A Case for Index Fund Portfolios A study of strategy, probability and payout

April 26, 2016 | Author: Caroline Watts | Category: N/A
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A Case for Index Fund Portfolios A study of strategy, probability and payout Richard A. Ferri, CFA, Portfolio Solutions® Alex C. Benke, CFP®, Betterment

The Shift to Indexing

ICI 2014 Factbook

Scope of the research • 1976: First S&P 500 indexed mutual fund – 1992: First US total stock market index fund – 1995: First US total bond market fund – 1996: First total international equity fund

• The probability of index fund outperformance relative to active funds is widely documented. • Outperformance exists in all asset classes. • Surprisingly little research compares the performance of portfolios of index funds with portfolios of actively managed funds.

Database • CRSP Survivor-Bias-Free US Mutual Fund Database through December 2012. • Covers all active funds and index funds that were available for purchase over the period. • Provides a real-world investor experience when building mutual fund portfolios. • 32 different index portfolio scenarios; 5,000 randomly selected active fund portfolio returns compared in each scenario.

Scenario #1: three funds • 40% US total stock market, 20% total int’l stocks, 40% US total bond market. • Vanguard index funds (Investor shares) – 40% Total Stock Market Index (VTSMX) – 20% Total International Stock Index (VGTSX) – 40% Total Bond Market Index (VBMFX)

• 5,000 portfolios from a cleaned database – No B shares, C shares, annuities, institutional – Did not include loads, redemption fees or taxes

Results of Scenario #1

Expected results vs. results Individual Funds &


Portfolios (1997-2012)

Win Rate

VTSMX (US equity: 40%)


VGTSX (Int’l equity: 20%)


VBMFX (US bonds: 40%)


Weighted 40%/20%/40%


Scenario 1 Results


2 out of 3 wins can be a loss Individual Fund VTSMX (US equity: 40%) VGTSX (Int’l equity: 20%) VBMFX (US bonds: 40%)

Median Performance Loss -2.01% -1.75% -0.99%

Median Performance Win 0.97% 1.34% 0.23%

1.34% 0.23% -0.44% -2.01% US Equity




Scenario #2: time effect • Vanguard index funds from Scenario #1 – 40% (VTSMX); 20% (VGTSX); 40% (VBMFX)

• Three independent 5-year periods – 1998-2002; 2003-2007; 2008-2012

• One 15-year period – 1998-2012

• 5,000 active fund portfolios per trail • Does time make a difference?

Time is on the side of indexing 100% 90% 80% 70%


83.4% 77.5%

5-yr. average



60% 50% 5-year 1998-2002

5-year 2003-2007

5-year 2008-2012

15-year 1998-2012

Scenario #3: multi-asset class • 3 fund equal weight (33% each) – US total stock, total int’l stock, US total bond

• 5 fund equal weight (20% each) – 3 fund plus REITs and short-term Treasury

• 10 fund equal weight (10% each) – Large cap US equity, mid cap US, small cap US, REITs, developed market equity, emerging market equity, US total bond, short-term Treasury bonds, inflation-protected securities, tax-exempt bonds. • 10-year period: 2003-2012

• 5,000 active fund portfolios per trail

More index funds are better Index Portfolio Win Rate

Median Active Portfolio Loss

Median Active Portfolio Win

Three-fund portfolio




Five-fund portfolio




Ten-fund portfolio





Scenario #4: multiple active funds • Investors often select more than one active fund in each asset class. • What effect does this have on probabilities? • Three-asset-class portfolio from Scenario #1 • 3 trials; 16 years (1997-2012) – 1 active fund per asset class selected – 2 active funds per asset class selected – 3 active funds per asset class selected

• 5,000 active fund portfolios per trial

Bet the farm on one active fund

91.0% 87.1% 82.9%

One Active Fund Per Two Active Funds Three Active Funds Asset Class Per Asset Class Per Asset Class

Scenario #5: risk-adjusted • Do active portfolios perform better on a risk-adjusted basis using Sharpe ratios? • Thee-fund portfolios used in Scenario #1 Time Period 1998-2002 2003-2007 2008-2012 1997-2004 2005-2012 1997-2012

Number of Years

Index Portfolio Win %

Risk-Adjusted Index Win %

5 5 5 8 8 16

66.1% 85.8% 77.5% 75.7% 84.7% 82.9%

64.9% 91.0% 77.7% 74.6% 85.3% 85.5%

Scenario #6: low-fee funds • Do active portfolios that select funds with below-average fees perform better? • Thee-fund portfolios used in Scenario #1 • Lower-cost Admiral shares for index funds • Active funds selected had expense ratios below average for their categories. • 16 years: 1997 to 2012

All funds vs. low fee 6 All active funds


Low-fee active funds 2 0 -2

All active funds vs. Investor shares Index portfolios win: 82.9% Winning active median: 0.52% Losing active median: -1.25%


Low-fee active funds vs. Admiral shares Index portfolios win: 74.7% Winning active median: 0.54% Losing active median: -0.99%

-6 -8 0%

10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%

Highlights • Index fund portfolios had better performance nominally and risk-adjusted in all scenarios. • Winning active portfolio alphas are meager relative to losing portfolios’ shortfalls. • Index fund portfolio win rate increased with time, diversification, and when multiple active funds are used in asset classes. • Active fund portfolios benefit from low fees, but still far below index portfolios.

Where to get the study Download the PDF from: • www.RickFerri.com • www.Betterment.com For inquires: [email protected] For source code: [email protected]

Disclosure This document and the performance data is provided for information purposes only and should not be used or construed as an indicator of future performance, an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any security. Investments are subject to market risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest. Neither Portfolio Solutions®, LLC nor Betterment can guarantee the suitability or potential value of any particular investment. The performance data used is actual mutual fund data. The results portrayed reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings, and reflect the deduction of mutual fund expenses. Mutual fund performance can be found at CRSP Survivor-Bias-Free US Mutual Fund Database. Past performance and portfolio allocations of benchmark indexes, mutual funds, hypothetical portfolios, or actual portfolios do not guarantee similar future performance of portfolio allocations. No assurances or guarantees can be given or implied concerning future investment results for Portfolio Solutions®, LLC, Betterment or any investment index. Future returns may differ significantly from the past due to materially different economic and market conditions and other factors. Investments within portfolios, and therefore, portfolios, involve risk and the possibility of loss, including a permanent loss of principal. Therefore, no current or prospective client should assume that future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Portfolio Solutions®, LLC or Betterment) made reference to directly or indirectly by Portfolio Solutions®, LLC or Betterment in its web site, or indirectly via a link to an unaffiliated third party web site, will be profitable or equal the corresponding indicated performance level(s). Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment will either be suitable or profitable for a client or prospective client’s investment portfolio nor that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy will be profitable or equal any historical performance level(s). Exposure to an asset class represented by an index is available through investable instruments based on that index. Neither Portfolio Solutions®, LLC nor Betterment sponsors, endorses, sells, promotes or manages any investment fund or other investment vehicle that is offered by third parties and that seeks to provide an investment return based on the performance of any index. Neither Portfolio Solutions®, LLC nor Betterment makes assurances that investment products based on the index will accurately track index performance or provide positive investment returns. A decision to invest in any investment fund should not be made in reliance on any statements set forth in this document. Prospective investors are advised to make an investment in any such fund only after carefully considering the risks associated with investing in such funds, as detailed in the offering memorandum, prospectus or similar document that is prepared by or on behalf of the issuer of the investment fund. Inclusion of a mutual fund, REIT or bond fund within an index is not a recommendation by Portfolio Solutions®, LLC or Betterment to buy, sell or hold such security, nor is it considered to be investment advice. This document has been prepared solely for information purposes based upon information generally available to the public from sources considered to be reliable. No content contained in this document (including index data) or any part of the content may be modified, reproduced or distributed in any form by any means, without the prior written permission of both Portfolio Solutions ®, LLC and Betterment. The content of this document cannot be used for any unlawful or unauthorized purposes. Portfolio Solutions ®, LLC and Betterment and its third party data provider do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or availability of the content. Hypothetical illustrations are not exact representations of any particular investment, as you cannot invest directly in an index or fund-group average. Bond funds are subject to the risk that an issuer will fail to make payments on time, and that bond prices will decline because of rising interest rates or negative perceptions of an issuer’s ability to make payments. Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market. Performance data shown represents past performance, which is not a guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss as well as the potential for gain. Investment returns and principal value will fluctuate, so investors’ shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Current performance may be lower or higher than the performance data cited. Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.

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