“Recency” is one of the most insidious behavioral biases that can impact an investor’s ability to Take the Long View® with their investments. The name alone suggests it’s the opposite of what we’re about here at Hill Investment Group.
Those ruled by recency will disregard decades of data, and instead allow only the latest, relatively random data points to skew their view. A prime example occurs whenever purveyors of traditional active investing revisit a perennially misleading script that goes something like this: “If too many investors invest in index funds (i.e., if the market is left to run on auto-pilot), there will be nobody left to set proper pricing. Investors should revert to an active investment strategy, before it’s too late.”
Again, the argument is nothing new; if index funds were the only investment available, markets would indeed stop functioning. But with every new season, the traditional active camp seems to come up with a fresh batch of stats that supposedly signal that the end of index investing is nigh.
Recently, the focus has been on index investing inflows – or, more accurately, their reduced volume. So far this year, the deluge of dollars mostly heading out of active investing and into index/passive funds has decreased to a more orderly flow compared to 2017.
Is index investing on the wane? In this related piece, we share a quibble we do have with index investing, and why we typically favor a similar, but more direct approach for capturing scientific sources of expected return. But before anyone concludes it’s time to get more active at timing and selecting specific stock picks, here are three, recency-dispelling reads we suggest:
“Index Funds Are Going to Be Just Fine,” Barry Ritholtz, ThinkAdvisor
Our favorite excerpt: “Why must we complicate what is otherwise a simple explanation? Investors have become a little more financially literate; indexing is maturing as an investment style. Those who are hoping for a major reversal of a trend that has been 40 years in the making are very likely to be disappointed.”
“Indexing Fuss Unwarranted,” Larry Swedroe, ETF.com
Our favorite excerpt: “While it’s certainly possible that, at some point, passive investing could reach such a dominant share that price discovery would be limited, clearly, we are nowhere near that level, and almost certainly won’t be there for a very long time.”
“The growth of index investing has not made the markets less efficient,” The Economist
Our favorite excerpt: “Perhaps the growth of indexing has robbed the world of outstanding stockpickers. But it seems more likely that it has put a lot of bad managers out of business … And it is not as if the buying and selling of stocks by informed investors with opinions has ceased. The turnover of stocks has actually increased over time. Active investors are more active than ever.”