Performance Perspectives Blog

Is a golf cart an automobile?

by | Mar 1, 2013

I was chatting with one of our software certification clients recently, and we got to discussing what qualifies a system as being a “GIPS(R) (Global Investment Performance System)” system?

As I often do, I searched for a metaphor (some would say, analogy), and fell upon a “golf cart.”

Could you make the argument that a golf cart is an automobile? Consider that they typically:

  • have a motor
  • have a steering wheel
  • require a key to start
  • have a gas pedal and a brake pedal
  • have an emergency brake
  • have a windshield
  • have a seat
  • have a horn

many features of a typical car. But is this sufficient for it to be an automobile? If no, what other criteria would we expect it to fulfill? Consider requiring:

  • a heater (in the 1950s and 1960s (and earlier, too) heaters were optional; it wasn’t uncommon to see “r/h” in used car advertisements, to indicate that the car had a radio and heater! I don’t know if the “Model T” had a heater or not, but it clearly qualifies as an automobile.
  • an air conditioner (not standard until fairly recently). Clearly a 1953 MG is an automobile, and yet doesn’t have a/c!
  •  headlights
  • brake lights
  • …what else?

Okay, so perhaps we could define criteria that something would need to satisfy before we allowed it to be called an “automobile.”

In developing our software certification service, John Simpson and I spent quite a lot of time defining the necessary features and functionality we’d expect a system to have. And, the list is somewhat demanding; but, our certification is rigorous; otherwise, what’s the point? What we have are those items which we believe most folks would expect a performance system to have. We focus on several different areas (e.g., rates of return, GIPS, equity attribution), with each having its own list.

Consider a GIPS system. What would we expect it to have? Clearly, the ability to support composite construction, right? I recall being told about 15 years ago that someone had “the best AIMR-PPS(R) (predecessor to GIPS) system. I asked “how do you handle composites?” The person responded, “what’s a composite?” Duh!

So far, two firms have passed our certification,  with others pursuing the process. Our clients have found it beneficial to have an objective, knowledgeable, and critical authority review their offerings. But, as you can imagine, trying to “nail down” what the minimum criteria should be can be a challenge.

If you care to share with us what you think are the minimum criteria for a GIPS system, we’re all ears!

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