Skip to Content
Fund Spy

Want to Test Your Managers' Mettle? Ask Them to Work Backward

Don't settle for reassurances. Ask active fund managers to explain how they'll deliver the value they purport to add after fees.


Suppose you're being pitched an active fund. It'll typically go something like "We'll deliver superior returns but without more risk" or "We'll protect the downside but without forgoing any returns." True, a manager or fund firm might not choose those exact words (there are rules and regulations to be complied with, after all), but the meaning is clear: You'll get something but won't have to give up the same amount.

How should you, as an investor, test that assertion? You can do gobs and gobs of fundamental research to arrive at a conclusion, sure. But that takes time and resolve that you might not have. Plus, it puts the onus on you to test an assertion that has gone unmet far more often than it's been fulfilled by active funds over time. Instead, turn it around. Say to that manager, "Ok, cool, explain how you'll do that, working backward."

Jeffrey Ptak does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

Transparency is how we protect the integrity of our work and keep empowering investors to achieve their goals and dreams. And we have unwavering standards for how we keep that integrity intact, from our research and data to our policies on content and your personal data.

We’d like to share more about how we work and what drives our day-to-day business.

We sell different types of products and services to both investment professionals and individual investors. These products and services are usually sold through license agreements or subscriptions. Our investment management business generates asset-based fees, which are calculated as a percentage of assets under management. We also sell both admissions and sponsorship packages for our investment conferences and advertising on our websites and newsletters.

How we use your information depends on the product and service that you use and your relationship with us. We may use it to:

  • Verify your identity, personalize the content you receive, or create and administer your account.
  • Provide specific products and services to you, such as portfolio management or data aggregation.
  • Develop and improve features of our offerings.
  • Gear advertisements and other marketing efforts towards your interests.

To learn more about how we handle and protect your data, visit our privacy center.

Maintaining independence and editorial freedom is essential to our mission of empowering investor success. We provide a platform for our authors to report on investments fairly, accurately, and from the investor’s point of view. We also respect individual opinions––they represent the unvarnished thinking of our people and exacting analysis of our research processes. Our authors can publish views that we may or may not agree with, but they show their work, distinguish facts from opinions, and make sure their analysis is clear and in no way misleading or deceptive.

To further protect the integrity of our editorial content, we keep a strict separation between our sales teams and authors to remove any pressure or influence on our analyses and research.

Read our editorial policy to learn more about our process.