By Bill Kelly, CEO, CAIA Association
“You can look it up” was a quote often attributed to the late baseball great Casey Stengel. That was likely the early 1900s precursor to “you can Google it,” and if one punched anekantavada into their browser today, they would find a consensus definition of “many-sidedness.” Rest assured, the CAIA Members from India probably already knew this, given the origins of this word’s emergence from ancient India and the Jain Doctrine. As the parable goes, there is a group of blind women and men (Apologies to Acarya Mallisena for this poetic license!) who have obviously never seen an elephant before. They each approach it from a different angle and their tactile experience is then extrapolated across the rest of pachyderm. Needless to say, each observation is limited in scope, but individual conviction remains high and other views are largely dismissed or ignored. Many-sidedness becomes one dimensional and less than rational views become entrenched.
Is this starting to sound a little bit like a typical CNBC Squawk Box debate? You betcha! As professionals, it is incumbent upon each of us to realize that we are always talking about the proverbial elephant in the room that none of us have ever really seen from every angle. The more conviction, despite academic degrees and other professional credentials, the more likely a sign of someone who resembles the hind side of the issue (or animal) at hand. Rest assured, you will be hearing a lot more of this pundit-speak in the current market environment as volatility comes back with a vengeance.
In a few short weeks CAIA, along with the CFA Society of Los Angeles and CalALTS, will be hosting our fifth annual ALTSLA conference in the City of Angels. EY has been our lead sponsor since the event’s inception back in 2015 and we are very fortunate to have their kind of informed leadership behind this event. It turns out that EY is a shining example of modern day anekantavada when it comes to our industry. Look no further than their recent 2018 Global Alternative Fund Survey entitled At the tipping point. This report is a summation of individual views that span a wide cross-section of asset managers and allocators and explores the themes and impacts in areas such as technology, demographics, and talent across the global alternative fund industry. No one is asked or expected to agree with these views, but their hope (as quoted) is to contribute to an ongoing and healthy dialogue that promotes the continued development and advancement of the global alternative fund industry.
All of us have our areas of expertise and should continue to practice our craft professionally, with our client interests always coming first. Part of that is knowing what we don’t know or not getting too wrapped up in our own version of what the elephant looks like. We must take the time to step down from our convictions and move around the circumference of our industry. Other viewpoints, especially the most contrarian, should be taken into your personal calculus; after all, some are feeling a tusk while others might be touching a tail. This holds true in everything from our industry outlook, our investment process and philosophy, and any resultant asset allocation decisions that we make. As the English Clergyman Matthew Henry once said: “there are none so blind as those that will not see,” meaning diversification of thought and vantage point is as important for our industry today as it is was for Jainism back in the 13th century.
Seek diversification, education and know your risk tolerance. Investing is for the long term.