by Luke Atcheson.
Is passive management the only way to survive turbulent times? Is the economy about to go belly-up again? Will it be China’s slowdown or Trump’s ascendency that puts the final nail in the coffin? These questions and more were duly picked apart at the second annual Thomson Reuters Lipper Alpha Forum, where live audience polling was employed to monitor opinions of the investment experts in attendance.
Over 125 asset and wealth management professionals convened at the Mandarin Oriental, New York, against a backdrop of where Midtown tumbles into Central Park. The first panel sunk their teeth into the smart beta debate, before turning the question over to the audience. The opinion poll revealed that 58% of the room believed smart beta (or factor investment strategy) to be a significant threat to active management. Only 29% saw it as a threat to indexed funds, whereas 13% didn’t perceive it to be a threat whatsoever.
From the price of oil to central bank policies, the second panel toiled with the most pressing macro-economic issues of the day. These overarching topics neatly set up the crunch question: “Where would you invest the bulk of your nest egg for the next three years?” The answer back from the room was resounding: US equities! However, was this a signal of real optimism in the local market or was it more a case of the best of a bad bunch? The next panel promised to get to the bottom of the matter.
And who better to ask for predictions on times ahead than the winners of this year’s Thomson Reuters Lipper Fund Awards? As far as predictions for market performance in 2016 were concerned, the mood was more cautiously optimistic than jubilant. This attitude was reflected by the forum participants as well: 50% of whom thought that markets would end the year slightly up, with 20% more warily saying they would end slightly down.
An engaging keynote interview with B. Scott Minerd, CIO of Guggenheim Investments, rounded off the Forum part of the day before guests and speakers continued their discussions while getting to know one another at the cocktail reception. For those interested in delving deeper into the topics covered, full length films of the panels and keynote will be published online over the coming weeks.