Need more info to help you decide? Assume both managers had outstanding long-term track records, but the debate over this one company may have become a distraction. Since getting involved with this holding, the mutual fund manager’s performance has suffered.
Do you hold onto his fund or cut it loose?
You probably have no idea what to do; I’m sorry, it’s a trick question. That’s probably because you’ve never considered the criteria for leaving any mutual fund. Most investors think long and hard about why they buy this fund or that — but they never think about when or why to sell.
This question involves huge sums of money. Ninety million individuals in the United States have $12 trillion invested in mutual funds. In terms of saving for retirement, mutual funds holdings account for 54 percent of 401(k)s and 47 percent of IRAs (in dollar terms). The 8,500 “Registered Investment Companies,” as these mutual funds are formally called, hold 27 percent of all outstanding stock of public companies in the United States.
Hence, most of your invested dollars in 401(k)s and IRAs are probably handled by a mutual fund manager. We shall leave the important question of active vs. passive investing — ETFs vs. mutual funds — for another column. (ETFs hold far less money, with less than a trillion dollars in assets).
Which brings us back to our rather interesting and oft overlooked question: When do you fire your fund manager?
When you buy a mutual fund, you are essentially hiring a manager to handle your assets. Typical investors research various fund families, use Morningstar to review history, review the fund’s top holdings, consider long-term track records. They do all of this work to answer the question, “Which fund should I buy?” But in my experience, they hardly ever consider the other side of that equation.
Most buyers of mutual funds are doing so for a variety of reasons: They want exposure to a given asset class, such as technology or small caps. They may be looking for professional assistance in stock selection. Perhaps they want to participate in a given region but lack the boots on the ground to make intelligent buys.
While there are many reasons to hire a fund manager, there are just as many reasons to fire one. Here are my main criteria:
When they suffer from style drift: This happens quite often; a manager developed an expertise in a given area but is looking beyond that. Maybe they got bored. Maybe the new cow in the pasture caught the bull’s eye. Whatever it is, they are doing less and less of why you bought them in the first place. That’s your signal that it’s time to move on.