Articles (106)

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  • Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors

    Fairholme and Sequoia—No Great Performance Here - 2017 Update

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, January 16, 2018

    Recently, we received a question from a client that we will paraphrase as follows: “While I know that the returns I have gotten from index funds have beaten the majority of active managers, would I not have been better off in funds like the Fairholme Fund (FAIRX) or the ...Read More

  • The Law of Large Numbers: Bill Miller's Fall From Grace

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Friday, September 2, 2016

    Bill Miller is widely considered one of the most successful investors of all time. At the helm of the Legg Mason Value Trust Fund (LMVTX) for over three decades, he earned the title of legendary by beating the S&P 500 for 15 consecutive years from 1991 through 2005. But ...Read More

  • The Small-Cap "Alpha" Myth: An Update!

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Wednesday, April 27, 2016

    There is a common misconception about “alpha” in the small-cap market within the United States. Many professionals believe that once we step out of the mega-cap world of companies like Google, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and Apple where there is an army of analysts digging ...Read More

  • Tom Allen and Mark Hebner

    USAA Mutual Funds: A Deeper Look at the Performance

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Friday, January 22, 2016

    The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) started during the roaring 20’s. Their story began with US Army officers who were refused insurance due to the risky nature of their careers (only 4 years removed from World War I). These men saw a ...Read More

  • The Short End of a Corrupt Giant

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Monday, December 28, 2015

    Most of us are aware of the story of David and Goliath from the Holy Bible. According to the Books of Samuel, Goliath was a Philistine warrior of tremendous strength and size who was defeated by a much smaller, ...Read More

  • Tom Allen and Mark Hebner

    MFS: A Deeper Look at the Performance

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Wednesday, November 11, 2015

    MFS Investment Management made very well scripted and produced commercials highlighting some of the typical selling points active managers like to make when speaking to investors. Let's take a deeper ...Read More

  • Tom Allen and Mark Hebner

    Independence & Financial Advice: Another Case That Proves the Point

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Friday, November 6, 2015

    There has been a consistent theme within the financial services industry for far too long: conflicts of interest. What motivates your personal wealth advisor to give the advice that they give? It is sometimes not as clear-cut as some of us think. Ideally, it would be doing what ...Read More

  • Tom Allen and Mark Hebner

    Part 2: Fidelity Funds - A Deeper Look at the Performance

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Friday, August 21, 2015

    We recently wrote an article that gave a high level overview of the performance of 64 different equity funds from Fidelity Investments. Our goal was to inform investors to be very careful when they hear “rumors” in the financial media about superior fund families. ...Read More

  • Tom Allen and Mark Hebner

    Part 1: Fidelity Funds - A Deeper Look at the Performance [VIDEO]

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Wednesday, August 19, 2015

    It is not uncommon for us to receive questions from clients and prospects about a particular family of mutual funds. The financial media is always quick to highlight top performing managers (here is an example from Money Magazine) to entice investors into hopping on board with a ...Read More

  • Maryland - Ready For an Investment Change

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Wednesday, July 15, 2015

    No this is not a political campaign slogan, but more of a realization. The Baltimore Sun recently published an article highlighting the recent popularity of passive investing and how some of the biggest Baltimore based money managers are dealing with the situation. T. Rowe Price ...Read More

  • Blackrock Looking for Answers to Their Troubling Performance

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Thursday, June 18, 2015

    What do you do when your entire active fund lineup is struggling? Well if you are the CEO of Blackrock, you invest hundred of millions of investors’ dollars and hire the more best and more brightest than you already have to try to fix it. According to a recent ...Read More

  • Evidence-Based Insights: Financial Gurus and Other Unicorns

    by Mark Hebner — Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    In our last piece, “Ignoring the Siren Song of Daily Market Pricing,” we explored how price-setting occurs in capital markets, and why investors should avoid reacting to breaking news. The cost and competition hurdles are just too tall. Today, we’ll explain why ...Read More

  • Chasing Our Tails Through Past Performance

    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Tuesday, May 12, 2015

    For those who have been investing for some time, you should be very familiar with the following statement: “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” This SEC mandated disclaimer when representing any past performance data is not without cause. Although ...Read More

  • Key Man Risk: Yet Another Reason to Avoid Active Funds

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, March 30, 2015

    When discussing the risks of investing in actively managed funds, we have focused on issues related to timing and selection.  Recently, we had a chance to view a report from a prominent investment consultant that was prepared for a major institutional client in our very own ...Read More

  • Did Bloomberg Find Another Bill Miller?

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    You may recall that Bill Miller was the fund manager who enjoyed the unparalleled winning streak of beating the S&P 500 Index for fifteen consecutive years ending in 2005. Of course, investors who came late to this party severely regretted it as Miller’s ...Read More

  • One More Nail in the Coffin of Active Management

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    “The only consistent data point we have observed over a five-year horizon is that a majority of active equity and bond managers in most categories lag comparable benchmark indices.”               ...Read More

  • Pension-Gate — More Good News from Pennsylvania

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    A little more than a year ago, we reported on how the stewards of the pension fund for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania came to the wise decision of moving away from high-cost actively managed funds in favor of low-cost index funds from Vanguard, whose founder Jack Bogle played a ...Read More

  • Pimco Continues to Bleed Cash

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, November 10, 2014

    Since the departure of Bill Gross from Pimco on September 26th, its flagship Total Return fund has suffered investor withdrawals of $51 billion, according to this excellent Wall Street Journal article by Kirsten Grind. For the month of October, $27.5 billion departed, and it ...Read More

  • Can Managers Pick Managers?

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, October 28, 2014

    Your mother may have taught you that cheaters never prosper, but what about copycats? When it comes to mutual fund managers, the answer is sometimes, but not for long, at least according to three researchers from the US and the UK who released this paper quantifying the ...Read More

  • Memo to Pimco: Don't Mess with St. Jack!

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, October 24, 2014

    Those of us who follow the financial media have been treated to a verbal slugfest featuring the Father of Retail Index Funds, Jack Bogle, going against Pimco Managing Director James Moore. It began with Mr. Bogle stating that Pimco investors who had chosen to withdraw their ...Read More

  • Pension-Gate: The Repercussions of CalPERS' Hedge Fund Decision

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, October 23, 2014

    About a month ago, we published this article about the $300 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) deciding to terminate its $4 billion hedge fund program. Today, we were pleased to see this article in the Wall Street Journal indicating that other ...Read More

  • The Google Effect?

    by Jim Parker — Monday, October 20, 2014

    What can’t Google do? Free email, customized searches, maps, apps, browsers, video—the list goes on. Now researchers claim to have found a link between Google searches and future stock market movements.Researchers at Warwick Business School in the UK and Boston ...Read More

  • Yet Another Problem with Active Investing: Manager Turnover

    by Mary Brunson and Mark Hebner — Thursday, October 9, 2014

    The surprise exit of Bill Gross from PIMCO likely has scores of investment committee members scratching their heads, wondering how to handle their fixed income mandates. Gross had fostered a stunning reputation for active bond management, racking up more than 26 years at the ...Read More

  • A Second Look at the Indian Mutual Fund Landscape

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, October 8, 2014

    About eight months ago, one of our contacts in India (Jatin Visaria) sent us an analysis of fifty of the largest mutual funds domiciled in India that had at least fourteen years of returns data. We published this article discussing the results of that analysis. Recently, Jatin ...Read More

  • The Bond King Leaves PIMCO for Janus Capital

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, September 29, 2014

    We were as shocked as everyone else when we learned that Bill Gross had resigned from PIMCO, and we were doubly shocked to learn that he was going to Janus Capital, a company not known for its bond funds. In prior articles such as this one, we have discussed ...Read More

  • Pension-Gate: Some Good News from CalPERS

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, September 18, 2014

    According to this press release, the $300 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) will eliminate its hedge fund program which currently consists of $4 billion spread over 24 hedge funds and six hedge fund-of-funds. For the fiscal year ending ...Read More

  • Help Wanted: Stock Pickers Need Not Apply

    by Mary Brunson, Vice President — Friday, September 5, 2014

    “The debate about whether you should hire an “active” fund manager who tries to beat the market by buying the best stocks and avoiding the worst — or a “passive” index fund that simply matches the market by holding all the stocks — is ...Read More

  • A Textbook Case of Insider Trading

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, September 4, 2014

    When we hear about someone being charged with insider trading, the first thought that usually comes to mind is that of company executives or hedge fund sharpies that illegally profited from their access to private information like the folks portrayed in this insider trading ...Read More

  • Vanguard Quantifies the Impact of Performance-Chasing

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, August 25, 2014

    For many years now, IFA has called attention to the dismal performance of individual investors. The chart below shows the results of the DALBAR study which details how the average individual fund investor has severely lagged the S&P 500 Index. Insert most recent DALBAR chart ...Read More

  • Pension-Gate: Some Good News and Bad News

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, August 14, 2014

    The recent good news from the Wall Street Journal (summarized here) is that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS) is planning to drop the level of its hedge fund investments this year by 40% to $3 billion. This retreat comes in the aftermath of many ...Read More

  • Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors

    State Pension Plans: A Deeper Look at the Performance

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, August 6, 2014

    Index Fund Advisors expended a large amount of time and effort in putting together the data that reveals the failure of active management for state pension systems. As of now, there is no central repository of information on state pension performance, so each state’s ...Read More

  • The NACUBO Study

    by Mark Hebner — Thursday, June 12, 2014

    You may think that college endowments, with all their access to academic knowledge and brainpower, would regularly hit home runs. You would be ...Read More

  • A Graphical View of the Mutual Fund Landscape

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, June 11, 2014

    Since IFA began operations in 1999, we have published articles detailing how incredibly stacked the odds are against successfully picking a manager who will beat his benchmark (i.e., deliver alpha). See here and here for recent examples. However, as we like to say at IFA, a good ...Read More

  • Manager Picking is a Mug's Game

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, May 2, 2014

    The search for investment managers who will deliver alpha is an activity that accounts for billions of dollars that is spent by foundations, endowments, pension plans, and other institutional investors. To determine if these dollars are well-spent, it is fair to ask how ...Read More

  • Pension-Gate Continues: Some Good Advice for the Hawkeye State

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, April 17, 2014

    At Index Fund Advisors, we are always gratified to read articles such as this one which give a good airing of the arguments in favor of indexing pension funds for public employees. One fund that would clearly benefit is the $27 billion Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement ...Read More

  • When Mythology Is Confused with Reality

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, April 11, 2014

    In the investment industry, the term “white paper” carries a lot of currency. As for what distinguishes an ordinary article from a full-fledged white paper, it is usually just a matter of length or the number of charts included. It is important to bear in mind that ...Read More

  • Morningstar Takes a Closer Look at Survivorship Bias

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    One of the problems with commonly cited mutual fund returns data is that it ignores the issue of survivorship bias, the tendency for mutual funds with poor performance to be merged into other funds or shut down. Specifically, if we look at the ten-year average returns of all ...Read More

  • Are Investors Irrational When It Comes to American Funds?

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, February 3, 2014

    A recent edition of the Rekenthaler Report from Morningstar would have us believe that American Funds have suffered investor withdrawals due to a guilt-by-association with active management which has increasingly come under fire from both academia and from key players in the ...Read More

  • The Alleged Inefficiency of Emerging Markets and Other Baloney

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, January 29, 2014

    At Index Fund Advisors, we often hear from people all over the world who express an interest in the investment principles that we espouse. This pleases us greatly, as we have always felt that the benefits of index investing should not be limited to American investors. Recently, ...Read More

  • Morningstar's Fund Managers of the Year

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    Can you hear it? That is the sound of millions of index fund investors yawning in response to Morningstar’s announcement of its Fund Managers of the Year for 2013. That recent performance weighs very heavily in the awarding of this distinction is evidenced by the fact that ...Read More

  • 2013: Another Dismal Year for Hedge Funds

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Saturday, January 11, 2014

    “We active folks have done a horrible job of beating the benchmarks.” So says Bob Doll of Nuveen Investments who was recently interviewed by Jeff Macke of Yahoo! Finance’s Breakout. For 2013, there is one group of active managers for whom this was especially ...Read More

  • The Myth of Fund Ratings

    by Anonymous — Monday, December 23, 2013

    At least 80% of actively managed funds underperform the S&P 500 in any 10 year period—and there are indexes that perform better than the S&P 500. If risk-adjusted returns are taken into account, funds lose out even ...Read More

  • Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors

    PIMCO: A Deeper Look at the Performance

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, December 18, 2013

    In Bill Gross’s December 2013 Investment Outlook letter, he joined the ranks of Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch in giving a solid endorsement to indexing while reminiscing about his younger days when Jack Bogle introduced the first index fund available to retail investors: ...Read More

  • Beating the Market—What's Luck Got to Do with It?

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, December 10, 2013

    The answer to that question is quite a bit actually, at least according to Nobel Laureate Eugene Fama1 and Ken French. Contrary to the protestations of Robert Olstein as featured in this New York Times article, Fama and French demonstrated that luck plays a very large role in ...Read More

  • Bad Benchmarking and the Creation of False Manager Alpha

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, December 2, 2013

    You don’t have to dig too deeply into IFA’s Website to realize that in our opinion, the pursuit of alpha is a fool’s errand that suckers investors into paying the high costs of active management while potentially causing them to miss out on the real source of ...Read More

  • The Persistent Myth of Active Funds in Bear Markets

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, November 22, 2013

    All too often, we hear the refrain that yes, index funds are great for bull markets, but when the next bear market rears its ugly head, you will want to be in active funds because the manager can anticipate the downturn and move at least some of the fund’s ...Read More

  • Vanguard Debunks a Widespread Myth about the Market

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    For at least the past two decades, we have been hearing about an approaching day of reckoning for the stock market prompted by retiring baby boomers selling their equities to fund their retirement needs. Recall that the baby boomers are defined as those born between 1946 and ...Read More

  • A Guilty Plea and a Record Fine for SAC Capital

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, November 5, 2013

    Three months ago, we wrote about the unprecedented indictment of SAC Capital, and a few months before that, we wrote about SAC’s record-setting $616 million settlement for insider trading. Today’s guilty plea combined with an additional $1.2 billion of fines was ...Read More

  • All the Way from India Comes a Voice of Reason

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, October 4, 2013

    At Index Fund Advisors, one of the things that we like to keep an eye on is the emergence of indexing in other countries. As the second most populous of the four “BRIC” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), India is expected to become a leading economy of the ...Read More

  • Thinking About a Private Placement? Think Again! [VIDEO]

    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, September 25, 2013

    So says the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in a recent press release and investor alert. A private placement is an offering of a company’s securities that is not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is not offered to the public ...Read More

  • The Failure of Manager Pickers

    by Mark Hebner — Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    Like stock and time picking, manager picking is usually a worthless endeavor; however, there are still investors out there who believe they can select an all-star manager or financial guru who can beat the ...Read More