I recently wrote an article for Institutional Investor magazine (www.iimagazine.com) called "Capturing the Benefits of Risk-Adjusted Return." It was a plea to put down the mental calculator. You can read the article here.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Hedge funds throw away half of their potential returns by not explicitly calculating risk-adjusted return. After working for a fund and having numerous conversations with hedge and mutual fund managers over the past decade, it is obvious that an overwhelming majority of funds’ mistakes come from poor estimation of risk-reward.
In fact, most funds have not explicitly defined an upside price target, downside risk target and conviction level for each investment in their portfolio. This is because most fund managers trust that they can manage the portfolio in their head. They analyze and discuss the upside, downside and conviction level for every investment so they assume these factors’ influence is carefully measured into every decision. But I would posit that there is a distinct difference between factoring in upside, downside and conviction level through mental calculation and measuring it with risk-adjusted return.
Why would you trust your mental calculator for such an important decision? Could you imagine a bungee jumper that knows the height of a bridge, tension of the bungee cord and weight of the jumper but just estimates the correct length of the bungee cord? Absolutely not. For every jump, a calculation is performed to make sure that easily avoidable risk is eliminated. Investors all too often skip the “bungee cord” calculation of risk-adjusted return and end up assuming undue risk.