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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.

Francesco Franzoni, 03 June 2019

The asset management industry has become increasingly concentrated in recent decades. Regulators are concerned about the systemic risks this may pose. Using data from the US, this column suggests that the increased concentration has led to more volatile prices of stocks held by large institutional investors. This poses challenges for regulators trying to weigh price efficiency and economies of scale.

Anil Kashyap, Natalia Kovrijnykh, Jian Li, Anna Pavlova, 18 February 2019

A well-known puzzle in economics is that when stocks are added to the S&P 500 index, their prices rise. Using a theoretical framework and empirical evidence, this column shows that this ‘benchmark inclusion subsidy’ arises because asset managers have incentives to hold some of the equity of firms in the benchmark regardless of the risk characteristics of these firms. As a result, asset managers effectively subsidise investments by benchmark firms. As the asset management industry continues to grow, the benchmark inclusion subsidy will only get bigger. 

Thorsten Beck, 24 April 2017

Nine years after the onset of the Global Crisis, the problem of non-performing assets is still acute in the Eurozone. This column takes stock of the different proposals to deal with the issue. It argues that a Eurozone-level asset management company can resolve bank fragility and spur economic recovery, but warns that lack of political will and legal barriers can impede the creation of such an agency. 

Jon Danielsson, Jean-Pierre Zigrand, 05 August 2015

Some financial authorities have proposed designating asset managers as systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs). This column argues that this would be premature and probably ill conceived. The motivation for such a step comes from an inappropriate application of macroprudential thought from banking, rather than the underlying externalities that might cause asset managers to contribute to systemic risk. Further, policy authorities are silent on the question of what SIFI designation should mean in practice, despite the inherent link between identification and remedy.

Gaston Gelos, Hiroko Oura, 25 July 2015

The growth of the asset management industry has raised concerns about its potential impacts on financial stability. This column assesses the systemic risk created by fund managers’ incentive problems and a first-mover advantage for end investors. Fund flows and fund ownership affect asset prices, and fund managers’ behaviour can amplify risks. This lends support to the expansion and strengthening of industry oversight, both at the individual fund and market levels.

David Chambers, Elroy Dimson, 20 October 2014

Yale University has generated annual returns of 13.9% over the last 20 years on its endowment – well in excess of the 9.2% average return on US university endowments. Keynes’ writings were a considerable influence on the investment philosophy of David Swensen, Yale’s CIO. This column traces how Keynes’ experiences managing his Cambridge college endowment influenced his ideas, and sheds light on how some of the lessons he learnt are still relevant to endowments and foundations today.

Bernard Delbecque, 03 March 2012

Professional asset managers are responsible for investments worth around €40 trillion worldwide. This column looks at the role of asset managers in investing society’s long-term savings, highlighting the key differences with investment banks.

Stephen Cecchetti, 03 December 2007

The final essay examines whether central bank actions have created moral hazard, encouraging asset managers to take on more risk than is in society’s interest; the answer is “no”.

Events

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