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Additional resources for Bloomberg Businessweek (2 July 2012)
Implications of Long Performance Cycles and Management Styles The likelihood that an average manager will outperform the market before fees is probably 50% a year. Because of this, investors often believe a manager has a one in four chance to outperform the market two years straight (50% ¥ 50%). Thus, if a speciﬁc manager outperforms three years in a row, they assume the probability of achieving this result is one in eight (50% ¥ 50% ¥ 50%). Investors could conclude that such a manager is a very good one.
When compounded over many years, this is incredibly signiﬁcant. So the common-sense argument is that institutional investors are all trying to outperform one another with their own experts, that many products have fairly signiﬁcant management fees and that the level of trading required by active management imposes signiﬁcant trading costs. Under these circumstances, outperforming a passive benchmark in the long run appears to be improbable for a majority of active managers. This common-sense argument should be convincing enough, but for those who are skeptical, there are many studies on the issue.
They may be related to macro factors such as business cycles and structural economic change, but they may also be related to changes in time-varying risk premiums (such as a change in investors’ tolerance for risk caused by a change in economic conditions), to market inefﬁciencies, irrational behavior by market participants, etc. At this point, I only want to emphasize that these cycles do exist, can be signiﬁcant, are rarely short, are usually unpredictable and will reward or humble many managers for several consecutive years.