The rise of passive investing has done much to undercut the traditional asset management sector. 

    Fees have been slashed and investors and clients have gained exposure to mainstream as well as increasingly more niche asset classes.

    For some camps, this raises one particular question – why pay more for active management when you’re getting much the same?

    Passives have made available to us by the late, great John "Jack" Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, and all those who have followed in his footsteps. 

    Many passive investments have fees of perhaps a tenth of what active managers will charge.

    It's also largely held that passive products have done much to democratise investing and make it more accessible and understandable to the masses.

    But while many argue the case for a purely passive approach, this tends to overlook one issue that shouldn't be ignored – that of market failure.

    When droves of investors and clients are piled into a handful of big players or the latest hot stock by default through index trackers, this creates market distortions.

    This means one company or sector can be overvalued, while potentially leaving others unloved.

    This kind of nuance extends to market areas that are perhaps more difficult to assess too, particularly with regards to certain regions or sectors.

    And this doesn’t just work for equities – the bond market suffers the same distortions. 

    Of course, it's easy to point to the number of actively managed funds that don’t beat their benchmark or index.

    But this is something that can be filtered where managers have a clear methodology for finding value or spotting mispricing.

    The truth is we've moved on from the fairly blunt passive vs active debate. Instead, the answer is to use both.

    A portfolio should be balanced to soak up the benefits of passive trackers that pull along with the momentum of markets, while also including managers where an active approach is better suited to the investment.

    This gives clients a blend of cheap index performance, as well as something more targeted. 

    Blending in this way will average out the cost of investing too.

    Ultimately, it would be easy to toss out statistics that ‘prove’ the point of either side. 

    But we need to see the nuance in the data: the use of active and passive combined arguably should work to deliver better performance and better outcomes for clients as opposed to a single strategy alone. 

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