Differences between active and passive management

Ventajas y desventajas de la gestión activa y la gestión pasiva

Differences between active and passive management

We all know someone who has dabbled in stock market investing—with good results, according to them. Well, this is probably the simplest example of active investment management. In this article, we’ll look at the differences between active and passive management and help you decide which one is right for you.

What is active management?

As in the example, active investing involves buying and selling assets, whether they are equities (stocks), Treasury bills (i.e., government debt), cryptocurrencies, etc. In other words, someone decides how, how much, when, and where to invest. This portfolio manager can be the investor themselves or a professional investor, such as a fund manager.

Typically, the goal of this strategy is to outperform the market. That is, the decision-maker relies on fundamental and technical analysis—and their own judgment—to select investments they believe will outperform. Outperform what? A benchmark index, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA).

What is passive management?

Passive management is the opposite approach. Instead of investing time and money to decide how and where to invest—or paying someone to do it—we simply buy the entire market. That is, we invest, for example, in all the companies of an index. The idea is to replicate the market’s returns. And it’s not far-fetched: after all, the market always wins in the long run.

The main idea behind passive management is that markets are efficient and therefore difficult to consistently outperform after deducting investment costs. Continuing with the initial example, our acquaintance would opt to invest in an index fund that tracks a benchmark index. And with that, they would forget about buying, selling, periodic research, and periodically readjusting their strategy.

Advantages of active management

Everyone knows Warren Buffett, perhaps one of the best examples of the potential of active management. What makes his success so remarkable is not just the magnitude—but how difficult it is to emulate him. But let’s not get discouraged just yet. Here are some advantages of active management.

Potential for superior returns

An active manager can take advantage of market opportunities and make portfolio adjustments to try to achieve returns superior to the market.


Active management allows for portfolio adjustments in response to changes in the market, the economy, or specific company conditions.

Risk management

Active managers can avoid assets they perceive as too risky and focus on those they consider safer or more promising.

Disadvantages of active management

You guessed it: taking the reins of investing has its downsides. The first of which is not being able to easily emulate Warren Buffett. It’s simply not being able to beat the market most of the time.

High costs

Actively managed funds often have higher fees due to the costs associated with research and active decision-making. These fees can erode—and do erode—long-term returns.

Risk of low returns

Not all active managers consistently outperform the market. In fact, many do not achieve this after costs are deducted. Moreover, comparisons showing the historical performance of investment funds, where they still lose despite everything, are incomplete. They only include funds that survive…

Lower transparency

Active strategies can be less transparent, making it difficult for investors to know exactly what they are investing in.

Advantages of passive management

The main advantage of passive investing is peace of mind. It’s like putting investments on autopilot.

Low costs

Passive funds generally have lower fees than active funds because they do not require daily active management. In other words, there is no need to pay anyone to think about how to beat the market. Lower costs mean significant savings in the long run.


Indexed funds and ETFs are usually transparent since they track a known index. This means investors always know what they are investing in. When the composition of the index changes, so does the composition of their portfolio.


By replicating an index, passive funds offer immediate and broad diversification. And diversification is one of the basic rules of investing…

Consistent returns

Passive management tends to offer returns that are very close to the market’s performance, which is attractive to investors looking for stability and long-term profitability!

Disadvantages of passive management

The main drawback is, in fact, the flip side of its main advantage. By not deciding anything, we cannot take advantage of timely opportunities, but we also cannot make big mistakes…

Lack of flexibility

Passive management does not allow for decisions based on market analysis or changing economic conditions. This can limit the potential for higher returns.

Average returns

By following an index, investors in passive funds will only achieve average returns, never outperforming the market. By definition, the results are the same as the general market.

Active Management or Passive Management: Which is for Me? Without knowing you, I’d say the latter. Passive management is the most recommended for the vast majority. But here are some more elements to help you decide.

For investors looking for low costs, transparency, and consistent returns: Passive management is often the best option. It’s ideal for those who believe in market efficiency and prefer a more “automatic” approach to investing.

For investors willing to take on higher costs in exchange for the possibility of superior returns: Active management can be attractive. It’s suitable for those who trust the ability of managers to outperform the market and want a personalized and dynamic investment strategy. For the very optimistic, in short.

And you? Are you clear?

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