Why Warren Buffett is wrong

Please see alternative non clickbait title: ‘Why the media’s interpretation of Warren Buffett’s claim that ‘low cost index funds are better than actively managed funds’ is wrong… I wouldn’t get as many clicks that way though.

Yes, I am shameless.

That is quite a statement.

I do not claim to know more than Buffet, obviously.

But the way the media have taken a statement and run with it is ridiculous.

Take a look at this article for a recap.

Buffett made a bet with Protegé Partners that buying a low cost SP500 tracker ETF from 2007 til 2016 would return more than the fund of funds that Protegé bought.

I don’t actually believe that anyone would argue that long term, SP500 trackers are the best investment…

And the stakes that they were playing at in relation to their total managed capital was so small; they initially bet $320k which then you have to question their convictions over this.

But what financial journo’s have seemingly forgotten is the motivations for investing in both and the client types that use both vehicles.

Hedgefunds are totally different to passive trackers for many reasons.

The ‘hedge’ part of the word indicates some kind of risk management or risk aversion.

Hedgefund managers want their strategy to be as uncorrelated to traditional market benchmarks as possible.

In this way, they are able to provide more consistent returns with less drawdown than you may receive where you simply invest in an index.

The returns are more bond-like where it may not beat an index benchmark, but it beats an agreed benchmark set by the fund manager in the prospectus provided before an investor comes on board.

Do you not think that all hedgefund investors would be pulling their money out if they wanted to simply buy $SPY or chuck a load of cash at other passive index funds?

The dishonesty that many outlets push with this is crazy.

Sure, a low cost index tracker is fantastic for non accredited investors and possibly as part of a wider portfolio, but when you have $100m, you certainly do not want your cash following the herd.

What if a downturn occurred?

Would there be sufficient liquidity to pull $100m out of the market?

Many live off the interest – people with a lot of money aren’t exactly saving for retirement.

If you have $100m and you’re making 6% a year net of fees (underperforming the broader market) that’s $6m for doing nothing.

The financial media, once again, has ignored specifics of the three W’s – ‘who, what, why?’

Zero nuance.

But hey, pushing money towards Vanguard is always great right?

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5 thoughts on “Why Warren Buffett is wrong

  1. Indeed what if a down turn occurred – are you suggesting Hedge Funds would perform better? Most of them are in the same stocks, following the same trends and when they inevitably reverse….

    It is very far from clear cut that Hedge Funds actually provide any real benefit to investors.

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  2. Thanks. That’s interesting, wonder if this is a new trend that will continue… I would have to do some digging into the numbers, but that article notes how a number have cut their fees, I wonder how much that has to do with it. Regardless, hopefully the volatility is here to stay in any case!

    Like

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