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Charley Ellis: Why Active Investing Is Still a Loser's Game

The prolific author and investment consultant weighs in whether indexing has gotten too large, Vanguard's foray into private equity, and the spots where active management might still work.

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Our guest on the podcast is investment consultant and author Charley Ellis. In 1972, Ellis founded Greenwich Associates, an investment consultant to institutional investors, government organizations, and wealthy families. His seminal book about the benefits of passive investing, Winning the Loser's Game, is in its seventh edition. Ellis has also authored or coauthored books about investment policy and strategy, the retirement system in the United States, and large investment firms, including Goldman Sachs and Capital Group. He has taught investment management courses at the Yale School of Management and Harvard Business School and was the successor trustee of Yale University, where he chaired the university's investment committee with David Swensen. He also served on the board of directors at The Vanguard Group. Ellis was awarded the Graham & Dodd Award of Excellence from the Financial Analysts Journal and is one of only 12 people recognized by the CFA Institute for lifetime contributions to the investment profession. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale College, his Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School, and his doctorate in financial economics at New York University.


Charley Ellis bio

Charley Ellis books 

"The Loser's Game," by Charles D. Ellis, Financial Analysts Journal, July/August 1975. 

"Words From the Wise: Charley Ellis on Challenges Facing Investors," by Antti Ilmanen and Rodney N. Sullivan, AQR Insights, June 5, 2015.

Passive vs. Active Management

"How to Decide Where to Hire Active Managers," by Alex Bryan,, April 8, 2020.

Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD) 

Jim Simons bio 

"Index Funds Aren't Too Big, but Asset Managers Might Be," by John Rekenthaler,, Jan. 17, 2020. 

"The Secret History of Index Mutual Funds," by Stephen Mihm, InvestmentNews, Sept. 6, 2016. 

ESG Investing

"David Blood and Al Gore Want to Reach the Next Generation," by Imogen Rose-Smith, Institutional Investor, Sept. 8, 2015. 

"The ESG Fund Universe Is Rapidly Expanding," by Jon Hale,, March 19, 2020. 

Private Equity

"Vanguard Moves into Private Equity with HarbourVest Partnership," by Chris Flood, Robin Wigglesworth, and Richard Henderson, Financial Times, Feb. 5, 2020. 

"The Cons (and Pros) of Vanguard's Decision to Offer Private Equity," by John Rekenthaler,, Feb. 25, 2020. 

"Fran Kinniry: Applying the Vanguard Approach to Private Equity," by Christine Benz and Jeffrey Ptak, Morningstar's The Long View podcast, April 1, 2020. 

"SEC Looking to Open Private Markets to a Wider Audience,” by Hazel Bradford, Pensions & Investments, Oct. 28, 2019. 

David Swensen/Yale Endowment

David Swensen bio 

David Swensen books 

Yale University Endowment 

Yale's Strategy