Alice in Factorland Factor tilt strategies have generally produced less alpha in live portfolios compared to theoretical factor long–short paper portfolios and have largely been unsuccessful in replicating smart beta strategies. End-investors, consequently, often reap a much smaller return from factor exposure than they expect. The winning approach to factor investing is buying the losers: Past negative performance appears to be predictive of positive future returns.

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Alice in Factorland and the Incredible Shrinking Factor Return Research by Rob Arnott, Vitali Kalesnik, and Lillian Wu shows that factor-tilt strategies suffer from substantial return slippage (vs. factor long–short paper portfolios) due to the real-world costs of implementation.

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Rob Arnott on Bloomberg TV (April 10, 2017) Rob weighs in on the active-versus-passive investing debate: “There isn’t a debate at all! Why? Because active managers cannot collectively beat the market.”
Quest for the Holy Grail: The Fair Value of the Equity Market Macroeconomic volatility is a useful tool for contrarian investors who are seeking fair value in an equity market characterized by continually rising valuations.


RAFI Multi-Factor RAFI Multi-Factor is a smart beta equity strategy that offers diversified factor exposures through allocations to value, low volatility, quality, momentum, and size.
A Smoother Path to Outperformance with Multi-Factor Smart Beta Investing You can outperform the market with substantially lower relative risk by diversifying across simple smart beta strategies based on a half dozen robust factors. Dynamically rebalancing these factor-based smart betas significantly improves returns.
Take the 5% Challenge! (or The “Lloyd Christmas” Lesson) Most retirement calculators and pension plans target a return after inflation of 5%. Mainstream asset classes producing rock-bottom yields will be hard pressed to deliver. It’s time to get real. Take the 5% Challenge. Use our portfolio builder—and our expected returns—to calculate the probability of your portfolio earning a 5% real return.

Will Your Factor Deliver? An Examination of Factor Robustness and Implementation Costs Not every factor profits investors when implemented through a passive strategy. Size and quality show weak robustness, and liquidity-demanding factors, such as illiquidity and momentum, are associated with high trading costs. Investors may be better off accessing these factors through active management rather than indexation. Published in the Financial Analysts Journal by Jason Hsu, Vitali Kalesnik, Noah Beck, and Helge Kostka.
Winner of the 2015 William F. Sharpe Award for ETF/Indexing Paper of the Year: "A Framework for Assessing Factors and Implementing Smart Beta Strategies" Investors might apply advanced techniques of quantitative analysis to discriminate between genuine premium-bearing factors and the spurious products of data-mining—but here’s a three-step heuristic. Published in the Journal of Index Investing by Jason Hsu, Vitali Kalesnik, and Vivek Viswanathan.
Winner of the 2015 Bernstein Fabozzi/Jacobs Levy Award for Outstanding Article: "A Study of Low-Volatility Portfolio Construction Methods" Long-term simulations in U.S., global developed, and emerging markets confirm that low-volatility strategies can potentially access risk-diversifying sources of excess return. However, portfolio construction methods should be sensitive to investibility and valuations. Published in the Journal of Portfolio Management by Jason Hsu, Tzee Chow, Feifei Li, and Li-Lan Kuo.
Winner of the 2012 William F. Sharpe Indexing Achievement Award for Institutional Investor Journals Paper of the Year: "Rebalancing and the Value Effect" Value stocks typically enjoy higher dividends than growth stocks. Growth stocks, on the other hand, typically enjoy faster dividend growth. What most investors miss is that a portfolio of value stocks generates faster growth in dividends than a portfolio of growth stocks. Published in the Journal of Portfolio Management by Rob Arnott and Denis Chaves.
Forecasting Smart Beta and Factors: History Is Worse than Useless Past is NOT prologue. With the proliferation of smart beta and factor strategies, investors should be vigilant to the pitfalls of data mining and performance chasing. Relative valuations can predict the long-term future returns of strategies and factors —not with any short-term precision— but well enough to add material value. Useful forecasting models should furthermore address implementation costs.
How Not to Get Fired With Smart Beta Investing Lengthening the evaluation horizon, combining robust strategies, codifying investment beliefs, and improving communication can strengthen—and prolong—the principal–agent relationship.
Charting the Journey in Smart Beta Historical factor returns—net of changes in valuation levels—are much lower than recent performance suggests. In fact, many of the most popular new factors (some 458 at last count) have succeeded solely because they have become more expensive. This trend matters to investors because rising valuation levels inflate past performance, reduce potential future performance, and amplify the risk of mean reversion to historical valuations.
Rethinking Conventional Wisdom: Why NOT a Value Bias? Not all long-term sources of excess return are treated equally in portfolios, frustrating investors’ ability to meet their financial goals. Asset owners and their agents need to act now to address the primary sources of this disconnect: cognitive bias and principal–agent conflict.
Record Low Costs to Trade! Mean reversion is as applicable to trading costs as it is to valuation. Today’s costs to trade are at 56-year historical lows; they are due to rise soon. Now is the time to position your portfolio ahead of expected higher costs to trade and lower equity prices.
Next Season’s Meager Harvest in Commercial Real Estate US commercial property investors reaped high real returns over the last five years, but the climate is changing. Property prices are high, yields are low, and future expected returns portend a scantier harvest over the coming decade.
Systematic Global Macro The alternative factor premia of carry, momentum, and value may be combined to produce an attractive and diversifying source of investment return relative to the low yields and low returns of mainstream stocks and bonds.

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How Not to Get Fired with Smart Beta Investing Investors in smart beta strategies will and should expect bouts of underperformance, according to John West. In anticipation of this, owners and agents are encouraged to align their respective incentives and long-term interests.

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Dynamic Multi-Factor Investing Chris Brightman asserts that multi-factor equity investing and rebalancing using robust factors is a reliable strategy for outperforming the market without the burden of excessive volatility.

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Forecasting Smart Beta Rob Arnott explains why “history is worse than useless” in forecasting the alpha of smart beta strategies.


RAFI Strategies
RAFI Strategies RAFI strategies aim to generate excess returns versus the market benchmark through a systematic, contrarian rebalancing approach.

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All Asset
All Asset All Asset strategies are global tactical asset allocation (GTAA) solutions that aim to deliver attractive real returns, equity diversification, and inflation protection via tactical long-only exposures.
RAE Strategies
RAE™ RAE systematic active equity strategies seek to generate superior risk-adjusted returns.
Global Macro
Global Macro The Global Macro strategy aims to deliver uncorrelated absolute returns through leveraged long–short exposures to liquid derivatives contracts.
In the News

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Chris Brightman on Bloomberg TV (March 28, 2017)

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Speaking Engagements
May 10: Barclays Quant Conference, Boston Speaker: Feifei Li
May 23: UBS Quant Conference, New York Speaker: Rob Arnott
June 4: FTSE Russell World Investment Forum, Newport Coast, CA Speaker: Rob Arnott
June 8: Inside ETFs Smart Beta Conference, New York Speaker: Rob Arnott
June 26: IMN Global Indexing & ETFs Conference, Dana Point, CA Speakers: Rob Arnott and Feifei Li

Visual Insights

A smoother path to outperformance with multi-factor smart beta.


Visual Insights

Not all "popular" factor strategies are a robust source of return.