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Vanguard’s Index Funds vs. Vanguard’s Managed Funds: a Nine Style Box and Fama-French Multi-Variable Regression Approach

By Susheel Nalla

Many investors struggle to determine whether they want to invest in managed funds or indexed funds when they build portfolio. Vanguard, founded by John Bogle, a strong advocate for indexed investing has seen his company grow to over $3.9 trillion in funds. In the last three years $1 trillion of new money has come into their passive funds as investors are moving towards saving on cheaper expense ratios. However, many people like Vanguard’s former CIO Gus Sauter believe that managed funds can deliver additional value to their investors by keeping expense ratios low and hiring the world’s best managers. This study looks at Vanguard indexed and managed funds in three different market capitalizations organized nine style boxes to see whether Vanguard’s strategy of low management expense ratios provides additional value to their own benchmarks. This study uses two comparison methods to analyze market returns of these funds from 2006-2016. First, indexed and managed Vanguard funds will be compared using a Morningstar nine-style box to directly see differences in return rates and estimate riskiness of these assets through standard deviations. Second, the Fama-French three-factor model will be used to create a regression explaining where the fund returns may be coming from. This method will determine the SMB and HML of the funds telling us the size of the equities in the fund along with their value premium over book value. Also, a market coefficient will be determined to see how close these funds are relative to a market benchmark. Overall, it is determined that Vanguard indexed funds in small-cap and mid-caps are slightly better investments based on returns and exposure to risk along with their equity composition. Based on the same criteria, large-cap funds perform slightly better than their indexed counterparts.

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Advisor: Edward Tower | JEL Codes: C55, G10, G11, G12

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