Ritholtz: Passive Doesn't Rule the World

“The hype about passive taking over the investing world is just that–hype.” This according to columnist Barry Ritholtz in a recent article for Bloomberg.

“Active management in the U.S. trounces passive by a ratio of 8-to-1 in dollar investments,” writes Ritholtz, adding, “Expand that to include the entire world, and the ratio is closer to 15-to-1. If we include fixed income in our calculations the ratio balloons to 60-to-1.”

The buzz about passive investing, he explains, comes from the trend since the financial crisis of investors’ moving money out of “underperforming, expensive active funds and sending them to cheaper, market-performing passive funds.” But once you take into account how all investable dollars are managed, Ritholtz explains, the “picture changes dramatically. Mutual funds and ETFs may be well-known among the public, but they are only a small part of the investing universe.”

Citing a report by Fortune, Ritholtz notes that index funds and ETFs produce “only $11 billion in fees a year” while active mutual funds (with similar assets) generate about $120 billion in annual revenue.

The article concludes: “The rise of passive indexing has been the most significant investment trend of the past decade. It is worth noting, however, that the total amount of money managed passively is a tiny share of the world’s total assets.” Ritholtz adds, “Passive may be making strong strides, but active management is how most of the investment assets in the world are managed today.”