Active Management

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The latest in personal finance to help you make smarter money choices. 

Active Management is an investment approach in which the portfolio manager makes deliberate decisions to buy, hold, or sell assets in an attempt to outperform a specific benchmark index.

Active Management Explained

Unlike passive management, where assets are held to mimic the performance of an index, active management aims to leverage market knowledge, analysis, and expertise to gain an edge.

The crux of active management is the belief that markets are not always efficient, meaning not all information is reflected in asset prices.

This opens the door for “alpha,” which is the additional return an investor gains from active management over a benchmark.

Portfolio managers employ a variety of strategies, such as fundamental analysis, technical analysis, and market timing, to identify undervalued or overvalued assets.

Implementing active management isn’t a walk in the park. It involves frequent transactions, which can lead to higher trading costs. Plus, it usually requires more research and sophisticated tools.

But herein lies its strength: adaptive flexibility. In volatile markets, active managers can switch gears and adapt, possibly providing a safeguard against significant losses.

Why is active management important? It provides the investor with the opportunity to achieve returns that outperform the market. 

However, it comes with higher risks and costs. Therefore, it’s a strategy best suited for those who are more risk-tolerant and seek higher rewards.

Understanding active management is essential for any investor considering a hands-on approach to wealth growth. It can be a boon or a bane, but its effectiveness largely depends on the skill of the portfolio manager.

With the right strategies, active management can deliver returns that passive management strategies simply cannot.

Key Insights

The effectiveness of active management is highly dependent on the manager’s skill. Active management tends to have higher fees due to frequent trading and research efforts. Given its risk profile and cost structure, active management may not be suitable for all investors, particularly those who are risk-averse or looking for long-term, consistent growth.

An Example Of Active Management

Let’s say you invest in a mutual fund operated by an active manager. The benchmark index for this fund is the S&P 500.

The manager regularly buys and sells stocks based on in-depth market research. After a year, the mutual fund returns 15%, while the S&P 500 returns 10%. The extra 5% is the alpha generated through active management.

In this example, the manager has succeeded in outperforming the index by making timely decisions about which stocks to buy or sell. But remember, these rewards come at a cost—higher fees and more risk.


How does active management differ from passive management?

Active management involves regular buying and selling of assets to outperform a benchmark index. Passive management aims to mimic the performance of an index by holding a stable set of assets.

Is active management more expensive?

Yes, the frequent trading, research, and expertise required in active management generally make it more expensive than passive management.

Can active managers consistently beat the market?

There’s no definitive answer to this. While some managers have a track record of outperforming the market, the risk and costs involved make it crucial for investors to do thorough due diligence.

What are common strategies in active management?

Fundamental and technical analysis, market timing, and sector rotation are among the most commonly used strategies in active management.