Indexing trickle turning into a flood – what’s that got to do with me?
For index investors – the so-called passive investors and their providers – the industry news this year continues to be an unbroken boulevard of green lights. Money is gushing into index products, investor expenses are plummeting, investments are worth more than ever. What’s going on, and why should investors care?
Does Vanguard want to take over the world?
For the active management crowd, this idea is no joke. Vanguard, which along with State Street and BlackRock comprise the Big 3 of indexing, collected more than 90 percent of the inflows to ETFs in the first quarter of 2014, continuing the dominance it experienced in 2013.
While Vanguard wins with its low expense passive approach, who’s losing? The big names in active management, including Fidelity and American Funds. Vanguard’s market share of long-term mutual fund and ETF assets has grown from 8 to 18 percent over the last 20 years while Fidelity and American, both once as high as 14 percent shares, now hold less than 10 percent of the pie.
It’s pretty clear that 20th century style mutual funds are losing to 21st century ETFs. And for good reasons – lower expenses, better tax control, and better performance relative to asset class benchmarks. This is becoming old news now as more research pours in each year indicating that active funds, on average, fail to keep up with index benchmarks. More individual investors are paying attention too, as the fund flows indicate.
Charlie Ellis calls “game over”
Who’s Charlie Ellis? Perhaps not a Twitterati with a high Q score, but in the investment world he’s one of our most sage and logical voices. He’s on the Yale investment committee and partner in the investment consulting firm, Greenwich Associates. His recent article in Financial Analysts Journal, a true industry bible, paints an unhappy future for active managers. He sees no reason to believe active managers can turn the passive management tide and demonstrate justification for high fees as performance wallows. His bottom line is that active managers should start looking for alternate career paths before it’s too late.
So what, what about me?
And that is indeed the question. It’s one thing to witness a sea change in investment methodology; it’s another thing to comfortably ride the wave. How can and should you take part in the index revolution? How can you translate your current financial situation and future goals into a portfolio that makes sense for you and your family? Here’s a hint: just buying index ETFs at random is not the answer.
We suggest getting a professional analyst involved. We have one handy, Max Osbon. Together we can find the all-important overlap between what’s going on in the industry and what’s going on in your financial life. Now’s the ideal time to start that exploration and ride the wave.
John Osbon – firstname.lastname@example.org