Active or Passive? Find Out With This Barometer

In the world of investment management, the hotly debated topic of active versus passive is ubiquitous. Managers that have built careers selecting individual securities with the hope of beating passively-managed, and often lower-cost, index funds have been coming under fire as more and more data becomes available showing just how difficult this task really is. Investors have become more data savvy and are demanding added value to justify paying high fees to professionals, while the proponents of active security selection have been quick to dismiss comparisons to indices as unfair for a variety of reasons. Morningstar, one of the most trusted names in fund manager selection, puts these objections to the test with their Active/Passive Barometer. The tool levels the playing field and gives us an in-depth comparison of the performance of traditional fund managers over the past decade. The result is that security selection has performed very poorly across the board in all major categories against lower-cost, passive alternatives. This is particularly true for more efficient markets such as large cap equities, while managers fare a bit better in less heavily scrutinized markets like Diversified Emerging Markets. With so many professionals competing for excess returns in overly saturated markets, there is very little room for managers to add value for investors, especially when the index funds they compete against cost multiples less.