Average human tendencies are precisely the wrong thing to do!

Jun 7, 2017

Aleksey Mironenko

Partner, Chief Distribution Officer

Our advisor, Dr. Jason Hsu, recently did a podcast with Meb Faber (co-founder and CIO of Cambria Investment Management) on China opportunities, investors' preference for complexity over simplicity, and key takeaways for investors implementing smart beta strategies in China.

A summary is below, or you can click here to stream it now.

First, let us share a bit of background on Dr. Jason Hsu. Jason is a Co-Founder and Vice-Chairman of Research Affiliates. In the last few years, Jason created Rayliant, a spin-off from Research Affiliates, to focus on his passion, which is smart beta in China and broader Asia. We are working with Rayliant to build smarter and more efficient China exposure ETFs.

The discussion kicked off with Meb asking Jason regarding his thoughts on China. Jason has two hypothesis as he evaluates China: One, as China continues moving forward, and eventually becomes the world's largest economy, investors will realize they are underexposed to this market. Given this, there will be a major rebalancing into Chinese equities. Two, approximately 80-90% of Chinese daily trade flow comes from retail investors (much lower in developed markets). This means market inefficiencies, so the probability for "alpha" is higher.

Meb and Jason then discuss investor sentiment on China, and how emotionally-driven we are, which typically leads to underperformance. Jason commented that "flow chases short-term performance" and that oftentimes investors get crushed as they buy in at the peak of a style or asset class cycle. The mention of style here is important. We are familiar with investors chasing performance in asset classes, countries and sectors, but smart beta investing is new and most people don't realize that they might be chasing performance there as well. Just because a factor outperformed recently doesn't mean it won't mean-revert!

When asked how to combat this, Jason explained that "whatever you think is a good idea... do the opposite and you're going to be more successful." This works because "This is a market where the average human tendencies are precisely the wrong thing to do."

The conversation moves on to the topic of behavioral challenges, revolving around one of Jason's papers on how investors prefer complexity to simplicity. A fascinating look at how the financial industry works and why investing is such a challenge for us.

Moving into the world of smart beta and factor, Jason talks about his favorite factor: value. The conversation quickly leads to Warren Buffett and his true alpha: his ability to stick to his style and not abandon it at precisely the wrong time, as most of us do. Meb and Jason then move on to discuss manager performance and underperformance, and the tendency to always be chasing.

There's lots more in the podcast so if you'd like to go beyond the summary, click here to access the stream, transcript and other related links.

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