There is always one. Liran Einav had to be the only economist out of 100 or so top American and European economists who disagreed with the proposition that:
In general, absent any inside information, an equity investor can expect to do better by choosing a well-diversified, low-cost index fund than by picking a few stocks.
The New Zealand Superannuation Fund’s policy of active investing has one supporter out of 100 surveyed by the Initiative for Global Markets. I suppose it is better than none.
The chief executive of the fund quibbles by claiming there is a 3rd way between active and passive investing but there is not as William Sharp explained in his timeless 1991 article, The Arithmetic of Active Management:
- A passive investor always holds every security from the market, with each represented in the same manner as in the market. Thus if security X represents 3 per cent of the value of the securities in the market, a passive investor’s portfolio will have 3 per cent of its value invested in X. Equivalently, a passive manager will hold the same percentage of the total outstanding amount of each security in the market2.
- An active investor is one who is not passive. His or her portfolio will differ from that of the passive managers at some or all times. Because active managers usually act on perceptions of mispricing, and because such misperceptions change relatively frequently, such managers tend to trade fairly frequently — hence the term “active.”
An active fund is a fund that is not a passive fund. If you do not own a balanced portfolio of every security in the market, you are an active investor.
The majority of the New Zealand Superannuation fund is passively invested but some of it is not. It is invested in dogs like KiwiBank, in Z service stations and even in some bad Portuguese loans.