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A weekly reality check on sensible investing and financial decision-making for Canadians. Hosted by Benjamin Felix and Cameron Passmore.

Sep 1, 2022

The indexing revolution is something that underpins all of our work here at the Rational Reminder and is a subject we reference in different ways in almost all of our episodes. Today we have a special exploration of this history, as we welcome Gus Sauter, the former long-time CIO of Vanguard, to talk about his incredible history at the firm, the role he played in the rise of the company, and its huge role in reforming the investing landscape. We also hear from our guest about his experience of working on numerous investing committees since he retired about a decade ago. One of the most notable things about this conversation is Gus' ability to weigh both sides of the arguments about active management, and he does a great job of balancing what he sees as the potential positives of this way of doing things. This is all strengthen by the way he presents these ideas as a powerful mix of stories, evidence, and the research he himself has conducted. To all our listeners, be sure to listen right to the end of the episode, as after the official conversation ends, Gus shared a few more thoughts on Jack Bogle and ETFs as a bonus.


Key Points From This Episode:

(0:03:49) Looking back at the part that indexing played at Vanguard when Gus started at the company.

(0:04:20) The rise of indexing in the subsequent years and the pivotal moments in this process.

(0:06:28) Initial ways that indexing was denigrated by Vanguard's competition.

(0:08:36) How the narrative changed around indexing when its utility became undeniable.

(0:09:10) The role of the University of Chicago in the growth of indexing early on.

(0:11:11) Changes in the active management space over the last few decades.

(0:12:04) Considering the role of an active manager in today's climate.

(0:14:43) Gus' opinion on balancing the strengths of indexing and active management.

(0:20:48) Differences between traditional active management and factor investing, and Gus' preferences.

(0:29:09) A look at Vanguard's recent forays into factor-based funds.

(0:31:00) Recounting Jack Bogle's thoughts on active management at different points.

(0:32:27) Evaluating active managers; weighing the processes and their maintenance.

(0:35:09) Vanguard's relative low fees and how this impacted their success.

(0:36:35) How Vanguard went about selecting investment managers.

(0:38:44) Gus talks about the structure of Vanguard; what it meant to be a truly mutual company.

(0:41:19) Thoughts on home country bias and global diversification in light of countries like Canada.

(0:45:07) Approaches to private equity; Gus' recommendations for the average investor.

(0:48:30) Access to private markets and the prohibitive effect of high fees.

(0:51:25) Accounting for the recent large flows towards private equity and the current institutional philosophy around it.

(0:54:10) Gus talks about the important questions he asks when joining a new investment committee.

(0:56:30) Comments on hedge funds and liquid assets, and their decreased returns.

(0:59:50) The psychological benefits of holding a single fund.

(1:02:44) Gus comments on how direct indexing might figure into the future.

(1:09:20) The education of investors; Gus talks about where he believes Vanguard's biggest success lies.

(1:11:48) Reflection on the impact of introducing the implementation of ETFs at Vanguard.

(1:12:56) Areas that still excite Gus about investing; the good and bad sides of increased opportunity.

(1:14:48) Gus' definition of success and his gratitude for finding a home at Vanguard.

(1:17:07) Bonus content: Gus talks about Jack Bogle's relationships with ETFs.