Saturday, November 11, 2017

"Contrary to stereotypes, study of hedge fund managers finds psychopaths make poor investors"

Here's the BPS version of  a story that flashed past the conscious - attention window a few weeks ago.
From the British Psychological Society's Research Digest:
If you’re a psychopath who’s good with numbers, you could make the perfect hedge fund manager. Your lack of empathy will allow you to capitalise blithely on the financial losses of others, while your ability to stomach high-risk, but potentially high-return, options will send your fund value soaring….

Well, that’s the story that’s been painted by popular media, folk wisdom and Wall Street insiders alike. The problem, according to a new paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, is that hedge fund managers with psychopathic tendencies actually make less money for their clients.

Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues analysed videos of semi-structured interviews with 101 hedge fund managers, whose firms each managed between US$40 million and US$1 trillion in assets. This money generally came from institutional investors, such as insurance companies and public and private pension funds.

The videos had been recorded between 2005 and 2015 by an investment advisory firm, to act as a marketing tool, and to give existing clients market updates. They followed a set format with the interviewer asking questions like, “What is your outlook on opportunities in the current market?” and “What is your philosophy on risk management?”

The researchers were looking for non-verbal evidence in the hedge fund managers’ replies of the so-called Dark Triad personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Erratic emotional expression, for example, was taken as a signal of psychopathy. A dominant positioning of the jaw and posture were among the signals of Machiavellianism. Flashy clothes, coy looks, and excessive use of “I” rather than “We”, were among the indicators of narcissism.

Keltner and his colleagues also analysed the financial performance of each manager’s so-called “flagship fund” – usually the largest fund offered by the company, and the one considered to most reflect the individual manager’s investment process – during the ten-year period that the videos were recorded.

Machiavellianism had no bearing on performance. Narcissistic hedge fund managers had to make riskier decisions to make the same returns over a given period compared with a less narcissistic manager; as far as an investor is concerned, this would manifest as greater volatility in the value of their investments....MORE, including a link to the paper.