Evidence-Based Investing: A Universal Passion

As thankful as I am to be writing and editing for evidence-based investment advisers, there are days that I have wished there were more of “me” to go around — more creative types whose passion for evidence-based investing comes as much from our experience as ordinary investors as it does from being marketing sidekicks to the evidence-based adviser community. That’s one reason why I’ve especially enjoyed getting to know Robin Powell during the last few years, as he has served in roles similar to my own from his home base in the U.K.

While I’ve focused on the writing, Robin seems more comfy spreading the word in front of a camera. If I had a nifty British accent, maybe I’d feel the same way! In any case, I’m pleased to update you on Robin’s most recent adventures, including how and why he recently launched www.evidenceinvestor.com, and his own story about how he came to share our universal passion for, as he describes it, “proper investing, as opposed to speculating.” If you like what you see, give it a subscribe, and consider encouraging others to do the same … let the evidence speak! 


The Making of an Evidence-Based Investor:
Q&A with Robin Powell

Robin Powell, Evidence-Based Investing
Robin Powell, Evidence-Based Investing

Wendy: Why did you launch The Evidence-Based Investor?

Robin: It’s a few months now since I left Sensible Investing TV and several people have asked me what I’m doing now and where they can find my blogs and videos. In fact I’ve been busy building a new operation called Regis Media, which is a specialist content marketing consultancy for fiduciary advisors. It’s going very well but I’m still a journalist at heart, and I miss doing what I enjoyed most about Sensible Investing, in other words writing blogs and producing videos. Hence, The Evidence-Based Investor.

W: Who is the blog intended for?

R: My ultimate aim is to help ordinary investors, so primarily this blog is for them. But it’s really for anyone with a genuine interest in investing – proper investing, as opposed to speculating – so, for example, advisors and wealth managers. It should also appeal to financial journalists and commentators as well as to regulators and policy makers. And because it will focus on independent, peer-reviewed evidence, I’m hoping that academics and students will follow it too. The Evidence-Based Investor is emphatically not for those in search of stock tips or clues as to where the markets are heading. The answer for that is, we don’t know. Nobody can reliably predict the short-term future, although there are plenty of other blogs out there by people claiming to have that ability. If that’s what you really want, take your pick.

W: What is the level of awareness of evidence-based investing in the UK compared to the US?

R: Alas, Wendy, we’re way behind! A market historian was telling me the other day she believes it dates back to the Wall Street Crash. Professional investors in the US had their fingers so badly burned in 1929 that they moved towards a more diversified (if not exactly passive) approach, while UK investors carried on as normal. Whether that’s true or not, indexing has definitely grown much more quickly in the US since the 1970s than it has in the UK. There’s a healthy skepticism about Wall Street among the American media and general public that sadly doesn’t exist over here. We’re still far too reverential towards the City of London and active fund management in particular, and it’s a similar story in Europe and most of the rest of the world. Things are changing, but slowly.

W: How did you come to be so passionate about evidence-based investing?

R: To be honest I was very skeptical about it at first when I started researching Passive Investing: The Evidence, my first documentary for Sensible Investing, back in 2011. But the more I read about it, the more it made sense. I remember Rick Ferri telling me that most converts to indexing have a lightbulb moment, and it was certainly like that for me. But it wasn’t until I worked on How to Win the Loser’s Game in 2013 that I began to feel passionate about it.

The reaction to that documentary was amazing. On the one hand we had people telling us how much they enjoyed it and learned from it, and how investors have been crying out for content like that for years. On the other hand, the industry largely ignored it, while a few were quite aggressive and unpleasant! I’m not the kind of person who deliberately seeks confrontation, but it’s hard not to feel strongly when the fund industry continues to make vast profits while delivering so little value, leaving hundreds of millions of people around the world facing the prospect of running out of money before they die.

W: What has been your favorite interview so far, and why?

R: There have been so many. To me, meeting any Nobel Prize winner is a huge honor; I’ve had the good fortune of interviewing William Sharpe, Eugene Fama and Malala Yousafzai, and all were very impressive. Charley Ellis is hugely intelligent and a perfect gentleman, and so too is Weston Wellington at Dimensional. But for sheer charisma, there can only be one winner. I sometimes chide my teenage children for over-use of the world “legend,” but Jack Bogle really is one, even if he’s not got a Nobel Prize to his name.

W: What future plans do have for the Evidence-Based Investing site that you’re willing to share?

R: We have some very exciting plans. My colleagues at Regis Media and I are about to embark on another multi-part documentary, and that will be featured there. I’m involved in projects in Germany, the Far East and Australasia. Also, in addition to videos and blogs, I’m working on ideas for a regular audio podcast. So all that should keep me occupied for a while!