Quants Trounced by Human-Run Hedge Funds in Covid Year

Quants Trounced by Human-Run Hedge Funds in Covid Year

After a long stretch of being outperformed by computer-driven quant strategies, human stock-pickers won out in 2020 bolstered by “aggressive bets in technology and the flood of central bank money that buoyed markets.” This according to a recent article in Bloomberg.

“The dizzying gyrations of the pandemic-stricken year humbled even the most sophisticated quants…whose trading models were thrown off by swings their computers had never seen before,” the article reports, noting that some human-run funds generated returns of more than 35%.

The article cites comments from industry players such as Andrew Beer, founder of Dynamic Beta, who said, “This year should call into question some quant strategies. Building strategies based on five decades of numbers that don’t matter today might will be a fool’s errand.”

The article notes, however, that even before the onset of the pandemic, “quant funds were already starting to struggle under the weight of their own success. Several had amassed tens of billions of dollars in assets, meaning market inefficiencies detected by their high-speed computers tended to vanish before they could make much money from them.”

“Whether by luck or by skill,” the article concludes, human stock-pickers showed that, even during the disruption of this past year, they could “still stand up to the seemingly inexorable rise of the machines.”