Investing: A Historical Perspective

An article in CFA Institute provides a historical overview of the finance industry over the past century, assigning memes to different periods:

  • “Diversify Thy Portfolio: 1924-1974”—The invention of the first open-ended mutual fund in 1924 “kickstarted the diversification era” followed thirty years later by Harry Markowitz’s book “Portfolio Selection” which the article refers to as the seminal text on diversification.
  • “Control Thy Portfolio Expenses: 1975-1994”—This period was marked by the invention of the index fund in 1975 by Jack Bogle and Vanguard Group and the publication of “Loser’s Game” by Charles Ellis. The second stage of the period began with the invention of the exchange-traded fund (ETF), beginning with the S&P 500 SPDR.
  • “Make Thy Portfolio Impactful: 1994-?”—”Though socially responsible investing (SRI) has been around for as long as portfolio diversification, its revolutionary effect on investing culture did not begin to take hold until the 1990s.” This period, the article says, is also characterized by a behavioral component. “Decades of research into behavioral finance has inspired new ideas about how we can adapt our investing processes to mitigate the heuristics and biases within each of us.”

The article outlines possibilities for the “next frontier” in finance, including such areas as cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence (AI) and “taking on the ills of financial illiteracy”. It concludes: “However the current era in finance evolves, as investment professionals, asking ourselves these types of questions will help us help our clients.”