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Episode 114
Featuring Mike Green
Demetri Kofinas speaks with investor Mike Green about the substance of his conversations with regulators and industry stakeholders concerning the growth of passive investing and the clear and present danger that he feels these strategies pose to the stability and viability of global capital markets.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with investor Mike Green. Mike Green most recently served as the discretionary portfolio manager for Thiel Macro, LLC, an investment firm that manages the personal capital of Peter Thiel. He's been a student of markets, and market structure in particular, for nearly 30 years. His research into and analysis of the shift from actively managed portfolios and investment funds to systematic passive investment strategies has been presented to the Federal Reserve, the BIS, the IMF and numerous other industry groups and associations. His intention has been to alert regulators to the clear and present danger that he feels these strategies pose to the stability and viability of global capital markets.

It is important to note that while the post-2008 period has seen a flourishing of more complex, behavioral approaches to economics that reject notions of equilibrium and mean-reversion, there has simultaneously been a doubling down among investors on passive strategies that see markets as stochastically predictable, efficient, and always mean-reverting. These approaches do not incorporate new information like price data or value metrics in their transaction functions. Most importantly, they do not incorporate the impact of their own buying or selling behavior. Indeed, according to Mike Green, “the incentive of these target funds, from a regulatory and lobbying standpoint, is to demonstrate that they don’t exist.” 

The forces of automation driven by our diminishingly available brain space, along with the need for generating higher yield seem to have overwhelmed investors’ understandings about how the world actually works. This imperative to deliver yield above what the market can bear on a reasonably, risk-reward basis, combined with the cognitive overload that investors and clients are experiencing in their daily lives may be leading us down a path of self-destruction.

This unease is captured in what Mike Green calls "the uncanny valley," a term most closely associated with the robotics design space. It is used to describe the aesthetic confusion one feels while encountering an android whose human resemblance is noticeably disturbing. Similarly, in markets today, many of us know that something is wrong but can't quite put our finger on what it is. Indeed, some of the best active managers in the business have given up trying to figure it out.

The purpose of today’s episode is to help shed light on the source of this unease and to set the foundation for the second part of our conversation, which has been made available to Patreon Audiophile, Autodidact, and Super Nerd subscribers. In the overtime, Demetri drills into the specifics of Mike’s thesis regarding the implications of passive investment strategies that have ballooned in popularity over the last 25 years making up forty-seven and twenty-seven percent respectively of assets under management in equities and bond funds at the end of 2018 – up from less than five percent in 1995. Mike also shares information about how he and his partners are managing their clients’ portfolios in order to mitigate the risks posed by these structural changes, as well as how they’ve sought to monetize the opportunities that these same flows represent.  

You can access the second part of today’s conversation, along with the transcript and rundown through the Hidden Forces Patreon Page. All subscribers are granted access to our overtime feed, which can be easily added to your favorite podcast application.

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Subscribe & Support the Podcast at http://patreon.com/hiddenforces

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Michael Green has been a student of markets for nearly 30 years with a particular focus on market structure.  His work on the impact of the growth of passive investing has been presented to the Federal Reserve, the BIS, the IMF and numerous industry groups.  Most recently he was a discretionary Portfolio Manager for Thiel Macro, LLC, the private office of Peter Thiel.  Prior to joining Thiel, he was Founder and Chief Investment Officer at Ice Farm Advisors, a discretionary macro fund seeded by Soros Fund Management. Prior to founding Ice Farm Advisors in 2014, Mr. Green was a Managing Director and Portfolio Manager at Canyon Capital Advisors LLC where he founded the New York office, growing it to over $2B in AUM.  Mr. Green holds a CFA designation and received a B.S. from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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Morbi interdum mollis sapien. Sed ac risus. Phasellus lacinia, magna a ullamcorper laoreet, lectus arcu pulvinar risus, vitae facilisis libero dolor a purus. Sed vel lacus. Mauris nibh felis, adipiscing varius, adipiscing in, lacinia vel, tellus. Suspendisse ac urna. Etiam pellentesque mauris ut lectus. Nunc tellus ante, mattis eget, gravida vitae, ultricies ac, leo. Integer leo pede, ornare a, lacinia eu, vulputate vel, nisl.

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