On the first day of Morningstar
's 25th annual Investment Conference
, attendees were treated to the birth of a third investment greek letter concept as well as rousing discussion on the strange dance between luck and skill in investing.
These notable discussions took place during the first general session of the conference, which is being held today through Friday at the McCormick Place
conference center in Chicago.
The session was launched by Morningstar
founder and chairman Joe Mansueto
, who unveiled a litany new products by his research company.
Those new products include a comprehensive new app for ithe Pad, a quantitative rating system for over 20,000 equities issued globally (which can also translate into better quant analysis of equity portfolios), a new global investor experience report, a new report on the 529 savings landscape, and new analyses of ETFs and muni bonds.
Mansueto also unveiled a third new investing Greek letter to obsess over: gamma, which would focus on performance of financial advisors.
Gamma takes into account a number of factors, including how advisors handle dynamic withdrawal issues (i.e. deciding where to pull out assets from where), how they understand a client's liabilities and life issues, as well as human capital.
"Advisors should pay attention to gamma, you can add 100 basis points of performance to your clients," Mansueto told the audience.
Mansueto was followed by Michael Mauboussin
, an adjunct professor at Columbia University
as well as managing director of global investment strategies at Credit Suisse
Mauboussin talked at length on a favorite topic amongst financial professors, whether investment decisions are luck or skill.
During a world-wind talk that included examinations of baseball luminaries like Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams, the reasons why DaVinci's Mona Lisa is really famous and brain teasers like one involving a married man, an unmarried man and a woman's undetermined marital status which completely befuddled and frustrated everyone (including this reporter).
However, at the end of the tour, Mauboussin came up with a few basic truths on the subject.
Firstly, all outliers are there due to a combination of skill and luck, or in other words, all lucky winning streaks are held by skillful people.
Secondly, any time luck is important to a system, there is reversion to the mean.
Thirdly, there is an important paradox to the outcomes of skillful players: the more skillful you are, the more important luck becomes.
Also, Mauboussin hit on the subject of when we all make our best investment decisions: the average age seems to be 53.
The reason? That is the point when our fluid intelligence (which deals with unforeseen circumstances and plummets in effectiveness after our 20s) and crystallized intelligence (which measures our accumulated facts and wisdom and all the things we use to try to impress younger minds) is at their optimum combination.
More of Mauboussin's points on the subject, including why one Spanish lottery winner liked the number 48, can be found in his book: The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports and Investing
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