Active vs. Passive
The performance derby between actively managed portfolios and passive benchmarks is strongly influenced by market conditions. Active manager success rates are cyclical, but not random, and are driven by slippage created from style, size, and weighting considerations that result from the imperfect slotting of active portfolios into single style boxes. Moreover, this slippage can be defined and measured, and shows a clear correlation with relative return spreads between benchmarks and their opposite boxes.
Our ongoing research into the relative performance of active vs. passive styles reveals that market conditions play a significant role in the active/passive return cycle. We identified a set of metrics that describe the market conditions we believe influence which management style is more likely to outperform. This note updates our data through March 2021.
The passing of investment legend John Bogle has brought forth many well-deserved tributes to his professional accomplishments. He was a tireless champion of passive investing and the founder of The Vanguard Group which, as more than a few investors don’t realize, also manages almost $1 trillion in active funds.
Relative performance of active and passive mutual funds is one of the leading story lines in our industry, with passive’s recent advantage leading some to argue that it will be the dominant style forevermore. We disagree, and believe that the active/passive relationship has been, and always will be, cyclical.