The investment management services of Chain Bridge Bank, N.A. are rooted in the principles of investment industry pioneer and index fund inventor John C. Bogle:
• Diversify Broadly
• Allocate Prudently
• Consider Costs
• Stay the Course
The Myth of the "Holy Grail"
John C. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard Group, disputed the concept of a "Holy Grail" in investing. He defined the pursuit of the “Holy Grail” as the quest for the highest possible return without risk and stated that such a quest is likely to lead to disappointment, reminding us that the “Holy Grail” was a myth, not a reality.
Bogle expressed skepticism towards active management strategies, which often promise superior returns based on the manager's skill in selecting investments. Instead, he advocated a simple, cost-efficient, and diversified investment approach that strives to mirror the market's returns over the long term.
Investment vs. Speculation
Bogle differentiated between investment and speculation. He viewed investment as the long-term ownership of businesses, focusing on their intrinsic value, while speculation involved betting on price changes, often in the short term.
We align with Bogle's philosophy. We consider ourselves investors, not speculators, with a focus on the long-term performance of the assets we manage.
Understanding the "Loser's Game”
Bogle characterized the attempt to outperform the market as a "loser's game" and owning the stock market over the long term as a "winner's game." He explained that before costs, trying to beat the market is a zero-sum game, but after costs, it becomes a losing proposition.
We adhere to Bogle’s philosophy by focusing on broad-based total market index funds, which are cost-efficient and aim to match the market's returns. Our goal is not to outperform the market but to assist our clients in capturing their fair share of the market's returns.
The Power of Passive Investing
Our investment strategy is firmly rooted in passive investing, with a particular emphasis on index funds. Bogle's 1951 Princeton University honors thesis revealed a startling truth: the majority of investment managers fail to outperform the market. His subsequent years in the mutual fund industry only reinforced that initial insight and culminated in the creation of the first market capitalization weighted index fund in 1975. Bogle's innovation offered investors, for the first time, a cost-efficient, diversified, and passive investment alternative that aimed to mirror the market's performance.
Bogle astutely observed that the inability of a significant majority of active managers to outperform the market over the long term primarily stems from the higher management fees, trading costs, taxes, and other costs associated with active management
The annual reports from Morningstar, such as the Morningstar (2023) Semiannual Active/ Passive Barometer Report, further substantiate this observation. These reports consistently show that, over extended time horizons, the average passively managed fund tends to outperform most actively managed funds.
Harnessing the Power of Long-Term Investing
Our investment philosophy is simple yet powerful. We believe in the power of long-term investing and discourage attempts to "time the market" or chase the performance of fashionable trends or “hot” stocks or funds. Instead, we aim to match the market's returns, leveraging the power of compound returns.
We encourage our clients to resist the urge to react to short-term market fluctuations, and to keep their focus on long-term investment goals. As Bogle often said, “Time is your friend; impulse is your enemy.”
The Value of Broad Diversification
We place a high priority on Bogle’s principle of broad diversification. Our approach to achieving optimal diversification involves the use of broad-based, total market, low-cost index funds. That strategy helps mitigate risks linked to specific securities, industries, sectors, countries, geographies, and investment styles.
Bogle's wisdom is famously distilled in his advice, “Don’t look for the needle in the haystack. Just buy the haystack.”
That statement elegantly underscores his conviction in the potency of diversification. Rather than embarking on a potentially fruitless quest to identify individual winners, Bogle championed the idea of embracing the entire market through index funds. He argued that this approach offers a more reliable and less risky path to long-term investment success.
The Cost Matters Hypothesis
We believe in the importance of minimizing costs. In the realm of investment management, the value often lies in what you don't pay for.
Bogle’s "Cost Matters Hypothesis” captured that principle. He explained that investment costs compound over time, leading to what he termed the “tyranny of compounding costs,” which he described as the “inverse of the miracle of compounding returns.” We strive to avoid the tyranny of compounding costs by seeking to minimize investment costs.
Personalized Asset Allocation
We believe in setting realistic investing expectations and aim for reasonable long-term returns in both stocks and bonds. We understand that each client has unique financial goals, risk tolerance, time horizon, liquidity needs, and potential tax implications. Consequently, we offer tailored asset allocation strategies. These strategies adjust the allocation of stocks and bonds based on factors such as an individual's age, risk tolerance, liquidity needs, tax liabilities, spending needs, and investment goals.
Like Bogle, however, we generally do not advocate for further personalization or customization of investment strategies. Our philosophy encourages the approach of 'buying right and holding tight,' which means we generally adhere to clients’ asset allocations despite market fluctuations. We also recognize the role of bonds in a balanced portfolio, ensuring that the ratio of stocks to bonds aligns with an investor's financial position and risk tolerance.
Our investment approach aligns with Bogle's perspective that a straightforward, lower-cost, and broadly diversified investment strategy may yield better risk-adjusted long-term results for many investors.
Staying the Course
We uphold Bogle’s principle of “staying the course,” acknowledging that markets can exhibit volatility and unpredictability in the short term. Despite these fluctuations, historical data shows a general upward trend in the market over the long term.
Bogle summarized the “stay the course” philosophy with the admonition that “The secret to investing is there is no secret.” He underscored the importance of disregarding temporary market fluctuations, whether they occur daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly, and instead focusing on the underlying value of investments.
Bogle drew on a quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth to emphasize his point, describing market noise as “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” He further asserted that “The stock market is a giant distraction from the business of investing,” reinforcing the notion that successful investing necessitates a steadfast focus on long-term growth rather than short-term market movements.
A Continuing Tradition
Our philosophy of lower-cost, simple, and transparent investing informs our investment management approach. We strive to uphold these principles, aiming to provide clients with a robust, cost-effective, and potentially sustainable long-term investment strategy. We are dedicated to assisting clients in navigating their financial journey.
Embark on Your Journey
We invite you to contact us today to learn more about our investment management services, which draw inspiration from the principles of John C. Bogle.