Cameron Passmore CIM, FMA, FCSI

Portfolio Manager

Benjamin Felix MBA, CFA

Associate Portfolio Manager
  • T613.237.5544 x 313
  • 1.800.230.5544
  • F613.237.5949
  • 265 Carling Avenue,
    8th Floor,
  • Ottawa, Ontario K1S 2E1

Introducing: Common-Sense Investing with Ben Felix, MBA, CFA

The truth is easier to keep track of than a pack of lies. That’s just common sense. So is most of investing, even though many in the financial industry would have you believe otherwise. To help you separate financial facts from sales-oriented fiction – and then invest accordingly – I am pleased to host PWL Capital’s newest YouTube series: Common-Sense Investing.


As the name implies, you don’t need to chase fancy, complex strategies to invest safely and sensibly toward your financial goals. Nor should you let the forces found on Wall Street and Bay Street try to convince you otherwise.

Instead, by understanding a thing or two about the science of sound investing, you can build a bulwark of basic knowledge, and learn how to separate common sense from nonsense. In this series, I’ll focus on straightforward answers to your critical questions, such as:

  • Index funds seem so simple. Can they really outperform a more active approach to investing?
  • Is it really that hard to beat the market?
  • What are some of the biggest market myths out there?
  • How can you distinguish best-interest advice from veiled sales pitches?

While you don’t need a science degree to make good use of the science of investing, my own studies in mechanical engineering have helped me ground my financial career in logic and evidence. I’ve combined that with an MBA, being a CFA charterholder, and plenty of hands-on experience as an associate portfolio manager at PWL Capital. Plus, any advice I offer will be backed by peer-reviewed academic research, solid data, and clear logic.

Of the myriad ways people try, but often fall short of making money in today’s markets, there is one way that will never lose its luster: investing with common sense. Are you ready to learn more? Subscribe to “Common-Sense Investing” (and click on the bell). And if you’d ever like to see me take a common-sense approach to one of your questions, send it over.

By: Ben Felix | 0 comments

When Active Managers Win

Fidelity has a massive billboard up in Toronto to promote one of their portfolio managers, Will Danoff. Danoff has managed the U.S. based Fidelity Contrafund since 1990; it is the largest actively managed fund in the world managed by a single person. The Contrafund has performed well – well enough to beat its benchmark, the S&P 500. Benchmark beating performance attracts assets. It also gives Fidelity the opportunity to advertise to the world how great their star manager is. The problem for investors is that an active manager posting strong performance numbers, even over long periods of time, does nothing to indicate for how long that performance will persist.

Less than half of the equity mutual funds that existed in Canada a decade ago continue to exist today. If a fund has several years of poor performance, its assets will decline as investors move their money elsewhere. Eventually, the fund will close. If an investor is looking at the universe of mutual funds that are available to them at a point in time, they will only be seeing the funds that have done well enough to survive. Survival may be an indication of a truly skilled manager, but it could also be dumb luck. A 1997 peer reviewed paper by Mark Carhart titled On Persistence in Mutual Fund Performance looked at 1,892 U.S. mutual funds between 1962 and 1993. The conclusion of the paper was that there was no evidence in the data of skilled or informed mutual fund portfolio managers. In other words, good performance is most likely explained by luck.

Between survivorship bias and the lack of evidence of manager skill, it should be no surprise that many great fund managers have had dramatic falls from grace. The following examples are borrowed from Larry Swedroe’s The Incredible Shrinking Alpha.

In the 1970s, David Baker managed the 44 Wall Street fund to market beating performance for ten straight years. The following decade, it was the single worst performing fund, dropping significantly while the S&P 500 gained. Even more impressive was the Lindner Large Cap Fund, which beat the S&P 500 for the 11 years ending in 1984. While this market beating performance no doubt attracted attention, the fund spent the following 18 years being decimated by the S&P 500. If 11 years wasn’t enough to weed out the lucky managers, Bill Miller’s Legg Mason Value Trust Fund beat the S&P 500 for the 15 years ending in 2005. It suffered miserably against the index for the next seven years before being taken over by a new manager in 2012. Possibly most impressive of all is the Tiger Fund – a hedge fund formed in 1980. It spent 18 years averaging returns over 30% per year, and its assets had grown to a hefty $22 billion by 1998. Over the next two years the fund lost $10 billion, and closed its doors in 2000.

The odds of outperformance are slim, but some active managers do beat the market. The challenge for investors is identifying winning managers before they win. Unfortunately, finding a manager that has done well in the past is not helpful in finding a future winner.

By: Ben Felix | 0 comments