Question: Do Active Investment Managers Buy Their Own Funds?

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Jan 11, 2017
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Mutual Funds, Research, Index Funds, Investing, Stocks

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Incentives matter when it comes to financial products. Hat tip to Meb Faber whose podcast I was listening to earlier today and reminded me about this 2008 research report titled “Do Managers Eat Their Own Cooking?” from Russ Kinnel at Morningstar. As the title suggests, Kinnel analyzed whether mutual fund managers actually invest their money in their own funds. Recall that the promise of active management, and the reason that investors pay fees of around 1%, is that they can beat the market (but, alas, almost none do!). Recall also that getting the market return through an S&P500 index fund costs about 0.10-0.15%. Ok, so active managers charge high fees which makes it difficult for them to beat the market. Guess what, someone has figured this out, and it’s not who you might expect…it’s the actual managers running the funds. How do I know? Well, Kinnel found the following:

“At U.S.- stock funds, 47% report no manager ownership. And it gets worse from there. Fully 61% of foreign-stock funds have no ownership, 66% of taxable bond funds have no ownership, 71% of balanced funds put up goose eggs, and 80% of muni funds lack ownership.”

Yes, you read that correctly, in many asset classes over 50% of mutual fund managers DID NOT INVEST A DIME in their own fund. So why should you? Before you plunk down your hard-earned investing dollars make sure your manager’s incentives are aligned to yours and that they have some “skin in the game.” Or better yet, buy an index fund!

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About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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