If investment mutual fund managers were truly skilled at beating the market, then you would expect mutual fund manager performance prowess to persist over time.
Unfortunately, the evidence indicates that superior past professional performance among mutual fund managers tends not to persist. Past superior mutual fund performance is simply not a predictor of future superior mutual fund performance.
Over time, securities prices change, because risk and return expectations change. Older concerns are resolved and new risks arise. As time and events roll forward, new information becomes available, that influences whether investors find a particular security to be more or less attractive. A vast array of financial, competitive, managerial, political, natural, technological, and numerous other factors will influence the evolution of securities market values.
Securities market prices are risk adjusted or risk weighted forecasts of unknowable future events.
Just because the price of an investment security changes over time does not mean that investors were right or wrong before when they purchased or sold short a security. It simply means that the future did not unfold according to the projected risk-adjusted market consensus that existed when the security was acquired. (See: Distinguishing between true investment skill and luck)
Securities prices are bound to change and there will be supposed “winners” and “losers.” Winners will take credit and boast of their supposed wisdom, while losers will tend to keep quiet and lick their wounds. The problem is that rarely do either winners or losers actually win or lose because they made a precise and accurate prediction of future events that actually did occur. (See: Chance creates the illusion that investors can beat the stock market)
When the investment portfolio performance of money managers is measured on a risk-adjusted basis, winners are judged to have captured “positive ‘alpha’ ” (a statistical performance comparison to a benchmark) and losers will have “negative ‘alpha.’ ” Are these positive and negative deviations from the average the result of skill, or are they just due to random price fluctuations?
If mutual fund managers were truly skilled at beating the market, then one would expect their excess investment returns performance to persist over time.
Most individual investors have long-term financial objectives and hope that money managers who are entrusted with their assets will deliver relatively high future performance. Unfortunately, the scientific finance literature does not support this expectation. The evidence indicates that superior past professional performance tends not to persist and is not a predictor of future performance. The most reasonable conclusion to reach is that relatively competitive and efficient financial markets are not reliably “beatable” on a long run, risk-adjusted basis.
The absurdity of the “positive alpha, superior mutual fund manager” assertion increases with the fees charged and the excess taxation resulting from over-active professional portfolio management. From the point-of-view of the individual investor, affordable alpha simply does not exist. Before costs and taxation, on average an investor can only expect to match the market return. Some will exceed the market return and some will fall short. However, it will tend to be luck rather than skill that will determine who wins and who loses. Once costs and taxation are factored in, the average investor will under-perform the market index.
The effort to find those few supposedly superior money managers willing to sell their services sufficiently cheaply is a costly, time consuming, and futile, “Where’s Waldo?,”* searching exercise for the individual investor.
Many money managers will claim to be superior and few or none actually will be. If such superior money managers did exist, then there should be dozens or hundreds of them who prove their superiority year after year after year. Unfortunately, the scientific finance literature indicates that this is not the case. This year’s star money manager tends to be next year’s average or laggard money manager.
Individual investors need to understand that proper evaluation of the potential skill of investment managers is not a trivial exercise. Institutions with assets to invest must select and monitor investment managers. They have fiduciary obligations to hire the best and the brightest of portfolio managers, who will in turn select and manage the actual investment portfolio. The scientific finance literature on investment manager selection is very extensive, goes back roughly four decades, and provides no easy, surefire answers.
For the individual investor, using something like a 4 star or 5 star rating to over-simplify the fund selection decision is no different than tossing darts to decide. (For some ideas on how individual investors might approach the investment fund selection decision more efficiently, see this category of articles on The Skilled Investor website: Selecting Investment Funds – Mutual Funds and ETFs. Also, see the articles in this category: Rating Services – Morningstar. )
Tags: mutual fund manager
Personal Financial Planning
- The Heavy Burden of Recurring Investment Expenses and Fees – Part 2 (
The heavy burden of recurring investment fees (Part 2 of 2)
< < -- Go to Part 1
By charging fees as a percent of your assets, the investment industry can make their recurring fees seem small – like they are “just a few” percent.
Furthermore, by charging fees against your assets the industry can still bill you [...])
- Commodity Futures in Your Investment Portfolio (Commodity futures in your investment portfolio - Is there really any future for individual investors?
The Skilled Investor's previous article, "Be wary of the new investment asset classes," voiced skepticism about many supposedly new asset classes. This article delves into the financial science behind this skepticism, as it relates to one of these supposedly new asset [...])
- Pay Lower Expenses To Get Higher Investment Returns – Part 2 (
Pay lower investment expenses to get higher investment returns
While financial services industry sales people tell you that you need to pay more to get more, the correct answer is the opposite.
Excessive investment costs are a plague on your personal financial planning. Excessive investment expenses are one of the most significant barriers to lifelong family financial [...])
- Build Investment Asset Buffers to Protect Yourself from Market Volatility (
Build Investment Asset Buffers to Protect Yourself from Market Volatility
You may be just as nervous as the next person is about investment risk. However, the coverage of your future expenses by your accumulated assets will determine whether you can actually manage, when risk really happens.
A previous article, "The Solution - ONLY follow financial strategies that [...])
- Efficient Market Pricing in the Investment Securities Markets (
Efficient market pricing is the theory that all known information is already reflected in current securities prices.
Efficient securities market pricing has become very widely accepted within the investment community. The preponderance of evidence is that securities markets are efficient and tend to reflect available information. Whether you believe markets are efficient is very important to [...])
- How unstable have stock market returns been over time? (Common stock equity market returns have varied widely in the past. The common stock equity risk premium has averaged about 4.1% from 1872 to 2000.
The equity risk premium is the equity market return less the risk free rate of return. The risk free rate of return includes both the inflation rate and the risk free [...])
- The Value and Opportunity Cost of Your Personal Investment Management Time (
Your time is valuable, and it should be included in calculations about your investment returns.
Whether you add or subtract value from your assets when you spend time on investment activities should also be evaluated. Some investors spend significant time on the wrong strategies. Instead of adding value, their efforts reduce their investment portfolio performance and [...])
- Insure against risks economically – Step 8 of 10 Financial Planning Steps in the Right Direction (CLICK HERE TO READ THE SKILLED INVESTOR's OTHER ARTICLES ABOUT THESE "10 FINANCIAL PLANNING STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
While value, affordability, risk exposure, and risk tolerance should affect insurance purchase decisions, insurance is often sold and purchased emotionally. Yet, insurance premium payments reduce personal funds that might otherwise be available for additional investments. Many people [...])
- Assess your personal investment return and risk preferences – Step 3 of 10 Financial Planning Steps in the Right Direction (CLICK HERE TO READ THE SKILLED INVESTOR's OTHER ARTICLES ABOUT THESE "10 FINANCIAL PLANNING STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION."
Investors with different levels of risk tolerance are more satisfied with investment strategies that are better aligned with their risk preferences.
Differences in investors' personal risk tolerances mean that more risk-averse investors are personally more satisfied with a [...])
- How Many Mutual Funds are Needed for a Well-Diversified Portfolio? – Evidence (Actively-managed mutual funds are not created equally. Performance can vary significantly - even when funds pursue similar strategies or "styles."
This article addresses the impact on portfolio diversification of holding more than one actively-managed mutual fund. (For the companion article to this, see: How many mutual funds are needed for a well-diversified portfolio? – a commentary)
- The Fund Authority Score – A Better Mutual Fund and ETF Rating System (Fund Authority Scores rate mutual funds and ETFs on the most important economic factors influencing long term diversified investment fund performance
The Skilled Investor developed the Fund Authority Score system to provide individual investors with concise and objective mutual fund and ETF comparisons within investment asset classes.
Fund Authority Scores measure investment fund cost, maturity, efficiency, and [...])
- Avoid High Turnover Mutual Funds and Active ETF Trading (Avoid investment funds with higher investment portfolio turnover
The problem with high turnover is that higher fund trading adds substantial hidden expenses that drag down returns.
Because short-term trading is a zero sum game (before costs) played against other well informed traders, greater turnover is far more likely on average to result in lower fund returns instead [...])
- Stay Invested in Securities Markets to Earn Risk Premiums (You must stay invested in the securities markets to earn market return risk premiums
Securities markets pay risk premiums to risk takers
You have to have your money invested and at risk to be paid a risk premium. Attempting to avoid risk or losses by jumping in and out to "time the markets" does not work. Scientific [...])
- Avoid Very Large Actively Managed Mutual Funds (
Avoid very large actively managed mutual funds
Big actively managed mutual fund portfolio positions and higher percentage ownership of any company’s bonds or common stock are not good things for actively managed mutual funds. Nor, are these big positions and high percentages good for you.
Large portfolio size constrains how efficiently an actively managed mutual fund can [...])
- How Investment Securities Are Valued – Snapshots in Time (
Snapshots in time - How investment securities are valued
Every securities market transaction requires a buyer and seller with differing viewpoints.
Markets can operate, because there are differences between investors in their assessments of the intrinsic value and risk of securities.
Current investment values vary in the eyes of the many beholders of investment market securities. Knowledgeable participants [...])