What can fund managers learn from the most successful World Cup teams? For every on-field win, there is a lot going on behind the scenes, and the same is true for Australia’s leading investment managers. Here are some universal tips on how funds can set themselves up for lasting success, based on the match-winning habits of the stars of the world game.

1. Beware the star player model

After winning the match against Portugal, Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani was struck out with a calf injury and forced to sit out a two-goal loss to France. In the risk management literature, this is known as key person risk. If your star portfolio manager leaves, your fund may underperform and you may be forced to change up your entire investment strategy. Successful teams reduce their reliance on a single star player by developing their other players and fully utilising the field. Having said that, it doesn’t hurt to have a few flamboyant strikers.

2. Maintain discipline

Winning teams are able to maintain focus and stick to their game plan even when the match is moving against them. Belgium’s astounding comeback against Japan from two goals down shows that discipline wins games and complacency loses them. Don’t panic when volatility rears its head or the market corrects. Stick to your investment strategy and make sure you are doing what you told your investors you would do. Timing the market is hard, and the chance of success diminishes rapidly when you are overcome by fear.

3. Take responsibility

When things go pear-shaped, avoid losing your head and admit when you have made a mistake. As we learned from the bizarre theatrics of Brazil’s forward Neymar, a refusal to take responsibility on and off the field will quickly see your fans disappear. Likewise, fund managers who blame the market for not doing what it should have done are unlikely to build trust with their investors.

4. Remember to score

This may seem like an obvious point, but scoring goals is the key to winning matches. Don’t be like the Australian team and overload your defence at the expense of scoring opportunities. Balance risk and return appropriately and if you have an active mandate, use it. If you are an active equity manager wondering why your investment product is being overtaken by smart beta alternatives, remember what you are there to do: generate alpha. Locking up play might work in the early rounds, but it is not a World Cup winning strategy.

5. Review your strategies

Successful teams continually assess their strategies against different sides by reviewing game footage and analysing their opponents. Investment managers should plan for a range of different market scenarios, including the worst-case scenario, and test investment hypotheses in a clinical manner. Assess your fund’s track record over long time periods and through different economic and market conditions. A lot has changed since 1966, and what worked then may no longer work now. The best teams can adapt to new ways of playing while identifying what still works.

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