Mutual Fund Flows, Performance Persistence, and Manager Skill

46 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2008 Last revised: 16 Sep 2014

Date Written: February 1, 2008


This paper adapts the model of Berk and Green (2004) to explain with reasonable success the data on mutual fund returns and flows. Using a Bayesian measure of fund-manager skill that controls for fund flows, I find that posterior estimates of skill vary substantially in the cross section and that perceived differences in ability persist through time. Consistent with the model, investor fund flows respond in a convex manner to posterior updates of manager skill scaled by functions of the expense ratio, and this result is robust after including a convex function of past performance. While cross-sectional variation in posterior skill estimates has predictive power for out-of-sample subsequent fund performance, such predictability is present only in the short run. Beyond one year, high-skilled managers do not consistently out-perform low-skilled managers as skill-chasing fund flows equalize the realized abnormal fund returns across managers. Overall, my empirical evidence is consistent with some managers possessing high ability, investors rationally chasing returns generated by those managers, and lack of long-run persistence in fund returns due to equilibrating fund flows and diseconomies of scale in assets under management. Outside of the model, I show that the cross-sectional distribution of managerial ability is related to fund style and fund-manager compensation in a way that is consistent with matching the managerial productivity to the nature of the underlying portfolio.

Keywords: Mutual Fund Performance, Performance Persistence, Fund Flows, Manager Skill

JEL Classification: G11, G20, J24, J41

Suggested Citation

Wang, Yan Albert, Mutual Fund Flows, Performance Persistence, and Manager Skill (February 1, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Yan Albert Wang (Contact Author)

Auburn University ( email )

315 Lowder Hall
Department of Finance
Auburn, AL 36849
United States

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