How does Vanguard Funds,’ famous for Fred Mertz like trading economy, go about finding the lowest possible costs? The process is detailed in Part Three of Traders Magazine’s Q&A with Vanguard chief investment officer Gus Sauter.
Traders Magazine: Why have you and your company launched this campaign to change what you perceive as an overpriced market structure?
Gus Sauter: I think transaction costs are surprisingly high.
Traders Magazine: You said in an interview that “a large part of indexing is actually being a trader.” Does mean that, as with most traders, you’re using algos and using agency traders like ITG or Instinet. How does it work out for Vanguard?
Gus Sauter: We do most of our trading through agency brokerage. We will use brokers’ algos as well if we think that is appropriate for trading. We monitor the transaction costs on a broker by broker basis.
Traders Magazine: Even index fund managers need the same trading skills as though who are actively managing funds?
Gus Sauter: Yes, it really is important that our portfolio managers understand how to trade, how to execute, how to find the right strategies and venues. Should it be an algo or something they are using a dark pool.
Traders Magazine: Higher than most investors think?
Gus Sauter: Yes, a lot of people don’t realize how much money you could spend on transactions if you’re not careful. In other words, we trade hundreds of billions of dollars a year. If you lose , just a half a percent, you’re losing a billion dollars.
Traders Magazine: The implication of what you’re saying is the industry, especially in good times, is incredibly sloppy. Is it because it is other people’s money?
Gus Sauter: Yea, hard for me to tell you. Historically, people have never had respect for the magnitude of transaction costs. They really felt they provided so much alpha in their actively managed funds that they really didn’t have to worry about transaction costs.
Traders Magazine: Not over the past decade…
Gus Sauter: Yes, in a lower return environment people really recognize how much costs are. And they are devoting more time to how they trade.