Posts by Wesley R. Gray, Ph.D.


Rise of the Machines: Predicting Winners and Losers on the Robo-Advisor Battlefield

August 27, 2015

Robos are changing the landscape of financial services and consumers will reap the rewards. But will the computers replace humans? Unlikely. The psychology coach benefit is hard to replicate with a computer. However, robos will encourage human-based advisors to up their game. Slothosaurus will go extinct—thankfully! First iteration passive robo-advisors will create a lot of value for consumers, but capture little value for their VC investors, unless perhaps they are bought out. Finally, differentiated robo advisors and traditional advisors who embrace technology will score big wins for both consumers and their shareholders.

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The Sustainable Active Investing Framework: Simple, But Not Easy

August 17, 2015

To some, the debate of passive versus active investing is akin to Eagles vs. Cowboys or Coke vs. Pepsi. In short, once our preference for one style over the other is established is can become so overwhelming that it becomes a proven fact or incontrovertible reality in our minds. This post is not meant to convert a passive investor into an active investor; however, we do explain why we believe active investing can sustainably beat passive strategies in the long run. Plus, we bring to bear many years of cumulative research and experience to support our arguments. We cannot overemphasize that alpha in the market is no cakewalk. More importantly, being smart, having superior stockpicking skills, or amassing an army of PhDs to crunch data is only half of the equation. Even with those tools, you are still only one shark in a tank filled with other sharks. All sharks are smart, all sharks have a MBA or PhD from a fancy school, and all the sharks know how to analyze a company. Maintaining an edge in these shark infested waters is no small feat, and one that only a handful (e.g., we can count them in one hand) of investors has successfully accomplished. In order too achieve sustainable success as an active investing, one needs both skill and an understanding of human psychology and market incentives (behavioral finance). We start our journey where mine began: as an aspiring PhD student studying under Eugene Fama at the University of Chicago. Let the adventure begin...

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Avoiding the Big Drawdown: Downside Protection Investment Strategies

August 13, 2015

Simple timing rules, focused on absolute and trending asset class performance, seem to be useful in a downside protection context. Our analysis of the downside protection model (DPM), applied on various market indices, indicates there is a possibility of lowering maximum drawdown risk, while also offering a chance to participate in the upside associated with a given asset class. Important to note, applying the DPM to a portfolio will not eliminate volatility and the portfolio will deviate (perhaps wildly) from standard benchmarks. For many investors, these are risky propositions and should be considered when using a DPM construct.

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