By and large, both investors and fund professionals rely heavily on past performance in their fund selection process. The problem is that past performance is of little use in identifying funds or managers who will deliver superior future performance relative to their peer group. Numerous studies have failed to unearth a significant positive correlation between past relative performance and future relative performance. The only correlation found has been the consistency of managers with very bad returns to continue to post bad returns in the future.
Our experience evaluating active managers leaves us less than surprised by the inability of winners to consistently repeat. Our research indicates that even skilled managers’ past success often sows the seeds of their future underperformance. There are a variety of reasons that we have identified as to why maintaining an investment edge is difficult:
The fact that track records are not useful in predicting future relative performance is the basis on which index fund proponents conclude that low cost index funds are the better choice. But we disagree with the underlying premise. The fact that track records are not predictive is not tantamount to concluding that superior future performers can’t be identified in advance. It simply means that the track record does not provide sufficient information to do so. Our approach to fund research recognizes that past performance is useful only as a tool for screening funds to identify those that may be worthy of further research. Value added comes from identifying why a fund performed well in the past, determining if the portfolio management team has an identifiable edge and assessing whether the edge (if one exists) is sustainable.
Investment Key Takeaways—Year-End 2020
Very few (if any) market observers would have predicted a strong market outcome in early 2020, with pandemic fears rampant and the global economy falling off a cliff. But global stocks ended the year at all-time highs with a 16% gain. At Litman Gregory, we “stayed the course” during the volatility, and it proved prescient once again. In this post, we summarize key takeaways from our full year-end investment commentary, offering an overview of financial market performance and our outlook for the months ahead.
Commentary from Our CIO—Year-End 2020
In this year-end commentary, CIO Jeremy DeGroot reflects on the recent challenging and turbulent year and lays out our investment outlook for 2021 and beyond. The strong full-year market returns masked the incredible volatility and stress investors faced earlier in the year. While many risks remain, the early stages of vaccine distributions and economic stimulus are providing a light at the end of the tunnel.
Alice Lowenstein Earns CSRIC™, Sustainable, Responsible & Impact Investing Designation
We are pleased to share that Managing Director Alice Lowenstein has obtained the Chartered SRI Counselor designation, the first major financial credential dedicated specifically to sustainable, responsible and impact investing. This designation demonstrates Alice’s knowledge of SRI principles and best practices.