Skill and Profit in Active Management

46 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2019 Last revised: 3 Dec 2020

See all articles by Robert F. Stambaugh

Robert F. Stambaugh

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2, 2020


I analyze skill’s role in active management under general equilibrium with many assets and costly trading. More-skilled managers produce larger expected total investment profits, and their portfolio weights correlate more highly with assets' future returns. Becoming more skilled, however, can reduce a manager's expected profit if enough other managers also become more skilled. The greater skill allows those managers to identify profit opportunities more accurately, but active management in aggregate then corrects prices more, shrinking the profits those opportunities offer. The latter effect can dominate in a setting consistent with numerous empirical properties of active management and stock returns.

Keywords: active management, investment profit, stock selection

JEL Classification: G14, G23

Suggested Citation

Stambaugh, Robert F., Skill and Profit in Active Management (December 2, 2020). Jacobs Levy Equity Management Center for Quantitative Financial Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Robert F. Stambaugh (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

The Wharton School, Finance Department
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United States
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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