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Active Share Measures and Role in Active Management

In the investing sector, active management strategies are evaluated and measured using a metric called an active share. An investment strategy known as "active management" involves portfolio managers purposefully deviating from a benchmark index in an effort to produce excess returns. Active Share calculates how far a portfolio's holdings deviate from its benchmark by measuring the manager's active investment choices.

Active management is significant in its ability to outperform passive investing methods, which merely mimic a benchmark index. In this regard, Active Share is a useful tool for investors to evaluate the degree of active management practised by a portfolio manager. Investors can assess a manager's expertise, investing philosophy, and potential for producing excess returns using Active Share because it measures the degree of portfolio divergence from the benchmark. It gives information about the investing strategy's degree of conviction and originality.

For investors and fund managers, understanding active Shares and their consequences is essential since it influences how investments are made, portfolios are built, and performance is assessed.

Calculation Methodology

Active Share is calculated by contrasting a portfolio's holdings with its benchmark index. It calculates the percentage of holdings in the portfolio that differ from the benchmark, demonstrating the degree of active management used by the portfolio manager. The following stages can be used to summarize the process for calculating Active Share:

  • Selection of a Portfolio and a Benchmark Index: A portfolio and a suitable benchmark index must first be chosen. The benchmark index should be pertinent to the investment strategy and offer an appropriate way to compare the performance of the portfolio.
  • Stock-Level Comparison: The holdings of the benchmark and the portfolio are contrasted at the level of specific stocks. Identifying the equities that are part of the portfolio but not the benchmark (active holdings) and those that are part of the benchmark but not the portfolio (passive holdings) is the main goal in this stage.
  • Weighting System: The computation takes into account the weight of each stock. Market value, market capitalization, or other suitable weighting formulas may be used to determine the weights.
  • Calculating the Active Share: The Active Share is computed by adding the absolute weight differences between active and passive assets, and then dividing the result by two. It is done in order to prevent double counting and guarantee that the Active Share falls between 0% and 100%. Finally, the formula is defined as:
Active Share Measures and Role in Active Management


  • W(p, i) stands for the stock's weight in the portfolio.
  • W(b, i) is the benchmark index's weight for the stock.

Interpretation: The resulting Active Share % represents the portion of the portfolio's assets that deviates from the benchmark. Greater active management is indicated by higher active share values, implying that the portfolio manager deviates significantly from the benchmark. On the other hand, lower Active Share levels show higher similarity to the benchmark, indicating a more passive or index-hugging approach.

Consider the straightforward scenario where a benchmark index just contains one stock. The Active Share would be 50% if a manager decides on the target stock but only wants to invest half of his portfolio in that stock and half in another one.

Active Share = 1/2 (∣100%−50%∣+∣0%−50%∣) = 50%

It basically signifies that 50% of the manager's portfolio deviates from the benchmark index based on the Active Share outcome in this case.

Active Share Measures and Role in Active Management

Role of Active Share in Assessing Active Management

In order to analyze the efficiency and expertise of portfolio managers in departing from benchmark indexes, Active Share plays a crucial role in the evaluation of active management. Investors and business experts can learn more about a portfolio manager's level of active management by using Active Share, which offers a quantifiable metric. Here are some significant factors emphasizing the function of Active Share in judging active management:

  • Assessing a Manager's Investment Approach and Skill: An active Share is helpful in evaluating a manager's investment style and ability to make active investment decisions. Greater deviation from the benchmark is indicated by higher Active Share levels, which may indicate a manager's capacity to adopt novel positions and perhaps provide excess returns.
  • Calculating the Degree of Deviation from the Reference: The percentage of a portfolio's holdings that deviate from the benchmark is measured by the active Share. Investors can assess the confidence and independence of the portfolio manager's investment plan using this indicator, which quantifies the amount of active management used.
  • Active Share and Performance Analysis: It has been discovered that Active Share and fund performance are correlated. According to studies, portfolios with more active shares typically exceed their benchmarks, suggesting the possibility of producing alpha returns. When combined with performance analysis, Active Share offers a thorough assessment of the efficiency of active management.
  • Comparing Active Shares across Funds and Managers: Investors can evaluate the amount of active management across various funds and managers using Active Shares. It assists in the selection process by pointing out managers who consistently use active strategies and have the potential to produce distinctive returns.

Measures of Active Management

Active management strategies are evaluated and assessed using several other metrics and measurements besides Active Share. These metrics offer perceptions into several aspects of effective active management. Here are a few important actions:

  1. Tracking Error: Tracking error calculates the difference between the returns of a portfolio and the benchmark index. It assesses the degree of active management by evaluating the variability in returns brought on by active investing decisions. A higher tracking error indicates a more significant deviation from the benchmark, which reflects more active management.
  2. Information Ratio: The ratio evaluates an actively managed portfolio's risk-adjusted performance compared to its benchmark. It is derived by subtracting the tracking error from the portfolio's excess return (active return). A greater information ratio demonstrates the managers' ability in active management by showing that they have produced more excess return per unit of risk incurred.
  3. Turnover Ratio: Over a given time period, the number of times a portfolio's holdings are changed is measured by the turnover ratio. More active trading and possibly greater transaction expenses are indicated by a higher turnover ratio. It displays how actively the management is controlling the portfolio's composition.
  4. Alpha: After correcting for systematic risk (beta), alpha represents the excess return produced by an investing strategy. It measures the manager's capacity to produce returns not accounted for by changes in the market. A positive alpha indicates active management that outperformed the benchmark.
  5. Consistency of Outperformance: This metric assesses the manager's propensity to consistently outperform the benchmark in a variety of market contexts and time frames. It evaluates the manager's history of producing excess returns and reliability in active management skills.

When combined, these metrics offer a thorough evaluation of active management tactics. Investors can use them to assess a manager's capacity for producing excess returns, controlling risk, and consistently outperforming the benchmark. To obtain a comprehensive understanding of the success of active management, it is crucial to consider these factors in connection with one another, as well as in light of the particular investment plan and market conditions.

Emerging Trends in Active Management

The popularity of sustainable and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investment, the use of factor-based strategies, increased attention to risk management, the use of alternative data and AI, and the blending of active and passive strategies are all examples of emerging trends in active management.

Environmental, social, and governance considerations are included in investment decisions through sustainable and ESG investing. Factor-based investment techniques concentrate on certain factors like value or momentum. Techniques for risk management are designed to safeguard portfolios during market downturns. The application of AI and alternative data improves the quality of investment decisions. Last but not least, combining active and passive techniques maximizes the advantages of both. These patterns show how easily the sector may change to accommodate shifting investor preferences, technology developments, and market dynamics. By adopting these themes, active managers aim to offer improved performance, meet investor demands, and successfully negotiate the changing active management landscape.

Awareness Required for Investors

When it comes to active management tactics, investors should be cautious. Despite the possibility of outperformance and portfolio differentiation offered by active management, there are a few things that investors should take into account before committing money. Here are several justifications for using caution:

  • Cost: In comparison to passive management solutions, active management strategies typically have higher expenses. These expenses may reduce returns, particularly if the manager cannot regularly surpass the benchmark. Investors should carefully consider whether the expenses of active management justify the possible benefits.
  • Performance Consistency: Active management is difficult, and not all managers can continuously perform better than the benchmark over the long term. Investors should use caution when dealing with managers who have erratic or uneven performance. To assess a manager's performance history and gauge their capacity to generate reliable returns, extensive due diligence is required.
  • Underperformance Risk: Active managers are susceptible to falling short of the benchmark, especially during market turbulence or when their investment approach is no longer popular. Investors must know the risks involved and judge the manager's skill in navigating various market circumstances.
  • Manager Skill: Not all managers in the workforce are equally skilled and knowledgeable. Investors must assess a manager's background, investing strategy, and research ability. The key is comprehending the manager's strategy and having faith in their capacity to produce alpha.
  • Market Efficiency: Active managers may need help to spot mispriced assets regularly due to the market's efficiency. Providing extra profits through active management becomes more challenging as markets grow more efficiently. Investors should be aware of the current state of the market and decide whether active management is appropriate for their financial objectives.

Although opportunities may arise from active management, investors must proceed with prudence. To minimize risks and maximize the potential benefits of active management strategies, it is essential to do in-depth research, analyze previous performance, understand expenses, and carefully choose managers. Before allocating funds to active methods, investors should consider their risk appetite, investment goals, and time horizon properly.

Limitations of Active Share

Despite being a valuable indicator of active management, Active Share has drawbacks and restrictions that investors should be aware of. Some of the main objections are as follows:

  • Bias in Benchmark Selection: The choice of benchmark affects Active Share. Managers are free to choose a benchmark that matches the investments in their portfolio, which could raise their Active Share. Due to the bias this imposes, comparing Active Share across several funds or managers is somewhat challenging.
  • Limited Focus: Active Share only examines how a portfolio's holdings compare to those of its benchmark. It fails to account for the degree to which active management choices, including stock selection or market timing, influence the portfolio's performance. Although it offers a measure of divergence, it may only sometimes represent the efficacy or expertise of those active choices.
  • Concentration vs. Diversification: In portfolios that hold a limited number of stocks, active Share tends to be more significant. As a result, active management and diversity may become mutually exclusive. High Active Share may be a sign of significant departure from the benchmark, but it also carries a concentration risk.
  • Inadequate Capability to Predict Future Performance: Active Share has certain drawbacks when anticipating future capability. High and low active shares do not suggest outperformance or underperformance. Since they are relative, they must be considered along with other performance indicators and qualitative elements.
  • Market Conditions: Market conditions can impact the success of active management. Active managers may need help to generate extra returns during high market efficiency or strong market trends. The performance of active management may not be fully captured by active Shares alone due to market conditions.

Despite these critiques and restrictions, an active Share is still helpful in evaluating functional management solutions. It offers a numerical measure of deviation from the benchmark and aids investors in determining the degree of active management used. It should, however, be utilized in conjunction with other performance indicators, qualitative research, and thoughtful study of the particular investment plan and market circumstances.

The Bottom Line

Active Shares are a valuable metric for evaluating the degree of active management practised by portfolio managers. However, investors must use caution and consider the restrictions and drawbacks of Active Shares. Several aspects must be carefully considered, including benchmark selection bias, scope limitations, concentration vs. diversification trade-offs, subpar performance forecast, and the impact of market conditions. Although Active Share sheds light on the deviation from the benchmark, it should still be compared to other performance indicators and qualitative research. Investors should perform extensive due diligence when analyzing active management strategies and consider their investment objectives and risk tolerance.

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