A remarkable history

Our heritage

Changing the way the world invests

Vanguard’s rich heritage is powerfully evoked by our logo, the image of a ship.

The company is named for a distinguished 18th-century vessel. Meaning “in the forefront,” our name has proved quite fitting as we have grown to become a leader in serving investors.

From its start in 1975, Vanguard has stood out as a very different kind of investment firm. Vanguard was founded on a simple but revolutionary idea—that a mutual fund company should not have outside owners. Founder John C. Bogle structured Vanguard as a client-owned* mutual fund company with no outside owners seeking profits.

This framework has enabled our leadership team and crew to put our clients first in all of our decisions and to continually lower investment costs. Our low costs have been an important factor in the consistently strong performance of our funds over time.

Vanguard’s structure remains unique in the industry. Today, we are widely recognized as a leader in low-cost investing and a steadfast advocate for the interests of all investors.

Navigating a multitude of investment choices and maintaining focus amid unpredictable markets can be difficult. As millions of investors and advisors have come to trust Vanguard, our logo remains an apt metaphor for a company with an unwavering commitment to its mission.

*Client-owned means that fund shareholders own the funds, which in turn own Vanguard.

Vanguard heritage
The Vanguard story

In the mid 1970s, a pioneering mutual fund company decided to stand alone.

Today, there's still only one Vanguard.

In 1975, in the wake of one of the worst bear markets since the Great Depression, a visionary leader launched a bold experiment: a mutual fund company that wasn't designed to earn profits for a management firm. Instead, Vanguard would be the first ever to be owned by its members, thereby eliminating conflicting loyalties.

John Bogle

Founder John C. Bogle structured Vanguard for just one purpose—to build wealth for its clients...and only for its clients. The crucial difference from other fund companies: Vanguard would redirect net profits from economies of scale to fund shareholders in the form of lower costs. The arrangement was similar to that of a credit union or a traditional mutual insurance company. Sales commissions were eliminated, and operating expenses were kept low. And, soon after its founding, Vanguard opened the first index mutual fund, launching the era of low-cost index investing.

Vanguard's innovations were revolutionary, but they were not an overnight success. Indeed, this new approach was often ignored or even scoffed at.

Steady growth

But as the 1970s turned into the 1980s, the news about Vanguard started to get around. It spread largely by word of mouth, as early clients told their families and friends about their experience—the prudently-managed funds, the conscientious service, the low costs. As assets rose, Vanguard reduced costs further and launched more funds, both indexed and actively managed. The company extended services to retirement plans, institutions, and financial advisors. Its loyal client base continued to grow, and Vanguard's steady incoming cash flow and low redemption rate began to move it toward the ranks of the nation's major fund firms. And as Vanguard grew, it was able to steadily lower its asset-weighted average fund expense ratio from 0.68% in 1975 to 0.35% by 1990 (and eventually to 0.12% by 2016).

Other investment companies started to take notice. By the 1990s, as low-cost investing and index funds demonstrated their merits, competitors began to emulate Vanguard by offering their own index funds.

Vanguard assets under management 1975-2016.

And as more investors and organizations realized the importance of cost efficiency, various fund companies selectively cut costs—sometimes just temporarily—in hopes of attracting new assets.

Jack Brennan

Meanwhile, under the leadership of Mr. Bogle's successor, Chairman and CEO John J. Brennan, the company continued to expand, first venturing outside the United States in 1996 when it established offices in Melbourne, Australia. Vanguard later opened offices in a number of other international locations, including its European headquarters in London.

Today, Vanguard is one of the world's largest and most trusted investment management companies, with operations around the globe. Our consistent, time-tested investment philosophy has proved itself in academic research and—most importantly—in helping millions of investors reach their goals. Vanguard has become widely recognized as a leading advocate of principled, common-sense investing.

Still standing alone

In a fiercely competitive investment arena, Vanguard remains alone in placing clients' interests in the driver's seat. Our corporate structure is still unique among mutual fund providers, with shareholders as the ultimate owners, receiving net profits in the form of lower costs.

As it continues to expand further into international markets, Vanguard offers an ever-wider range of investment products and services for individuals, institutions, and financial advisors, all at costs that are consistently among the lowest in the industry.

Bill McNabb

Vanguard's dedicated crew is led by an experienced, stable management team. We've had just three CEOs in nearly four decades, with Chairman and CEO F. William McNabb leading the firm since 2008. Because Vanguard can't be acquired by an outside entity, our clients can be confident that we will remain the same unique company, focused solely on their interests, in the years ahead.

Historic milestones


Vanguard Wellington™ Fund, then called Industrial and Power Securities Company, opens for business months before the crash. The fund endures and is today the nation's oldest balanced fund.


Vanguard begins operations on May 1 as a new kind of firm, with John C. Bogle at the helm. It opens with 11 funds (including Wellington Fund) and $1.8 billion in net assets.


The young company launches the first index mutual fund. It is now known as Vanguard 500 Index Fund—one of the largest mutual funds in the world.


To reduce costs for investors, Vanguard eliminates loads, or sales commissions, and makes all of its funds no-load.


Nest egg

At the start of the 401(k) era, Vanguard begins providing investments and services to retirement plans.


The company offers the first bond index fund for individual investors. Now called Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund, it has become one of the world's largest bond mutual funds.


Expanding the horizons for index investors, Vanguard creates the first international stock index mutual funds.


Vanguard opens its first office outside the United States, launching an operation in Melbourne, Australia.

John J. Brennan, who joined Vanguard in 1982, becomes the company's second CEO.


Vanguard begins serving 529 college—savings plans, making its client-friendly, low-cost approach available to those saving for higher education.


Vanguard rolls out Admiral Shares, which offer even lower fund costs to clients whose accounts help to generate cost savings.


Giving investors more flexibility, Vanguard begins offering ETFs as exchange traded share classes of Vanguard funds—an approach that is patented.



Vanguard launches its Target Retirement Funds, now among the largest series of balanced, diversified target-date funds for retirement savers.


Vanguard launches its website for financial advisors. The site provides analysis tools, practice-management programs, a literature library, and proprietary research and economic analysis.


Bill McNabb

F. William McNabb III, who joined Vanguard in 1986, is named CEO, succeeding John J. Brennan.


Assets under management at Vanguard pass the $2 trillion mark.


Powered by record-setting cash inflows, assets under management pass $3 trillion, including those in Vanguard's fast-growing international operations.


Vanguard officially launches its landmark Personal Advisor Services, with clients able to receive ongoing advice for just 0.3% of assets.