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In Active-Passive Debate, Vanguard Says Diversity Matters More

Aoyon Ashraf

(Bloomberg) -- Investor Michael Burry, made famous from “The Big Short,” may have shed a negative light on passive funds, but investors shouldn’t fret over which funds are the best. Instead, a successful strategy should be a portfolio that is low cost, diversified and disciplined, according to Vanguard Group.

Active versus passive investing has been a hot topic of discussion for a long time, particularly as money in passively managed U.S. stock funds exceeded actively managed funds for the first time in August. However, neither one of them are the single most significant factor for investors to be successful, Todd Schlanger, a Canadian senior investment strategist at Vanguard, told Bloomberg News.

“There is no universal case for passive investing as not all indexes are diversified and low cost. Alternatively, not all active funds are high cost and concentrated,” Schlanger said. Rather, investors can succeed by building a diversified portfolio, keeping their management costs low and being disciplined in implementing an investment strategy, he said.

READ: Active Fund Manager Records Improve, But It’s Not a Comeback

Vanguard has been one of the major drivers of industry-wide competition on prices. Its founder Jack Bogle, who died in January, spent his career crusading for low-cost index funds.

In a recent research paper, Schlanger investigated the seven most common myths related to active and passive investment. On the topic of which is better, his findings show that passive strategy is a “great starting place” for investors as they can help bring down the cost and keep the strategy disciplined. However, investors can reap long-term rewards if they have access to high-quality managers with low cost options and can be patient with their investment strategy.

In fact, cost has been one of the main drivers for investors to pile into passive funds, compared to their active counterparts. The trend of low-cost investing is apparent even within the exchange-traded funds universe, as products that charge $1 or less for every $1,000 invested have taken in more than 70% of inflows this year, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Vanguard plays up its low fees, highlighting on its website that its average mutual fund and ETF fees are 83% below the industry average.

“Investors following our investment principles of having clear and appropriate goals, building balanced and diversified portfolios, minimizing the cost of investing, and maintaining long term perspective and discipline can achieve investment success with active, passive, or a combination of both investment strategies,” Schlanger wrote in his research.

--With assistance from Annie Massa.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoyon Ashraf in Toronto at aashraf7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brad Olesen at bolesen3@bloomberg.net, Jennifer Bissell-Linsk

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