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Hundreds of trillions of dollars are managed by asset management firms, according to this PWC article.

The fees paid on those trillions must be enormous. I understand that if you are investing a lot of money, you want to make sure the investment is done right .... however it doesn't take much brains to invest properly, because you can just copy the market and buy into an index fund, and it seems to beat a lot of managed funds.

So where is the evidence that all these asset managers actually produce something of value? Surely there must be some evidence, otherwise why would people be paying them billions in fees to manage their money?

EDIT:

I forgot to mention: any such evidence must obviously account for fees. It's not enough to show that their return is marginally better (which it might not even be).

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  • Just copying the market probably won't match your risk profile and/or time horizon. Also, some asset managers, manage more than just shares (bonds, property, currencies, commodities, etc.).
    – Steve Kidd
    Jul 5 at 20:32
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This argument against active management is well known, for example, Warren Buffett's parable [PDF] about the "GotRocks" family.

Institutions believe that they can beat the market using the Yale Model, investing in illiquid and/or private assets and by choosing the best asset managers.

An overlooked, amusing, advantage of private assets is that they are not assiduously marked to market in a market crash. This white lie is of enormous import to institutions that invest in private assets, as recently discussed by fund manager Cliff Asness.

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