67% of fund managers undershoot their mark

One of the things that first brought us here at The Motley Fool to prominence was our assertion that the majority of fund managers fail to deliver on their promise. In short, they fail to beat their respective benchmarks.

Which is one reason, of course, why we've enthused so much about index trackers over the years. Why pay for active fund management, when a cheaper passive tracker can do a better job?

But even so, it's a message that the investing public doesn't always hear -- in large part, of course, because there's an entire fund-management industry, with its hefty advertising budget, devoted to drowning the message out.

Another year, another flop
The Daily Telegraph has seemingly become the latest to stumble across the news that active fund managers fail to deliver the goods. Citing Citywire research that is yet to be published, a headline screams that 'two in three fund managers fail to beat their benchmark'.


Just 33% of the managers of some 1,800 funds have added value this year, apparently -- across asset classes as diverse as equities, bonds, commodities and property. It's a damning indictment, and apparently the performance worst for a decade.

Better news for equity funds
The good news for investors in equity funds is that their funds, both in the UK and in Europe, fared rather less badly than investors in the 'average' fund -- in part, it seems, by the funds moving into defensive dividend-paying shares, which have held up quite well as the general market tanked.

Even so, the fact remains that an enormous number of active managers, on the whole, can be beaten by the humble tracker.

But not every manager. Among three that Citywire and the Telegraph pick out as beating their benchmarks are bond veteran Richard Woolnough, as well as two managers noted for their defensive stances: Hambro's John Wood, and Invesco Perpetual's Neil Woodford.

Foolish bottom line
Another year; another non-surprise. The numbers might be different, but the message remains the same.

Paying for active management can make sense in the case of gifted managers and asset classes that are tricky for the individual investor to research.

But in the case of the average fund, and the average manager, investors continue to pay a Rolls-Royce premium for Lada returns.
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