Two recent papers say active investing is alive and well, details an article in Bloomberg. Academics at Cornell University and the University of Technology Sydney, as well as at the University of Toronto, write in two different but related papers that market activeness hasn’t changed much in 20 years, rebutting the naysayers targeting the indexing industry.
The academics upend the criticism of the $11 trillion index frenzy using ETFs, which are designed in more active ways than detractors admit and are being relentlessly deployed by discretionary managers of all kinds. That kind of discretionary involvement—from writing the rules of an index to dictating how a fund will run—is hard to expunge from passive investing.
The group broke ETFs into two groups: form, where the fund is designed to generate alpha, and function, where the product is used as a building block in an active portfolio. They combined these to view a spectrum of how active funds operate, concluding that while most products would qualify as highly active, both flows and trading activity are focused in the most active.
But while ETFs may be less passive than intended, the researchers stress that “their impact on the market more generally is an important area for future research,” particularly in areas where ETFs may seem harmful, such as how they enhance market stability, or impact liquidity.