Selecting Investment Strategies

Published by Jake Bleicher and the Carson Wealth Investment Committee

A fundamental decision made when selecting an investment strategy is whether to invest actively or passively. Given that more than $1.1 trillion have flowed into passive funds since 2008 while active funds have seen a slight decline(1), perhaps the decision is quite simple. Several years of weak active investment performance only support the passive pundit’s notion that you can’t beat the index. While journalists have already written fund manager’s obituaries, history suggests active and passive investment strategies are more cyclical in nature. Like most cyclical investments, following the herd rarely ends well.

Investors tend to focus on recently observed patterns and assume them to be the new normal. Like any cyclical investment, it goes back and forth.

There is no definitive criterion that determines which style will outperform. Some believe that active outperforms during market corrections and over the last 30 years that has proven true 77% of the time1. Other research suggests that active outperforms when small caps beat large caps. Regardless of the merit behind these observations, it would only benefit investors who could predict such scenarios unfolding. Active or passive, few investors accurately predict the next market correction.

One approach would be to incorporate both into an investment strategy, effectively hedging the cyclical nature of the relative performance. However, I think recent history provides ample evidence to support an active strategy. The excitement about passive investing has gotten extreme, maybe even irrational. It reminds me of a bubble. When selecting an investment strategy, be cognizant of the cyclical nature between active and passive performance. When one strategy has enjoyed supremacy for nearly a decade, perhaps its time to go with the out of favor method.

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