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Pure Alpha: Evaluating Active Management in a Modern Way

Pure Alpha: Evaluating Active Management in a Modern Way

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This paper discuss how we apply active management and the common misconceptions around active and passive investing. We apply a framework to estimate the “pure alpha” opportunity of an active strategy. Our evaluation reveals that a quantitative active strategy may deliver a significant amount of pure alpha away from static passive exposures.

What is Active Management

In cases where an investor’s goal is to maximize returns within a risk budget, we often look
at the realized Sharpe ratio in evaluating a strategy. Active management, however, has a
different investment objective.

Broadly speaking, active management refers to a portfolio management strategy that aims
to outperform a market benchmark index subject to the residual risks taken. One way to
measure an active manager’s outperformance of a benchmark, and the consistency of the
performance is referred to as the information ratio.

Thanks to the development of rules-based strategies, investors can access part of the active
management return at a much lower cost. So, in a narrow sense, modern active
management refers to delivering a pure alpha opportunity that cannot be explained by a
mix of factor, style, or sector exposures.

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