Performance Perspectives Blog

Mutual funds, ETFs, and Attribution

by | Mar 20, 2013

One of our GIPS(R) verification clients asked me recently about attribution and mutual funds/ETFs; whether there were special requirements for them.

Some thoughts:

Remember that with attribution, we align “sets” of securities in the  portfolio with their equivalent “set” in the benchmark. An aside: to my knowledge, I may be the first person to use the term “set.” I think it works, though. For example, we can have a:

  1. Set of all items: this would be the portfolio
  2. Set of one item: this would be security level attribution, which I oppose, save for absolute attribution (aka “contribution”)
  3. Set of no items; i.e., the “null set”: would apply where the portfolio is void a set (e.g., a sector) that the benchmark has securities in.

We group securities into sets (where sets can be asset classes, sectors, subsectors, industries, etc.), and then match what’s the the portfolio (that is, the weights and returns of each of the sets) with the corresponding set in the benchmark.

Thus, if we have mutual funds that fit into the small cap equity set, for example, then if we can group the securities in the benchmark by market cap, they would align. Nothing really mysterious here.

A second important point: unless the manager is MANAGING the mutual fund, we do not drill down to the security level, when it comes to evaluating the manager’s performance, since he/she did not pick the underlying securities.


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