Jay Vivian, former managing director of the IBM Retirement Funds, on the human temptation to strive to beat the market despite evidence that consistently doing so is close to impossible. More on smart indexing strategies.


You could ask why, if I think so strongly that indexing is a great tool, why everybody doesn’t do it.  Why it’s not just self-evident that it’s a great thing to do. And that’s a good question, I think.  The real challenge with indexing is that you give up the chance to really outperform.

And that’s what we all want to do.  We all really want to outperform.  We all want to figure out the right person to invest with.  We all want to figure out the right stock to invest in.  The companies to invest in.  The countries, the currencies, the sectors, the industries and all those kinds of things.  But it’s not easy to do.

But there’s a human…I don’t want to say weakness…but there’s a human temptation just to strive for that.  And you want to strive.  You want to say if I just think about it the right way, if I just read another book on investing, I’ll be able to do that.

And I think that permeates the investment industry, too.  There are a lot of smart people out there that are trying to do this desperately. And they have to think that they can add value or they wouldn’t be in the industry. But, in my mind, the sad fact is that you can throw a lot of smart resource at it and you still won’t be able to do it.

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