Practical analysis for investment professionals
30 June 2015

How Did Keynes Perform as an Investor?

John Maynard Keynes is best known as an economist, and his ideas have done much to shape modern economic thought and policies. But there’s a side of Keynes that doesn’t get as much attention as his economic genius: He was an active investor, with an investment philosophy that evolved considerably through trial and error.

David Chambers says that the story of Keynes the investor was not “one of unqualified success,” adding that “for the first decade, [Keynes] kind of matched the market, and for a period of three years in the late 1920s, he actually was substantially behind the market.”

Chambers shares his insights about Keynes the investor from his article “The British Origins of the US Endowment Model,” co-authored with Elroy Dimson and published in the March/April 2015 issue of the CFA Institute Financial Analysts Journal. Although there is a large body of literature surrounding Keynes’s life and his contributions to economics, Chambers and Dimson noticed that there was a dearth of information about Keynes the investor. In their research, the authors managed to find data about his personal trading activities as well as his investment decisions for King’s College, Cambridge.

Chambers talked with Barbara Petitt, CFA, head of journal publications at CFA Institute, about the article.

He describes Keynes as one of the first people “running money in an institutional context . . . looking to invest portfolios across multiple asset classes,” and draws parallels between modern investment strategies and Keynes’s approach to investing.

To learn more about Keynes’s habits and track record as an investor, listen to the interview above. CFA Institute members can read the full article on the CFA Institute Publications website.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Photo credit: Public domain, courtesy of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

About the Author(s)
Pat Light

Pat Light was an assistant editor at CFA Institute. Before joining the CFA Institute editorial staff, he worked as a teacher. Light has a bachelor's degree in English from Duke University.

10 thoughts on “How Did Keynes Perform as an Investor?”

  1. Nice article. FYI I do a one hour presentation “The Investment Wisdom of John Maynard Keynes” that reviews his life, investment approach and the famous Chapter 12 of the General Theory. I have done it for about a half dozen CFA Societies so far. E-mail me at [email protected] if you like a pdf copy.

  2. juan rivera says:

    Keynes was more into macroeconomics rather than microeconomics.

    1. bratfalean says:

      It is correct! Today trendy it is micro-economic!

    2. Ivan says:

      Lord Keynes considered Economics, he did not need to distinguish between Micro and Macro, those are PostModern inventions from Neoclassical Authors.

      Keynes wrote The General Theory, literally a theory that applies to all Economic behavior and has proven wright with history, namely upon times of Crisis and the madness of Austerity Policies instead of Fiscal Stimulus.

  3. John Wasik says:


    Excellent piece, but I should note that in researching my book “Keynes’s Way to Wealth,” I discovered that the great economist’s investing skills evolved over time and were enhanced by his notable failures in 1920, 1929 and 1937 when he was nearly wrecked by downturns. Fortunately, Keynes recovered brilliantly and kept investing at the bottom of some of the worst declines in the 20th Century and died perhaps the wealthiest economist ever. Along the way, he pioneered some of the basic principles of value investing. His notion of “animal spirits” is also the cornerstone of behavioral economics and a solid guidepost for anyone trying to outguess the market and rely solely upon metrics like p/e ratios. Sadly, though, he’s rarely given credit for being ahead of his time, although this recent research sheds some new light on his investing acumen.

    1. He was way ahead of his time, every day its more importat yo study all hes reseach and do a little makeup, and, when you said that he invest in the companys that fail the most and he became a whealty men, He just knew that markets correct themself, no matter how Long you have to wait… brilliant just brilliant, he has had gaven so much to humanity gave the para to a better economics, and a healthy World, where all countrys should work togheter in order to have balance between production, wealthfare and respect with out loosing competitivity… sorry im not an economist and either an english Speaker…

  4. tom says:

    To project Keanes as a sucessfull investor would be the same as projecting Einsteins ability to fix his elecrticity mains at his home.

  5. John O'Neill says:

    I was an actuary at Keynes’ insurance company The National Mutual Life in the 1970s and had occasion to look back at some of the investment performance from his time at the Society. Helped Lay the foundation for what became a relatively strong organisation post war.

  6. Yagiz Okan says:

    I have been pondering the investment lessons one might learn from Keynes. The most obvious lesson is that failure is a good teacher. A second lesson emerged as I tried to make sense of Keynes’s strategy: don’t expect consistency.

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