Benchmarking benchmarks is a bundle of six studies that are inspired by the prevalence of benchmarking in academic finance research as well as in investment practice. Three studies examine if current benchmark asset pricing models adequately describe the cross-section of stock returns. We present a momentum strategy based on residual stock returns that vastly improves upon traditional momentum strategies, evidence that low-volatility stocks earn abnormally high risk-adjusted returns and a critical discussion of the recently proposed “fundamental indexation” approach. Two studies examine whether active asset allocation can add value over a benchmark strategic asset allocation (SAA) portfolio. We empirically find that value and momentum effects do not only exist within, but also across asset classes, and we present a practical framework for dynamic strategic asset allocation based on the business cycle. The final study examines whether benchmark index returns can actually be obtained in reality. We find that passive funds listed in Europe lag their benchmarks by a statistically and economically significant amount of 50-150 basis points per annum, as a result of expenses and dividend taxes. Based on the overall results we hypothesize that the phenomenon of benchmarking itself may lie at the root of some of our key findings and that the challenge is to adapt benchmarks in such a way that desired behavior is better encouraged.

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Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) Prof.dr. D.J.C. van Dijk Prof.dr. M.J.C.M. Verbeek Prof.dr. T.B.M. Steenkamp
W.F.C. Verschoor (Willem) , A.G.Z. Kemna (Angelien)
Erasmus University Rotterdam , Erasmus Research Institute of Management
ERIM Ph.D. Series Research in Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Blitz, D. (2011, March 3). Benchmarking Benchmarks (No. EPS-2011-225-F&A). ERIM Ph.D. Series Research in Management. Retrieved from