ Includes UK gilts as part of the fund

✔️ The fees associated with the fund are reasonable

Cons

❌ The performance over the past year has been way down compared to prior years

6. Vanguard Global Bond Index Fund

If you’re a more conservative investor, getting into a bond fund could be a good choice. These types of funds are generally used for income rather than growth, so keep that in mind. Much like other market funds, they’ve seen a downward slide in the past year, but they have an overall steady record. This is just for their annual return performance. 

This fund heavily focuses on bonds, and they use a wide variety of bonds on a global scale. They invest heavily in global companies, as well as global governments. They are known to be conservative, so the majority of the bonds within the fund are not high-risk bonds, keeping your yields as reliable as possible.

The fund’s objective is scaled to the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Float Adjusted and Scaled Index. Their goal is to be consistent or better than this index, and they are often on target. Vanguard Global bond index pays quarterly income, so you know you can rely on yields on a frequent basis. 

The fund size is close to 17 million pounds. Some of the top holdings include Spain government bonds, US Treasury notes, French Republic Government bonds, and more.

The top 10 holdings are all government-based, but they do have company bonds as well. 

It’s a simple strategy, but it’s a reliable source of income. As long as the governments and businesses don’t fail, your investment should be fairly sound. The ongoing fees within the fund are only 0.15%, which is in line with most funds like this on the market. There are no performance fees charged. 

Pros

✔️ No performance fees

✔️ Income paid quarterly

✔️ Invested in government and company bonds

✔️ Top choice in the bond fund market

Cons

❌ The bond sectors and countries are heavily unclassified in the breakdown

7. Fidelity Index World Fund

The Fidelity Index World Fund is made up of nearly 4 million pounds as far as fund size goes. It’s an impressive fund, and clearly wildly popular as well. It’s an open-ended investment, so you can get in anytime you want to. The target index to match or beat is the MSCI World Index, and they typically do pretty well. 

When you invest into the Fidelity Index World fund, you are investing in more than 1500 total assets. They are made up of stocks, bonds, and funds, and include 23+ markets, as well as large and medium-sized businesses. 

At the time of this article, the majority of the investment is held in US-based markets. However, it is available in global markets, and does contain some global funds. The businesses used include successful nameworthy locales such as Apple, Alphabet, and more. Some of these holdings are high dollar and sometimes even challenging to get into. 

The risk in this particular fund is over exposure to the US market, but overall, they have a great track record, and the funds within also have great track records. It could just be better diversified overall.

There is no initial charge to invest in the fund, and the ongoing charge is lower than many out there. It’s only 0.12%, which is pretty decent. There are no annual charges or performance fees, either. 

There have been many years that the annual return was well into the 20s and 30s. In fact, in 2020-2021, they had a 22% return. Of course, this year has wreaked havoc on many markets, but they haven’t been hit nearly as hard as a lot of other funds out there. 

This fund’s objective is long-term growth. That means if you are looking for some diversification, or want to focus heavily on growth, this could be a great choice for you. Those annual returns are impressive, but it’s the long-lasting growth and development that should essentially be the focus here. 

Income is paid quarterly through dividends. When their cash holdings get too high, the fund sometimes uses stock index futures to manage their cash. It’s worked out overall pretty well based on their return history and averages. 

Pros

✔️ Designed for long-term growth

✔️ Low net fees for ongoing management

✔️ Historical performance is promising

✔️ Get invested in popular stocks for a much lower entry

Cons

❌ Heavily invested in US funds, rather than a more diversified global spread

8. iShares Core FTSE 100 ETF

The iShares Core FTSE 100 is an ETF index fund, and it’s another great choice. ETFs are a little bit different from your traditional funds, because they use only exchange funds, and are bought and sold like stocks are. This ETF fund is a nice, small fund, which means you have more direct investment into 100 select companies. 

The FTSE 100 is the UK’s top companies that are available via the London Stock Exchange. The companies are large and powerful, which is why there are only 100 in the index. This particular fund ETF from iShares is heavily built on the London markets, with about 80% derived there.

In addition, you will find that there is a heavy dilution of industries specifically related to mining, oil, gas, and financials. It’s the conglomerates that make a lot of money, and have high levels of return. They are massive places, but also considered to be more volatile at times. 

This fund is designed to generate income, rather than growth.

And these types of companies are notorious for pushing down income to the shareholders, so it’s a good strategy. The downturns with the yields or the fund rankings often coordinate heavily with the economy, as well as economy predictions. 

While this might feel too volatile for many, it’s a great choice for income generation. They don’t boast of growth, so their overall return might look less than stellar. But they do promote income, which is where they truly shine. You can see the historical dividend payout to holders is reliable, and often good payments as well. 

Pros

✔️ Income generating fund

✔️ Takes a different approach as an ETF

✔️ Built up of leading companies on the London Stock Exchange

✔️ Annual fund charge is only 0.07%

Cons

❌ High presence in the London markets

❌ Overall return rates are affected by economic projections

9. Vanguard LifeStrategy 100% Equity Fund

If you ask other investors in the UK, the Vanguard LifeStrategy 100% equity fund is one of the best index funds you will find on the market. In some years, they have honed in more than a 30% return, and held steady even in the most challenging years. Where some funds are seeing massive downturns in 2022, they really are only down about 4%, which is pretty impressive. 

This fund is unique in how it’s built. Where most index funds have massive amounts of holdings, this one is slightly different from that. They do have a lot of holdings, but it doesn’t look that way. Instead, their holding list only has 10 things on it. Of course, those 10 things are all Vanguard index funds. 

The pulling in of 10 different funds, that are all loaded with their own diverse holdings, creates a diversified portfolio in a small space. It has global coverage and a broad range of holdings overall. Each allocated portion is 20% or less of the entire makeup, so your eggs are never all in one basket. 

Some of the things you will find here are UK unit trust funds, Vanguard S&P 500 funds, some ETFs, emerging markets, global development, and more. This is a fund made up of index funds, which is why it has been so popular on the UK market. It’s an accumulation fund, because all distributions are reinvested. 

That means that this fund is really designed for growth, rather than income. And it’s looking pretty good on the growth side of things. That being said, their ongoing fee is pretty high. This happens because of the fees of the other funds. This fee is about 0.22%, which is certainly not a low choice. 

Pros

✔️ Unique design as a fund made up of funds

✔️ 10 total holdings, all of which are funds

✔️ Global diversification

✔️ Great for growth purposes

Cons

❌ High ongoing fee compared to most index funds

10. HSBC FTSE 250 Index Fund

If you like the idea of a fund that is tracking the FTSE 250 index, this is a great choice. It also has a nice low ongoing fee, which is only about 0.12%. It’s higher than some, but also lower than many, so it immediately makes a good first impression. 

This fund is made up of close to 170 equity holdings, giving you a wide range of assets in a single fund. For the most part, the holdings are comprised heavily of mid-cap core companies, which is approximately 22% of the fund. Of course, those numbers can vary, but this averages as a high point in the fund most of the time. 

You can compare many of these holdings to what you find in the Vanguard 250 fund, with many of the top funds matching up against each other. Both are great funds when compared side by side. HSCB FTSE 250 Index fund has been around since 1977, and they’ve had some really great years. 

Of course, they do have a growth focus, so you’re looking more at the annual return, and less at the income derived from the investments. The benefits of this fund are the ability to get into mid-caps for a low cost, and that is what draws most people to it.

Their long-term growth approach serves them well. They do pay out some annual income, but that is not their primary focus. 

Pros

✔️ Invest in mid-cap companies

✔️ Relatively low ongoing charges

✔️ Designed for growth purposes

✔️ Pays annual income to holders

Cons

❌ Similarly designed to Vanguard’s fund, but a tad higher fee

Best Index Funds – Buying Guide 📙

This section could come in handy if you want to further unpack how index funds operate in conjunction with the top index funds. 

What are index funds?

Index funds have one purpose; they track the performance of an index. 

Pretty simple. And each index itself lists a number of stocks for companies who are high performing in that index industry, catalogue or sector. Many index funds simply follow a major index, for instance, the Dow Jones, the FTSE 100 or the S&P 500.

But certain index funds are more narrow; they may track a particular sector, such as energy, utilities or telecommunications.

Whatever its focus, it will try to represent it as a whole. These kinds of fines were developed as an approach to mitigate risks and fees that happen when you invest in individual stocks. With this approach, investors can purchase ETFs that basket together many companies or sectors.

Through this mechanism, an investor is able to expose his capital to the industry, sector or entire index with generally less risk compared to investing in individual stocks. Of course, the reverse could be proven to be true.

The credit crunch of 2008 saw hold markets plummet. The index will follow with that. So there are times when investing in strong stocks that are resistant to market crashes is a better decision than an index.

But generally, when you purchase an ETF, you are so diversified that there are opportunities to retain capital in a crisis.

History of index funds?

You might be surprised to learn that the original concept of the index fund was mocked. 

The original concept for the index fund was mocked. It did not seem feasible that just purchasing and holding the broader stock would outperform trying to pick the best-performing stocks to put your savings to work. The first retail offering came from Bogle’s Folly in 1976. John Bogle himself was the founder of Vanguard Group and he made the 500 available for investment.

Nowadays, index funds are as accepted as fish and chips on a Saturday. There had been numerous academics and individual investors who supported the idea of index funds before John put his offering on the table for retail investors to mass adopt. Today, this passive form of portfolio making is still an underdog to active portfolio creations like mutual funds. 

Even more secret is the fact that index funds and their story began much earlier than John Bogle’s offering via the Vanguard group, which formed in 1976…

Indeed, the idea for an index fund was formed more than a decade previous, in 1960, with the University of California economist Edward Renshaw making a paper with a colleague entitled, “The Case for an Unmanaged Investment Company”.

The Paper was written with an MBA colleague, Paul Fieldstein, and was published in the Financial Analysts Journal. Ideas shared in this paper were vital for informing the first index funds.

Mr Fieldstein and Mr Renshaw analysed the investment to Tory and discovered that the mutual funds market was booming at a staggering pace. However, a large number of these funds did not actually outperform the Dow Jones Industrial Average. 

The idea occurred to the researchers that it might be useful to just aim for average returns. And by aiming for unimpressive returns that were more reliable, because of the elimination of “the cost of advisory services” from often times ill-advised investment managers, they would long term outperform many of these actively managed stock portfolios. The short paper proved to be accurate over a dozen years later.

Funnily enough, however, at the time nearly nobody paid attention. And many people discredited the very notion of the “unmanaged fund. One author labelled it “doomed to fail” because it’s not sophisticated enough and there isn’t the technology to track an index in real-time without substantial transactional fees.

A series of developments by third parties ultimately lead to the formation of Vanguard’s index fund by John Bogle. This forever changed the landscape.

How does an index fund differ from mutual funds and ETFs?

Index funds are actually a subset of mutual funds. In other words, they are a kind of mutual fund. When you invest in an index fund, you are buying access to stock performance without needing to necessarily pay management fees. By comparison, mutual funds often incur management fees because they are more active and more curated.

Because of this proactive stance that mutual funds take, they arguably have more probability and inherent capability for higher returns long-term. By comparison, index funds almost hold capital, if anything. And growth is steady as opposed to aggressive.

But how about exchange-traded funds? ETFs have a similar nature to index funds because ETFs can track indexes. The differences between the two are quite nuanced – they can be a more diversified basket of assets that not only include stocks but can include cryptos, commodities, currencies and more.

Best Index Funds: The Verdict 

When investing in index funds, the trajectory seems to be that BRICS economies are on the steady rise…

I’m going to take a controversial position here, and say that the rough trajectory we are seeing is the fall of the collective West, including Britain and the US. By comparison, the US has much more resources and innate strength to regain some of its footing later on, if it gets itself internally together, compared to Britain. 

When investing in index funds, the trajectory seems to be that BRICS economies are on the steady rise. There was a lot of conflict on the horizon and unexpected events that make any short-term trends impossible to predict…

The controversial part is that the best investment for steady growth is likely going to boil down to the individual level – ways of finding personal leverage points in your life.

This may include travelling to somewhere more affordable and peaceful, growing a family, growing a garden that produces food and living a healthier lifestyle. EM markets overall all seem to be taking the long win, but who can say?

Related Guides:

Top Index Funds – FAQs

Are index funds better than stocks?

Can I get rich from index funds?

Is the S&P 500 an index fund?

Did Vanguard invent the index fund?

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