Research Affiliates’ Jason Hsu has a new article Selling Hope (.pdf) in which he discusses the reason investors persist in the seemingly irrational behavior of paying high fees for active management despite the numerous studies that show most active managers fail to deliver “alpha” over time net of fees:
The empirical evidence that the average fund manager underperforms and the recent top-performing funds do not outperform subsequently are irrefutable. Why, then, do investors insist on paying for investment management expertise, which isn’t all that useful? Perhaps investors are not really that interested in holding their investment managers accountable for outperformance. The Economist’s Buttonwood column 5 argues that investors might only be interested in securing advice that confirms their own investment beliefs. The false sense of security that comes from hearing a “professional” concurring with one’s own opinions on unpredictable affairs makes the randomness that is inherent in investing almost tolerable. Clearly, not all aspects of investment management are related to generating outperformance; many managers and advisors are really in the business of preventing their clients from making bad financial decisions, such as overconcentrating the portfolio, trading excessively or making decisions under emotional distress. Barber and Odean, in their 2000 Journal of Finance paper, found that aggressive self-directed investors underperform the market by an average of 6.5% per annum.6 These investors simply own too few stocks and trade too much due to overconfidence in their own stock-picking and market-timing skills. Jason Zweig, in his 2002 investigative report, documented that retail mutual fund investors underperformed the average mutual fund by 4.7% per annum.7 Again, this poor result is driven by investors actively switching between funds and market-timing their investment contributions.
Read the article here (.pdf).
See an earlier post on fundamental indexation.