Tag Archives: active management

Three Takeaways From the SPIVA U.S. Year-End 2016 Scorecard

S&P Dow Jones has been reporting the SPIVA® U.S. Scorecard for 15 years now.  Over the years, it has helped contribute to the active versus passive debate in a systematic and objective manner.  While some market segments or styles of active management can be cyclical in their ability to outperform, the secular trends in reported Read more […]

The Wrong Diagnosis

This morning’s Wall Street Journal described how “a $1.4 billion ETF gold rush” supposedly has disturbed the pricing of mining stocks around the world.  $1.4 billion turns out to be the incremental cash flow into a single exchange-traded fund designed to track an index of the gold mining industry, including some relatively small-capitalization companies.  These Read more […]

Visualizing Factor Exposures

Measuring the away-from-benchmark exposures of active portfolios (or “smart beta” indices) is not inherently complicated.  To what degree, for example, is a portfolio cheaper than its benchmark, or more tilted toward high quality stocks?  Practitioners typically approach the question in one of several ways: Calculating weighted average differences – e.g., the yield on my portfolio is Read more […]

The Making of a Passivist

I have few memories of my school French, but one of the fondest is of Moliere’s Monsieur Jourdain, who was delighted to learn in middle age that he had been speaking prose for the last 40 years.  Similarly, I did not realize until recently that I was a “passivist,” as the Wall Street Journal has now anointed the Read more […]

The Worst of Both Worlds

For active managers, investment results are partly a function of skill and partly a function of the environment in which that skill is exercised.  Even perfect foresight has only conditional value.  Imagine, for example, a manager who can always identify the top quintile of performers in a given market.  If the top quintile outperforms the index as Read more […]

Worse Than Marxism?

The investment community was bombarded last week with a paper arguing that passive investing is “worse than Marxism.”  That any putatively-serious observer can compare an investment strategy, even one he doesn’t like, with a political ideology responsible for the deaths of millions boggles the imagination, but maybe I’m just too sensitive.  The paper’s argument seems Read more […]

The Consequences of Concentration: 5 – Genuine Skill?

Should active managers shift away from well-diversified portfolios and concentrate only on “high conviction” holdings in hope of generating higher returns?  We have suggested four consequences — higher risk, greater dominance of luck over skill, higher costs, and fewer outperforming funds — that are likely and logical outcomes of higher concentration.  All four apply even for active Read more […]

The Consequences of Concentration: 4 – More Underperformers

Can active managers improve performance by moving from relatively diversified to relatively concentrated portfolios?  Doing so is likely to increase risk, shift the relative importance of luck and skill, and raise trading costs.  A fourth consequence is that the probability of active underperformance is likely to increase. A simple example provides some insight.  Imagine a market with five Read more […]

The Consequences of Concentration: 3 – Higher Costs

Some active managers argue that the remedy for widespread active underperformance is more aggressive, more concentrated portfolios.  If this is the correct prescription, it has a number of adverse side effects — for example, risk is likely to increase, and the relative importance of skill and luck in decision making is likely to shift in luck’s favor. A Read more […]

The Consequences of Concentration: 2 – Luck Ascendant

Is the remedy for active managers’ well-known performance difficulties to become more active? Some observers think so, and argue that less diversified, more concentrated portfolios should be the wave of active management’s future.  But there are a number of adverse consequences to concentration — for example, risk is likely to increase.   A second consequence is that in manager Read more […]