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Headline

Investing is not a zero-sum game

Comment

Investors, and in this case pension fund managers, have different reasons for wanting to beat other investors or to “beat the market” including a need to make up for a shortfall in their portfolio’s results, to boost their egos or even to justify and even make up for the cost of paying internal or external managers to handle their investment portfolios. If the argument here is that ultimately there is no need to try to outperform the market/other investors because, as long as one adopts a long-term view, “good results” will follow, then I don’t see that this conclusion has been supported. Additionally, I’m not sure what is meant here by the notion that investors should perhaps focus instead on “contributing to value creation.” Value of what? Of their portfolios? Or of society at large? If the former is meant, then you still need to argue that it isn’t advisable or reasonable for investors to want to outperform the market, and I can see that certainly at times this could be true but in other cases arguably untrue. If the latter is meant, and that investors should focus on trying to improve the general social well-being through their investment activities, then firstly one must realize that this is not expressly the mandate of either pension fund managers or investors in general – even if “it should be.” Secondly, just how an investor contributes to social welfare by the mere fact of (passively) holding shares of businesses for long-term periods is a good question. That “investment” does not go to the companies in question unless they were bought from the company directly or (IPO) so the monies invested cannot be said to help a company to finance its operations. What is left? That by passively buying and holding for the long term helps reduce “value-destroying” stock price volatility?

Posted date

Wed, 9 Jan 2019

Posted time

11:13 am

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