The Bogle eBlog » Memos to Principals and Veterans

Vanguard Turns 40!
Mike - Oct 01, 2014

A special memo from John C. Bogle celebrating Vanguard’s 40th anniversary on September 24, 2014.


Memo to Veterans and Principals
Mike - Sep 10, 2014

To: Veterans and Principals

From: John C. Bogle

Date: September 9, 2014

Re: Will it ever stop?

 

            The more that I expect it to slow down, the more the attention given to Vanguard in the media seems to speed up. Enclosed are some more recent articles highlighting our success and commitment to clients.

  1. Investors Pour Into Vanguard, Eschewing Stock Pickers, by Kirsten Grind, The Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2014. This article points out an upcoming milestone for Vanguard: $3 trillion in global assets under management. Also highlighted is Warren Buffett’s recommendation of Vanguard 500 Index Fund for his wife’s investment portfolio, and the $5 billion of cash flow it helped to generate for the fund. It also includes my quip in an email to Warren that I am now described as, “the second best salesman at Vanguard.”
  2. Vanguard’s Rise To No. 2 ETF Firm Matters, by Olivier Ludwig, ETF.com, August 19, 2014. In this generous article, Olly Ludwig anticipates that Vanguard will soon take over the second ranking in U.S. ETF market share. He comments that, “the reason we should all celebrate the rise of Vanguard and Vanguard ETFs is because it shows that investors are truly getting a fair shake.” He concludes, “we really should be thankful that 40 years ago John Bogle thought the time was right to truly put investors’ interests first.”
  3. Review of The Man in the Arena, by Murad J. Antia, CFA, Financial Analysts Journal, July/August 2014. This highly complimentary review of The Man in the Arena, the recent book about my legacy in the mutual fund industry, edited by Knut A. Rostad, concludes: John C. Bogle … has been at the forefront of the revolution that has democratized the investment landscape by first creating a mutual organization, a company owned by its investor clients. He has tirelessly imparted the message that investors would be far wealthier if they invested in low-cost index funds. Yes, that’s the Vanguard message.
  4. Fund Scandal Ripples, Even a Decade Later, by Tom Lauricella, The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2014. This article recalls the mutual fund market-timing scandals of a decade ago. I am quoted in the article as saying that the fund industry’s focus on investors “has improved, but we still have a long way to go.”
  5. Think of Social Security As an Investment, Says Vanguard Founder, by Dan McSwain, U-T San Diego, September 6, 2014. In this extensive interview, the journalist describes my views about indexing and the importance of low costs for long-term investors. Also discussed is my view that Social Security must be taken into account by investors when constructing their asset allocations.
  6. 3 Smart Moves for Retirement Investors from the Bogleheads, by Penelope Wang, Money, August 18, 2014. This feature article points out that the second edition of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing is being released, and shares some tips for developing an effective investment strategy. Says one of the unofficial leaders of the Bogleheads, Mel Lindauer, “one of the main advantages of being a Boglehead—we remind people to stay the course.”

When you have a spare moment (?), please enjoy these stories, and feel free to send copies of this note and the attachments to your colleagues and friends. As usual, by week’s end, they’ll also be published on my eBlog, www.johncbogle.com.

Welcome back from what I hope has been a refreshing summer vacation for you and your families.

 

Best,

Jack


Memo to Veterans and Principals
Mike - Sep 10, 2014

 

To: Veterans and Principals

From: John C. Bogle

Date: 8/20/2014

Re: Even More Great “PR”

 

            I’m sending along some “summer reading,” ranging from articles I’ve penned for academic journals to wonderful acknowledgements in the popular press of Vanguard’s values and success.

  1. No Speed Limits: High-Frequency Trading and Flash Boys,Journal of Portfolio Management, Summer 2014. The editors of the JPM asked me to provide an editorial comment on all of the attention given to high-frequency trading (HFT) in the press since the publication of Michael Lewis’s book Flash Boys. In this editorial, I try to bring some clarity and perspective to the debate.
  2. Who Are Your Investment Role Models? The Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2014. A complimentary entry in “The Experts” series. Four of these six commentators salute Vanguard, and graciously mention me as being among their role models and investment heroes—even an “investment superhero.”
  3. Rules of the Fund Road: Watch the Fees, and Don’t Look Back,by Jeff Sommer, The New York Times, June 1, 2014. One more example of a journalist who “gets it,” this article discusses a Morningstar study which, once again, suggests that low-cost investing works. It closes with a nice JCB quote.
  4. The High Price of Investing in a Hedge Fund, by Gus Sauter, The Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2014. In another installment of “The Experts,” Vanguard’s Gus Sauter talks about how high costs damage the returns of hedge funds. Gus kindly works in a quote that will surely be familiar to those who regularly read my writings.
  5. Heads or Tails? Either Way, You Might Beat a Stock Picker,by Jeff Sommer, The New York Times, July 27, 2007. This story cites data showing that only 2 out of 2,862 diversified U.S. stock funds were able to outperform their peers consistently over five years.
  6. Bogle’s Legacy: Returns that Trounce Active Investing,by Mitch Tuchman, MarketWatch, August 7, 2014. An entry in the “Retirementors” series, this article emphasizes the importance of broad diversification and low costs, while challenging readers to identify portfolios that can beat Vanguard’s LifeStrategy Funds on a risk-adjusted basis.
  7. Vanguard Funds Prosper by Low-Cost Evangelism,by Pauline Skypala, Financial Times, July 14, 2014. This powerful article from the UK’s leading business and investing daily generously appraises our truly mutual structure and our dedication to low costs, while pointing out that non-US investors often pay excessive fees.
  8. Swedroe: Bogle May Be Right about ETFs,by Larry Swedroe, ETF.com, July 16, 2014. Author and financial advisor Larry Swedroe discusses a study by five German economists that found an astonishing gap between the returns enjoyed by investors in ETFs versus the non-ETF portions of their portfolios. According to the study, their ETF returns were some 5% per year lower (!) than their non-ETF returns, an astonishing underperformance.
  9. Practice Makes Imperfect,Buttonwood, The Economist, August 9, 2014. This article discusses a study that shows, perhaps unsurprisingly, that very few active managers outperform persistently over the long term. The paper concludes that, “even long-term managers show no ability to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis.” What’s remarkable about this article is that it discusses topics that I’ve covered for decades, going back at least to my 1993 book, Bogle on Mutual Funds. As you know, those original ideas have gained remarkable acceptance in the recent era.
  10. The Arithmetic of ‘All-In’ Investment Expenses: A Comment and Author Response,Financial Analysts Journal, May/June 2014. An advisor from Morgan Stanley wrote a letter to the editor of the FAJ regarding my January/February 2014 article about the huge negative impact of the costs of active investing vs. index investing over the long term. The advisor argues that many individual investors have limitations on their time, access to information, and cognitive abilities that justify the costs of working with a financial advisor to select active funds. In my response, I present data showing that investors in passive index fund generally fare much better than those who invest in actively managed funds. I also point out evidence that suggests that investors working with brokers may actually underperform investors who manage their portfolios themselves.

*      *      *

I know that you share my gratification to see that the values that have been fundamental to Vanguard for so many years are increasingly accepted in the press as today’s conventional wisdom. The benefits to investors of investing the Vanguard way are enormous.

Enjoy these articles, and enjoy the precious few remaining weeks of summer.

Best, always,

   Jack


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