#52 - Jason Hsu - “This is a Market Where the Average Human Tendencies Are Precisely the Wrong Thing to Do"

54 minutes

In Episode 52, we welcome Jason Hsu, joining us all the way from Taipei. We start with a bit of background on Jason and his company, Rayliant, which is a spinoff off Research Affiliates. Listeners might recognize the name Research Affiliates, as it was co-founded with another Meb Faber Show guest, Rob Arnott. Rob and Jason decided to spin off Rayliant to enable Jason to focus on his investing passion, China.

As the conversation naturally led to China, Meb decides to run with it. He brings up how a prior Meb Faber Show guest (Steve Sjuggerud) is incredibly bullish on China. Meb asks Jason for a “boots on the ground” perspective. Does Jason agree with Steve’s bullishness?

In short, absolutely. Jason has two hypotheses as he evaluates China: One, as China continues moving toward, and eventually becomes, the world’s largest economy, investors will realize they’re underexposed to this market. Given this, there will be major rebalancing into Chinese equities; Two, Jason tells us that approximately 80-90% of Chinese daily trade flow comes from retail investors (here in the U.S. this percentage is significantly lower). This means more market inefficiencies, so the probability for “alpha” for managers is greater. Both these factors make China a market that should be on investors’ radars.

The China discussion dovetails into investor sentiment on China, and how emotionally-driven we are, which typically ends in underperformance. This leads Meb to ask pointedly, why are people so bad at investing?

Jason gives us his thoughts, which tend to reduce to “flow chases short-term performance.” He goes on to say how oftentimes, investors get crushed as they buy in at the peak of a style or asset class cycle.

Meb asks how investors should combat this. Jason has a classic response: “Whatever you think is a good idea… do the opposite and you’re going to be more successful.” The reason this tends to work is because “This is a market where the average human tendencies are precisely the wrong thing to do.”

This prompts Meb to bring up a study idea he wants a listener to undertake for him regarding historical news headlines and investor sentiment. Listen for the details. Anyone up for the project?

The guys stay on the topic of behavioral challenges, with Meb pointing toward one of Jason’s papers about how investors prefer complexity to simplicity. It’s a fascinating look into our wiring as humans and why investing is such a challenge for us.

Next, the guys move on to smart beta and factor investing. Meb asks Jason to provide an overview, and any main takeaways for investors implementing smart beta strategies.

Jason gives us his thoughts, including revealing his personal favorite factor: value. This leads the guys into a discussion of Warren Buffett and his true alpha being his ability to stick to his style and not abandon it at precisely the wrong time, as most of us do. The guys then discuss manager performance and underperformance, and the tendency to always be chasing.

There’s far more in this episode: Meb’s “forever fund” idea (which most people he’s discussed it with actually hate)… Why hedge fund lockups and opaqueness can actually be a good thing… The unique “values” which Jason created for Rayliant, and how they’re so different than those of most other money managers… Jason’s most memorable trade… And lastly, his final takeaway for listeners looking for better market performance.

What is it? Find out in Episode 52.

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