Practical analysis for investment professionals
22 August 2014

Weekend Reads for Investors: The Future of Active Management

Posted In: Weekend Reads

This week the Wall Street Journal noted that net flows into passively managed funds have surged in recent years, leaving active managers to pick up the crumbs. And earlier this year, none other than Warren Buffett, one of the most successful active investors of the past 50 years, in his annual letter to shareholders, warned of the high costs of active management and gave a qualified endorsement of indexing. Is the waning popularity of active management part of a permanent shift in the evolution of the asset management industry? Charles Ellis, CFA, in “The Rise and Fall of Performance Investing,” takes the view that we are indeed seeing “a seismic change in the profession.”

Ellis says that the stock market has become increasingly efficient over the past 50 years due to the talent the industry has attracted, as well as significant advances in tools and training. Mispricings are now quickly arbitraged away, making sustained outperformance after fees rare, and for clients, “a game not worth playing.” Active managers, meanwhile, are being pinched by downward pressure on fees, leaving their businesses more vulnerable to the trend toward passive investing. Ellis thinks the industry should embrace the change, and instead of focusing on “price discovery,” or stock picking, emphasize “values discovery,” the process of structuring a suitable long-term investment strategy based on clients’ objectives with respect to income needs, time horizons, and risk tolerances. While you may not share Ellis’ viewpoint that active management is in permanent decline, this thought-provoking piece is well worth reading.

Below are some other stories that caught my eye in recent weeks.

Strategic Thinking

Big Business

Valuation

High Profiles

Risky Business

Emerging Markets

Economics


Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/JLGutierrez

About the Author(s)
David Larrabee, CFA

David Larrabee, CFA, was director of member and corporate products at CFA Institute and served as the subject matter expert in portfolio management and equity investments. Previously, he spent two decades in the asset management industry as a portfolio manager and analyst. He holds a BA in economics from Colgate University and an MBA in finance from Fordham University. Topical Expertise: Equity Investments · Portfolio Management

1 thought on “Weekend Reads for Investors: The Future of Active Management”

  1. NOTES

    This article is in formative within the acceptable transaction based platforms Wall Street supports and promotes, but does not address the rising hybrid approach that many firms are now utilizing. This approach, does not give constructive receipt of clients assets to TPMs, MFs and to a lesser degree ETFs as they currently only utilize ETFs in the Bond and Foreign mkts, but instead this Hybrid approach take clients directly to their own individual stocks and preferreds on a fractional share basis including dividend reinvestment compounding. “The market” via ETFs, MFs abd TPMs, by virtue of holding hundreds if not thousands of individual issues when allocated together IS the market, not to mention the additional non-transparencies, multiple layered platforms and their hidden costs.
    These new Hybrid approaches, by only holding a select number of value based securities (30 to 50) with similar sector weightings of given indexes within multiple MODELS, with each model representing a given Capitalization and asset class, at a low to zero cost, that is both scalable, and non-transaction driven.
    These new hybrid platforms primary concern is RISK CONTROL that is tax efficiently addressed at half the cost of normal “active management” offerings. These newer Hybrid platforms should be included in this type subject matter. The investing public (especially the large retiree populous) should be informed that it is NOT performance, but risk and volatility control that should be precedent. When one IS the market by purchasing Multiple indexes, that ARE the market they are leaving themselves no options to address systemic risk on a proactive basis as well as leave themselves exposed to punitive non-transparent costs. Lets address these issues first in the name of risk control, before we over-generalize “active management” as a dying approach. It is not a cut and dry proposition, but one that should utilize both disciplines along with newer hybrid offerings.

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