As hard as people try to predict performance, it is very difficult to do. For that matter, even looking backward can be tricky. For example, industry experts sometimes disagree on how best to interpret past performance and risk data for the purpose of evaluating future possibilities. In an article late last year, Advisor Perspectives editor Robert Huebscher concluded that Morningstar’s analyst ratings haven’t demonstrated predictive value. Morningstar’s Jon Hale then responded with comments that consider the data a little differently. It’s no surprise that thoughtful people come to different conclusions.
Furthermore, conversations about predictive performance are necessarily complicated by specific market conditions. For example, after a year like 2014, in which stock market results were heavily skewed by performance of a small subset of stocks, many are predicting active managers can’t outperform indices. That’s the kind of thing that’s true…until it isn’t. Many active managers who avoided high-flying tech stocks in the early 2000s suffered relative underperformance until the bubble burst, and then they outperformed. And those weighted toward tech stocks handily beat the index…until the bubble burst.
Even the best managers will have tough performance periods. Ratings and rankings will rise and fall over time. To deal with that inevitability, it’s important to emphasize process consistently in communications with media (and, of course, clients). Fund managers can maintain credibility during a period of poor performance by highlighting why and how their established disciplines led to their current positioning and, more importantly, have worked over the long term. That stance leaves room to stay engaged in conversation, including with the media. Even during down times, make yourself available for interviews on sectors or stocks you like or don’t like. Reporters always are interested in featuring contrarian views.