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Active vs. Passive Management

Investors should consider their objectives, time horizons, tax sensitivities, and aversion to tracking error before choosing one over the other.


The active versus passive investment management discussion has intensified as of late due to active management’s recent inability to outpace their passive benchmarks. Some may have a knee-jerk inclination to fire an underperforming manager, but the data show that investors are better off staying the course. A 2012 study by Towers Watson that simulated 10,000 different scenarios found that over a three-year period, institutions that fired underperforming managers ultimately underperformed institutions that stayed committed to their managers. Managers with high active share, like those that Canterbury prefers, will look especially different from their benchmarks. The more a manager varies from its benchmark, the higher the likelihood of extended periods of under- and out-performance. Performance itself should never be the sole determinant for firing a manager. Instead, investors must understand why performance is suffering and determine if it is likely to persist. This paper explores the reasons why active managers suffer bouts of underperformance and seeks to educate investors on the appropriateness of active and passive investments in their portfolios.


Read Canterbury's white paper on Active vs. Passive Management