Does Active Management Work For Institutional Investors? | Summary and Q&A

25.9K views
June 8, 2018
by
Ben Felix
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Does Active Management Work For Institutional Investors?

TL;DR

Large institutions with access to supposedly top money managers do not outperform index funds, as shown by data on underperformance and lower average returns.

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Key Insights

  • 😘 Low-cost index funds consistently outperform actively managed funds for both average investors and institutional investors.
  • 💓 Access to more exotic asset classes does not guarantee market-beating performance for large institutions.
  • ↩️ Complexity increases costs and decreases average returns, even for the most sophisticated investors.
  • 😘 The Nevada State pension fund has successfully adopted a low-cost index fund strategy and outperformed Harvard's endowment.
  • 💓 State pension funds have been influenced by the belief that active management beats the market, resulting in costly underperformance.
  • 🌥️ Large institutions cannot escape the truth that costs decrease average returns, regardless of their advantages.
  • 🍉 College endowment funds have not generated exceptional returns, despite access to long-term investments in illiquid asset classes.

Transcript

It is increasingly well-understood that low-cost  index funds will, on average, beat actively   managed mutual funds for average investors. Check  out some of my pervious videos if you want to know   why. I think that there is still a perception  that large institutions like pension funds and   endowments, with access to the supposedly  best money ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Do large institutions with access to top money managers outperform index funds?

No, the data show that the majority of actively managed institutional accounts underperform their benchmark over 10 years, even before fees.

Q: Why do endowment funds and pension funds not generate exceptional returns?

Endowment funds allocate to less liquid and expensive asset classes like private equity and hedge funds, but their average returns have been lower than a simple index fund portfolio. Some endowments experienced significant losses during the financial crisis.

Q: Are there any pension funds that have adopted a low-cost index fund strategy?

Yes, the Nevada State pension fund, similar in size to Harvard's endowment, exclusively invests in low-cost index funds and has consistently outperformed Harvard's complex and expensive endowment fund.

Q: Why do state pension funds continue to use actively managed funds despite underperformance?

The report suggests that pension fund administrators may be reluctant to admit their mistakes in betting on active managers. Investment consultants and Wall Street managers also oppose indexing as it undermines their interests.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Low-cost index funds consistently outperform actively managed mutual funds for average investors.

  • Institutions have access to asset classes that retail investors don't, but this does not guarantee market-beating performance.

  • College endowment funds and pension funds have not generated exceptional returns, with index funds outperforming them.

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