A Memo to Vanguard Veterans
Mike - Jul 09, 2014

 

July 9, 2014

To: My Fellow Vanguard Veterans and Principals

My 63rd Anniversary

Monday, July 9, 1951, was the first day of my long career in the mutual fund industry. I vividly remember walking into the Wellington Fund offices on 1420 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. I was a bit nervous (of course!) and wondered what the future had in store for this recent graduate of Princeton University’s Class of 1951.

I was wise to wonder! Little could I have imagined that I would remain with Wellington/ Vanguard for 63 years. Little could I have imagined what surprises and challenges, what successes and failures, what growth and what changes in Wellington lay before me during that long span. Much of what was to follow was due to the ethical values and financial wisdom of my great mentor and friend, Walter L. Morgan, who did his best to impart them to his heir-apparent.

Walter L. Morgan, Wellington Fund, and Vanguard

Walter Morgan was the founder and chief of Wellington Fund and Wellington Management Company, and (as I once wrote to him) he gave me his confidence when I had little confidence in myself. Then, Wellington employed maybe 75 people, and supervised $150 million of assets for the shareholders of its single mutual fund. (Tiny by today’s standards, but then one of this industry’s ten largest firms.)

You all probably know about how my career at Wellington ended (I was fired from my position as chief executive in January 1974), fortuitously opening the door to my creation of Vanguard only seven months later. It was, as they say, the opportunity of a lifetime—a chance to build something new and better for our mutual fund shareholders. The three pillars of our fledging firm were our unique mutual structure, the world’s first index mutual fund, and the unprecedented conversion to a distribution system without a sales force. These disruptive innovations reinforced my conviction that, after Ralph Waldo Emerson, “if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.”

The World has Beaten a Path to Our Door

Well, as you know, that’s precisely what the world has done. (I’ll spare you the numbers on our assets, our growth, our market share, and the triumph of indexing. You all know them.) One day, I expect, I’ll revel in our rise to industry preeminence, and bask in the glow of our peerless name and reputation. But not now. I have much work yet to do, much more to accomplish.

I haven’t run this firm for many years. When I relinquished my responsibilities as chief executive, I well knew that I no longer had the power of the purse and the power over the persons—our crewmembers—who are largely responsible for, if not exactly what we do as a firm, how we go about doing it. And I salute once again our crewmembers, and especially our veterans, for continuing to maintain our human and ethical values that have been essential to our progress.

The Powers of Leadership

While I was well aware of what power I was relinquishing, I was equally aware of the two vital powers that remained: one is intellectual power, the other is moral power. Still strong, if perhaps diminished (your call on both!), I continue to use those powers to speak out for giving all mutual fund shareholders a better chance to accumulate wealth; for reform in an industry that has come to emphasize marketing over management; for the requirement that every firm that touches other people’s money be subject to high standards of fiduciary duty and trusteeship; and for institutional money managers to assume not only the rights of our collective ownership and putative control, but also the responsibility to play a role in the governance of our nation’s public corporations.

You may have noticed how few other financial leaders have spoken out on these issues. And you may also have noticed that the media and the public are now calling attention to them. That may help to explain why, without a scintilla of promotion on my part, so much recent attention in the press and on television and radio has been focused on my ideas and our firm’s values. My essay, “The Incredibly Shrinking Financial System,” in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal—its 125th anniversary edition—is just one recent example, if a singularly fine one.

The Bully Pulpit

I’m on vacation as I prepare this 63rd anniversary note, reading a marvelous book: Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit—Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. I’ve been a great admirer of TR for as long as I can remember and have cited him often in my books and speech. I was once again struck by his role in American life during, and even after, his presidency. Here are a few excerpts that I underlined from The Bully Pulpit:

Roosevelt wondered about finding “whom he could trust to carry out his legacy of active moral leadership and progressive reform . . . [who would] make use of . . . the bully pulpit that had provided the key to [TR’s] success.” He understood that, “the vitality of democracy depends on popular knowledge of complex questions . . . [requiring of us] a better understanding of what it takes to summon the public to demand the actions necessary to bring our country [and, I would add, our financial system] closer to its ancient ideals.” That’s what TR’s bully pulpit, and my own bully pulpit, is all about.

A Personal Note of Thanks

As the days fly on, and as I age, I recognize that the time will come when I will no longer be able to engage in the mission that I have set for myself—to speak out for truth and integrity and character in the world of finance, striving to build a better world for investors—honest-to-God, down-to-earth human beings who deserve a fair shake. One’s strength to carry on does not—cannot—go on forever. The spirit is more willing than ever, but the flesh inevitably weakens.

For me, the human beings who have been part of my long career have been by far its most important aspect. Yes, as I have said, “I like human beings better than algorithms,” and judgment better than process. (Not that, at our size, we don’t require many algorithms and much process. Neither has ever been my strong point!) In its early years, Vanguard was young, beleaguered, and scorned. But by the mid-1980s, we developed the momentum that has continued ever since, built on those same three pillars of our founding.

Especially in those early years, when our success was not assured, I knew that among my highest priorities were the need to always be optimistic, to set the standard for commitment, to communicate openly, and, broadly put, to give our wonderful crew the strength to carry on. Turnabout is fair play, and today it is all of you on the crew who give me the strength to carry on. These have not been the easiest days for me, but I carry on because of your confidence, your respect, your admiration, and (as some of you have said) your love. How could such a life possibly be more rewarding?

A song that tells this very story provides a fine conclusion for this message:

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain, we all have sorrow

But if we are wise we know that there’s always tomorrow.

Lean on me when you’re not strong

And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on

For it won’t be long

Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.

Thanks for that strength. Thanks for being part of this fine firm. Thanks for everything.

Best, always

 

Jack


A Memo from John C. Bogle
Mike - Jun 26, 2014

To: Veterans and Principals

From: John C. Bogle

Date: June 26, 2014

 Recognition for Vanguard and Indexing

            The almost overwhelming success of Vanguard and index funds continues to draw attention, not only from investors (over $77 billion of net cash flow so far this year, 95% of which went into our low-cost index funds), but also from the media. Attached are four recent articles noting our success.

  1. “Bogle Is In The Vanguard Of Mutual Fund Investing,” Investor’s Business Daily, June 12, 2014. This nice profile highlights the triumph of indexing, and Vanguard’s rise to prominence over the last four decades.

 

  1. “Facing price wars and robots, wealth managers push advice,” Reuters, June 20, 2014. I recently participated in the Global Wealth Management Summit hosted by Reuters. This article stems from that summit, and focuses on the growing market for web-based financial advisory services, such as Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services. Of course, the opening line tickled me: “Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard Group and the pioneer of low-cost index investing, has won.”

 

  1. “Vanguard’s Bogle expects shrinking Wall Street,” Reuters, June 17, 2014. This article about my thoughts on the future of the financial industry also came out of the Reuters event.

 

  1. “Philosophy Differs From Strategy,” RickFerri.com, June 16, 2014. Independent financial advisor Rick Ferri writes about how his investment philosophy is based on the realization that trying to beat the markets is “costly and counterproductive,” so his investment strategy relies on low-cost index funds.

With all of Vanguard’s success over our four decades of existence (we’ll celebrate our 40th anniversary on September 24, 2014), it remains critically important that keep our focus on what’s best for our clients. I’ve used this quotation from Shakespeare many times before, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

Indeed, Vanguard’s rise to the pinnacle of the mutual fund industry places a fragile crown on our heads. We must continue to focus on our founding values of stewardship and trusteeship of the assets entrusted to us by our clients.

Enjoy your summer.

Best, always,

Jack


A Memo to Principals and Veterans
Mike - May 22, 2014

 

May 20, 2014

 To Vanguard Principals and Veterans:

             As you all must know by now, I regard recognition of Vanguard in The Economist as among the highest possible accolades. This cover story in the issue of May 3, 2014, entitled “Death of the Fund Manager” is one more testimonial to all the good we do here at Vanguard.

             Attached are: (1) the opening editorial, “Cheap is Cheerful,” and (2) the main story, “Briefing: Fund Management. Will Invest for Food.” (Both pieces are informative and insightful. Too bad that the headlines fail to suggest that.)

             Despite the accolades for index (“tracker” in the UK) funds, the authors seem unaware of the impact that indexing has already had on Vanguard and the fund industry. Ever irrepressible, I wrote a letter to the editor presenting the data. It’s probably too late and long to be published, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it (Attachment 3).

             We’ve come such a long way since we began in 1974. Thank you for all your help in making it happen.

 Jack


A Memo from John C. Bogle
Mike - May 02, 2014

To: Veterans and Principals

From: John C. Bogle

Date: May 1, 2014

 

A Remarkable Salute from Investors and CNBC

            As many of you have already reported to me, CNBC has ranked me among the top ten people who have had “the most profound impact on business and finance” over the past quarter-century. (CNBC has just begun its second quarter-century.) In this context, I’m sending along two attachments.

1.      “Index Mutual Fund Pioneer.” The CNBC profile of my long career is remarkably insightful, particularly in its recognition of the role of “Bogle’s evangelism.” They also identify the often-unrecognized link between Vanguard’s truly mutual structure and that first index fund.

However you may feel about the culture of stock market television, I’m actually deeply touched by being placed high (#9) on the CNBC list of “25 transformative leaders, icons, and rebels of the past quarter-century.”

NOTE: I’ve also included a link to the CNBC video on my career. It’s just three minutes in length, but professionally done and power-packed.

2.      “The List: CNBC First 25.” Who are these other icons? Here’s the list, led (deservedly, I think) by #1 Steve Jobs and #2 Bill Gates. Interestingly, Warren Buffett (#6) and I (#9) are the only people from the field of investment management (also, in a limited way, Carl Icahn, #17) on this influential list, which includes at least eight leaders from abroad.

One of our crew members called an amusing point to my attention. I’m sandwiched between #8 Mark Zuckerberg (net worth, $28.5 billion) and #10 Larry Ellison (net worth, $48 billion). Last time I looked, I’m well below average (to say the least!) relative to these successful fellows.

*           *            *

            Our organization structure and our index strategy represent the solid core of the reputation we have earned and the trust we have established with investors . . . and with the world. How good it feels to be recognized on the CNBC list of these 25 men and women who have been “the rebels, icons, and leaders in the vanguard (yes!) of that change,” from yesteryear’s era of business and finance to today’s.

Enjoy!  Always,

Jack


A Memo from John Bogle
Mike - Apr 16, 2014

To:          Veterans and Principals

From:    John C. Bogle

Date:     April 15, 2014

Re:         More Recognition for Our Firm, Part II

This follow-up note to my mailing of April 10 includes five more recent articles from the press:

1) “Vanguard Founder Discusses How to Invest.” This interview in Investor’s Business Daily was published on April 2. While several of the quotes are a bit casual (if not mystifying!), the overall tone of the story is highly positive.

2) “Michael Lewis is Wrong About Rigged Markets.”  Jonathan Berr’s April 3 story in Moneywatch is yet one more contribution(?) to the huge publicity campaign that kicked-off Flash Boys. While I didn’t have the benefit of knowing the opinion of later commentators, my position is not much different from those of Burton Malkiel, Arthur Levitt, Morningstar’s John Rekenthaler,  and other thought leaders.

3) “On Smart Beta, Smart Skeptics.” James Green’s thoughtful story in Investment Advisor magazine (March 31, 2014). Of course, my response is blunt—smart beta is a “marketing gimmick.” Might as well be honest!

4) “Vanguard Beats BlackRock . . .” Christopher Condon’s article in Bloomberg Business Week (April 1, 2014) is one more long, well, “commercial” for our firm, its mission, and the work we all do. It is surely a rare quarter when we capture 90%(!) of all ETF cash flows as we did in the three months ended March 31, 2014, but of course there’s a message there.

5) “The Inevitable Standard.” Investment News, April 7, 2014. The “Inevitable Standard” cited in Mark Schoeff Jr.’s perceptive story is a federal standard of fiduciary duty—something I’ve been seeking for many years. I’m certain that my dream will come true . . . some day.

 Keep fighting the good fight!

Best, always

                 Jack


Memo to Veterans and Principals
Mike - Apr 14, 2014

To: Veterans and Principals

 From: John C. Bogle

 Date: April 10, 2014

 Re: More Recognition for Our Firm

             The spate of attention focused on Vanguard that took me three consecutive mailings to send you (on March 4, March 5, and March 6, 2014) subsided. But, surprisingly, it resumed about 10 days ago, although this note requires only two mailings. This is the first such mailing; the second will be circulated on Tuesday, April 15.

 1)      “The Inspiration for John Bogle’s Great Invention.” On March 5, The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch began a series called “Things Written Long Ago That I Wish I Had Read Long Ago.” The first essay in the series was columnist George Sisti’s piece on Paul Samuelson’s essay, “Challenge to Judgment,” published in the very first issue of The Journal of Portfolio Management in 1974. As many of you know, it was this essay that helped inspire the creation of the world’s first index mutual fund. To this day, I remember in considerable detail this remarkable piece, and the credibility that this brilliant Nobel Laureate brought to my forthcoming creation.

2)      “You Don’t Know Jack: The Education of Jack Bogle.” On April 4, the Philadelphia Business Journal published this lengthy interview, focused on Vanguard’s history and my long career. Perhaps I was a bit too honest in responding to the final question, but that kind of candor is a small price to pay for the credibility that Vanguard has established with the press and the public.

3)      “Bogle: Tilt To Corporates for More Yield.” Olly Ludwig, financial editor of ETF.com (formerly IndexUniverse.com, not, for me, a happy change!) covers a wide range of issues relating to Vanguard and the fund industry. Some of the numbers are a bit garbled, but you’ll get the point. Despite another bit of controversy, stories don’t get much more positive for our firm than this one.

Happy reading! More to come.

 Best,

                                          Jack   


A Memo from John C. Bogle
Mike - Mar 06, 2014

To: Veterans and Principals

From: John C. Bogle

Date: March 6, 2014

Re: The Cascade of Press Coverage Abates . . . for a Moment.

 

Part III

As promised yesterday, just a single final addition to the recent flurry of favorable public recognition of Vanguard. (Part I, March 4, 2014. The ECONOMIST and The Financial Analysts Journal—“The Arithmetic of ‘All-In’ Investment Expenses.” Part II, March 5, 2014. The Warren Buffett endorsement, etc.)

 In Part III, Finance in Philadelphia–Leadership, Decline, Renaissance,” I’m sending along a major speech on the role of our Greater Philadelphia region in contributing to America’s economy. As you will note, Vanguard is now the leader of our region’s recent renaissance. In that role, each of us here has an obligation to represent our community with knowledge of the past, dedication to high standards, and conduct characterized by integrity and humility.

The text of the speech is preceded by an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer on February 7, 2014, reporting on the forum in which I delivered my remarks. One local journalist described my essay as “excellent, revelatory reading. I love the irony of how the Quaker precept of thrift has returned to fashion, thanks to Vanguard, vision, and perseverance.” My historical perspective begins with Robert Morris in 1776 (and, in the same year, the wisdom of Adam Smith). Today, as by far the largest firm in the giant mutual fund industry, we have become the embodiment of thrift and simplicity. These principles work!

 Q.E.D.           

                                     Best,

                                          Jack   


A Memo from John C. Bogle
Mike - Mar 06, 2014

To: Veterans and Principals

From: John C. Bogle

Date: March 5, 2014

Re: Lots More Public Recognition

 Part II

 1.  Buffett Endorsement of Vanguard 500 Index Fund. I first learned of the contents of Warren Buffett’s annual letter to his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in a note from one of our veteran crewmembers (thanks!), who wrote that Mr. Buffett has now “confirmed that Bogle is right.” I next heard from investment adviser and author Frank Martin, who wrote, “Jack, it looks like you are now the number two salesman for Vanguard.”

Both were comments on Warren’s report that “his money is where his mouth is.” His will provides a bequest for his wife, directing that his trustee should “put 10% of [the bequest] in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 Index Fund. (I suggest Vanguard’s.)”

 The Buffett letter is also laced with the wisdom of Ben Graham, as outlined in The Intelligent Investor. Enclosed  are three pages of excerpts. Our crewmembers will find Vanguard’s investment philosophy echoed here . . . over and over again.

2.  Do ETFs Turn Investors into Market Timers? Wall Street Journal, March 1-2, 2014. Here, popular columnist Mark Hulbert uses a variety of quotes from me on the trading activity in ETFs, noting that “the typical investor in [Vanguard’s] ETFs trades less actively then investors [traders?] in ETFs sold by other fund firms.” His column ends with four recommended stock funds (all Vanguard funds) and four bond funds (including two Vanguard funds).

3.  How to Predict the Next Decade’s Bond Returns. Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2014. Relying on research provided by the Bogle Financial Market Research Center—and many conversations!—reporter Chris Gay accurately describes the analysis I’ve been producing for the past few decades: “current yield is the best indicator of how much you’ll earn over time from fixed-income holdings.” 92% of the future 10-year return is determined by the current yield. My “Seeing the Future” chart (illustrated here) could hardly make it clearer.

 4. Give Fees an Inch and They’ll Take a Mile. The New York Times, March 2, 2014. “Watch out for expenses. They will cut down your returns, shrink your nest egg, and may well prevent you from achieving your financial goals,” writes Times financial editor Jeff Sommer. He sums up his long article (largely focused on a study by the SEC) with this (I suppose) classic Bogle quote: “In investing, you get what you don’t pay for.”

5.  What was John Bogle Thinking? FORBES, February 10, 2014. Here, investment adviser (and Boglehead!) Rick Ferri, relying on my recent correspondence and the history of my indexing philosophy, as well as subsequent interviews, describes how I “revisited the idea of passive investing; which ultimately reversed [my] long-held view of active management, and changed Vanguard’s destiny.” Rick calls it, “John Bogle’s epiphany.” If you’re interested in Vanguard’s early history, you’ll love this article!

 6.  Are there any circumstances in which you’d own an actively-managed fund?, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, February 2014. “Yes, although they are extremely rare,” is how I respond to the question, noting but two exceptions to my “rule.” (The tipster who showed me the article: a fellow-traveler on a recent airline flight!)

 7.  Bogle: Indexing Has Gone Too Far. Financial Planning, March 3, 2014. Here, journalist Paula Vasan (fairly) accurately reports the results of our luncheon conversation. The idea that indexing has “gone much too far” (with my reasoning for that view) is only a small part of a controversial discussion on financial services today. I conclude that, yes, “some investors really need advisors,” if only “to keep them from doing anything.”

 8.  Can Vanguard Become Too Big? Financial Planning, March 4, 2014. Allan S. Roth, journalist, money manager, and, yes, Boglehead, has asked a good question, and penned a thoughtful article in response. Several charts show Vanguard’s amazing rise to our record share of fund industry assets, to 17.75% in stock and bond funds—vs. 17.74% (interesting!) for our two largest rivals combined. Asked to predict (guess at) our market share in 2030, Rick Ferri and Bill Bernstein suggest 30% to 40%, Bogle “offers a best guess of 25%.” Who really knows?

But, yes, as Bill McNabb acknowledges, there are “dangers” of giant size, “including the possibility that a larger Vanguard could become bureaucratic and self-serving.” Best that we mind our P’s and Q’s!

 *   *   *

That’s it for this huge list of press stories featuring Vanguard, just in the past few days and weeks.

Good News! Part III of this recent series, to be sent to you tomorrow, has only a single item . . . but a good one!

 

Best to all,

                                         Jack


A Memo from John C. Bogle
Mike - Mar 06, 2014

 

To: Veterans and Principals

From: John C. Bogle

Date: March 4, 2014

Re: Banner Days for Vanguard!

 Part I

Ever since Vanguard began, almost 40 years ago, we’ve had many great “PR” conquests. But I can recall no short period during our long history in which our founding principles and values received such positive attention as in the past several weeks . . . so much so that I’m sending you three different mailings during the course of this week. Part I begins the series with reactions to my landmark article in the January/February 2014 issue of the Financial Analysts Journal.

I sent a copy of the paper, “The Arithmetic of ‘All-In’ Investment Expenses,” to each of you on January 2, 2014, and it remains available on my eblog, www.johncbogle.com.

You may recall that the paper demonstrated that investors in tax-deferred retirement plans can increase their wealth accumulation by 65%(!), simply by using a low-cost stock index fund rather than a typical actively-managed stock fund.

In an earlier paper, Nobel Laureate William F. Sharpe had estimated that enhancement at “more than 20%.” However, he applauded my “wonderful combination” of expense ratios and several other costs of investing that are too often ignored. And (as I mentioned earlier), he loved my final sentence “Do not allow the tyranny of compounding costs to overwhelm the magic of compounding returns.”[1]

But perhaps the greatest bonus of the paper for us was the fine essay in the Buttonwood column of the Economist of London, entitled Against the Odds,” illustrated (appropriately, I think) with a slot machine taking in dollars and shooting out a penny. In his column, “Buttonwood” notes potential criticisms of my work, but concludes that “the arguments do not make much of a dent in Mr. Bogle’s case.”

Two points: One, articles in professional and academic journals—given their relative rarity and detailed process of review and approval—are perhaps the most effective vehicle for spreading investment ideas. Two, the Economist is noted for the highest standards of journalism, and a level of intellectual depth and integrity only rarely matched by other publications.

Of course I’m pleased that the FAJ article represents my eleventh work in this professional publication and its competitor, Journal of Portfolio Management; and that the Economist has now done perhaps another eight major stories on my work over the years.

The attention on my FAJ essay has also brought further attention to Vanguard’s guiding principle that “Costs Matter.” In last Saturday’s New York Times (March 1, 2014), for example, journalist Paul Sullivan (who said nice things about my philosophy in another recent article) gave my FAJ essay a nice boost, noting that “. . . low-cost [index] funds in tax-deferred retirement account could add as much as 65% to a person’s savings over a high-cost actively managed fund.”  

Even earlier, on January 28, 2014, author, veteran journalist, and financial adviser Daniel Solin added his voice in U.S. News and World Report. In an article entitled “What Wall Street Doesn’t Want Investors To Know,” Mr. Solin carefully outlined the points in my FAJ paper, and then added a wonderful summary of the important “takeaways” that I’ve done my best to instill here as part of our corporate character. I’m confident that you’ll find his essay well worth reading . . . and re-reading.

And there’s much more to come.

Best to all. Part II will follow tomorrow.

 

                                         Jack


 

[1] Morningstar’s resident expert John Rekenthaler described my paper as, “the best treatment yet of the subject.”


More Good “Ink” for Vanguard
Mike - Jan 30, 2014

To: Veterans and Principals
Date: January 28, 2014
RE: More Good “Ink” for Vanguard

1. “Having Enough, but Hungry for More,” The New York Times, January 17, 2014. Here, journalist Paul Sullivan contrasts three recent examples of Wall Street’s legendary greed with my own philosophy, describing me as “not one for the endless pursuit of prestige and wealth,” as he quotes me, “I don’t need any more” things in life. (He nicely refers to Enough . . .)

2. “Long-Term Thinking: 1800-2013.” The headline for this witty but profound essay from The Motley Fool on January 3, 2014, could well have added R.I.P. For the author announces the sad death of “Long-Term Thinking” on January 1, with “his last true friend, Vanguard founder Jack Bogle . . . at his side. He was 213 years old.” (That’s Long-Term Thinking, not yours truly!)

3. “Philadelphia: a Bedrock of Assets,” Investment News, December 9, 2013. In a twist I have not seen before, journalist Bruce Kelly salutes Vanguard’s role in supporting the large universe of registered investment advisers (RIAs) in the greater Philadelphia region, who have benefitted greatly by attracting talented men and women who have earned their spurs through our renowned training programs.

4. “The Legacy of John Bogle, the Man in the Arena,” Investment Advisor, January 27, 2014. This extensive story by editor-at-large Bob Clark gives high praise to the new book (The Man in the Arena), and makes more than a few generous comments on my life, my career, and my legacy. I found his retelling of the Vanguard story a thrill to read, and perhaps you will have the same reaction.

Best to all,
Jack