How can they possibly still like Trump ?

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Trump’s popularity is still surprisingly high. How can we explain it, and what can it teach us about populism ?

Until very recently I was stunned. I just wasn’t getting it. It was such a huge mystery to me. How, how on earth could a great part of republican Americans still like Trump ? This is how I ended up thinking about it and trying to understand.

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The great ETF dissection of active funds

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Active mutual funds can be mysterious black boxes. Here is a method to sneak a peek inside.

Mutual funds are very opaque structures. There is so much we don’t know about them, so much we are refused to access, even when we invest in them.

It is indeed very hard to access the actual composition of their assets (the individual stocks or bonds they own). This information is barely disclosed by managers for various reasons. They might fear to see their ideas and work “stolen”. They might fear being criticized for every decision they make. They might even fear that everyone realize they charging active fund fee level for passive management (which is called “closet indexing”, and is very bad, look out for it).

The main information they often give us about what we really own, is the “benchmark”. This benchmark is supposed to be a good proxy of the fund asset composition and potential risks. But most of the time the benchmark they choose seems a bit off or even misleading. It is always an index, and is therefore very theoretical, but it is not its biggest flaw.

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Artificial intelligence, what can a video game tell us ?

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Everyone is now talking about artificial intelligence. But is it worth it ? Video games might help us on this.

Reading time: 10 minutes

Since a couple of months, artificial intelligence is the new hype. Everyone is talking about it, everyone wants to jump in, to be part of it. Applications are, it seems, almost ready and will disrupt everything, everyone. You have a job, well be careful because you might lose it to a robot in the next few years… health, transports, law, finance… no one is safe against the almighty robot…

Really ?

Well I think this might need a little more time and here is why.

I am a gamer.

Well I used to be. That was before I had the smart idea to start my own company and have three “wonderful” kids at the same time. Now gaming time got a little bit rarer…

But I am still playing from time to time, and when I do, I very frequently get back to a very specific game style, strategy, and an even more specific franchise, Sid Meier’s Civilization.

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The 8 deadly investment selling traps

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Financial brokers and private bankers use specific investment selling traps and tricks to get you into buying their products. Here is a list. Read it carefully.

I am always amazed by the success met by dishonest financial “advisors” ( brokers would be more appropriate), private bankers and insurers representatives in selling what could be considered very low quality, even toxic investments. Those products are obviously and ultimately designed in the sole purpose of earning the largest margin for their sellers with very little or even negative interest for their buyer. How is this even possible ? Clients are not stupid, their are prudent and educated people, with professional and investment experience, and well-aware of the inner motivation of those salespeople. So why ?

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Asset management and the risk of moral disruption

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Beware! A disruption can hide another one!

This is quite a good advice, while crossing a railway, always to check for the train coming the other way, hidden by the first one. You know those kinds of signs that say: “Look the other way or you risk death and a $20 fine”.

Well this reminds me very much of the current situation of asset management. They are so deeply obsessed with the disruption train that they see, that they are not watching for the bigger, hidden train coming the other way.

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The end of French two sided politics

Everyone in France (and outside) now has to rethink its political affiliation in three dimensions.
 

After the victory of Emmanuel Macron, and the constant, tiring tension that came along, I feel the need to talk a little about French Politics.

Indeed, after listening to the mumblings “from the left” arguing that he is the evil servant of big corporations and banks,  “from the right” that he is an evil left-wing, family destructing, void of beliefs politician, and finally the screams of both sides (for once agreeing on something) angering  about the pretended lack of representativeness of his election, I do feel the need to square things up a little about French politics and by extension many others democracies politics.

So here it is in short :

Can everyone stop, one and for all, talking about “left” and “right” in politics. This has absolutely no meaning.

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Active managers survival guide in a passive management jungle

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This is a very depressing time for active fund managers, as the attack of passive asset management is brutal, flanking them from both an aggressive media coverage and strong cash outflows. Who indeed could have predicted that John Bogle, yes John Bogle Vanguard’s founder, would become such a rock-star today! His pictures and quotes are just all over my tweeter feed. And it is not going away soon…

And cash inflows/outflows are just even more worrying for them. As more than 30% of US assets under management were passively managed at year end 2016, and a clear momentum for a continued increase in 2017 dawns, traditional asset managers can actually start to be scared, at least. With good reasons to !

However, the current never ending beating up of active management became that strong and mainstream, while the answer given by active managers that shaky, that we could rightfully wonder if this is not getting a bit too far. Well, of course I must confess that I am among the first ones to give them a friendly slug when I can, sorry about that, but I also consider that they might need a helping hand guiding them out of this. There are some limits to plain criticism and being more constructive is possible.

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The French client of roboadvisors aka the “five-legged sheep”.

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In French language “rechercher le mouton à cinq pattes” ( lit. “searching for the five-legged sheep” ) is an idiom meaning searching for something that probably does not exist.

I would like to tell that I actually found what I was looking for, the client of a French roboadvisor, but I still haven’t.

It has been two years since roboadvisors got in France. I work in financial advise and asset management and meet regularly their potential clients. I am, as far as I know, in their theoretical target, as well as many of my friends and relatives. I often attend conference on the subject and exchange with participants…

But no. Still nothing. Still no client met. Impossible to find one. Neither from Yomoni, Advize, FundShop, MarieQuantier, WeSave… No a single one*. Yomoni was claiming around 1.500 clients at year end 2016, which seems good, but those 1.500 people seem to never bump into me.

*(to be honest I finally met one after publishing this post).

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Active and passive management, where is it going to end ?

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This post was originaly published in French on the website quantalys.com as an answer to Philippe Maupas’s posts on the subject.

Hello Philippe and thanks for you post.

Two points drew my attention while reading your posts. First of all, it is clear in the various studies presented that costs still constitutes the best leading indicator of future performance, may they be active or passive.

No surprise here, this is both intuitive and widely proved. It is still a good thing to remind to investors though.

Then, you raise the possibility that the growth of passive management, very strong for now, might get slowed down by the the upcoming arbitrage opportunities that should logically appear above a certain threshold of assets managed with a passive strategy, strategy which is uncorrelated with underlying economic reality and therefore prone to arbitrage.

But telling at which level this might happen is far from easy. There will be, I agree, a equilibrium level between active and passive asset management, but which one ?

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