Ready for a sea change in active management? According to “The Fundamental Law in Mismanagement,” a recent paper by Richard Michaud of New Frontier Advisors in Boston, the most basic tenet of active equity management is seriously flawed.
Grinold and Kahn’s Fundamental Law of Active Management elegantly states that the best way to add value in an active portfolio is to make as many small bets as possible. The theory is based on the notion that the stock market too efficient to allow for a small group of hand-picked stocks to consistently beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis; as a result, the best way to add value is to strategically overweight or underweight a much larger number of securities.
In Mr. Michaud’s view, increasing the population of securities is a big mistake, simply because an analyst constrained by time and resources cannot possibly follow more companies in a thorough manner.
This may be true, but in my view, his theoretical framework does not take into consideration the increasing role of technology in vetting new ideas. Quantitative money management, which uses computer models to select securities, should actually do better as they further diversify, not worse. Likewise, a host of fundamentally-driven firms that have massive research budgets are well-suited to increase their potential universe of activity.