Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
banging the drum

The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Exhibit A:  This firm is a strong advocate for a particular investment strategy.  Three months ago, it was trumpeting the quick start out of the gate this year by one of its products and citing its leading performance position versus competitors, neglecting in the process to say that the product has ranked near the bottom of its category since it was introduced a few years ago.  Subsequently it stumbled and did poorly during the second quarter.

No matter.  That makes this a perfect time to buy, according to the firm, since the strategy has been temporarily out of favor.  So, buy it when it’s the best for a quarter, buy it when it’s the worst for a quarter — just buy it.

The firm advocates tirelessly for its strategy (which, by the way, is worthy of consideration).  But if you look to it to provide information on how that strategy could best be used and when it’s unlikely to do well, you’re out of luck.  It’s in the business of marketing, not education.

Exhibit B:  A different organization has come to be closely associated with a particular investment theory (one to which I’m partial).  Its products have led the way in the adoption of the theory and its materials are informative and persuasive.  Except that they always come to the same conclusion.  No matter the investment problem under review, you know that by the end of whatever you are reading, the investment theory will have been touted as holding the key.  Here, too, the organization hasn’t sketched out the weaknesses of that theory to any degree (although I can figure some of them out on my own).

Exhibit C:  This is really a list — a very long list — of those who blog and tweet about their successes but not their failures.  They go silent if things don’t work out their way, but claim victory whenever they can.  (I pay reluctant attention to some for the occasional insight that they provide, while others are avoided entirely.)

Exhibit D:  Also a list, this one is made up of those who see the solution to every problem in the tenets of their economic and political beliefs, no matter the pretzel logic it takes to fit the facts to the theories.  I like learning from those with views that differ from my own, but if everything is passed through a filter of entrenched beliefs without regard to the evidence, I eventually quit listening.

Everyone talks their book — me too.the research puzzle | My “book,” if you will, can be found in this PDF guide to the research puzzle. But if I am curious about what you do or the ideas that you promote, I want to hear about everything, warts and all.  I want to know what the shortcomings are and why they don’t dissuade you from your advocacy.  If you have an investment idea, give me the other side of the story.  If you want me to give you my money or someone else’s, tell me what’s likely to go wrong.  If it does go wrong, tell me why and what was learned.

Back in the day, I was a percussionist — I can appreciate banging the drum.  But it really gets old after a while.