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The question whether active portfolio management can systematically improve a portfolio’s return has been debated for long. The rise of low-cost ETFs, FinTech and AI has been reinforcing pressures on active portfolio managers to prove the value for money of their service. At the same time, the financial crisis and the rise of populist policies have highlighted the importance and the potential benefits for portfolio performance from anticipating low-probability high-impact events. Furthermore computer trading and AI-assisted portfolio analysis and investment strategies are making fast progress, reducing the cost of “active” management strategies in the future. From a financial stability perspective, the widespread use of similar passive management strategies or similar forms of portfolio investment algorithms may generate synchronous behaviour, reinforce price fluctuations and pose risks to financial stability. The large scale of ETF markets may also make potential instability from this sector systemically important.

Tatsuyoshi Okimoto, 13 June 2019

Japan’s monetary policy has had to be unconventional in order to address the economic conditions the country has faced. This column assesses the Bank of Japan’s exchange-traded fund purchasing programme, which has been repeatedly expanded in recent years. The purchases have achieved some positive results, propping up stock prices but also increasing real output and inflation. But, given the increased risks the Bank faces as its purchases have grown, the time to unwind has come.

Bruno Biais, Jean-Charles Rochet, Paul Woolley, 21 August 2014

The Global Crisis has intensified debates over the merits of financial innovation and the optimal size of the financial sector. This column presents a model in which the growth of finance is driven by the development of a financial innovation. The model can help explain the securitised mortgage debacle that triggered the latest crisis, the tech bubble in the late 1990s, and junk bonds in the 1980s. A striking implication of the model is that regulation should be toughest when finance seems most robust and when innovations are waxing strongly.

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CEPR Policy Research