Tributes To Jack Bogle (1929-2019)Advisor Perspectives
We’ve collected the following tributes to Jack Bogle from among the authors who contribute to Advisor Perspectives and other prominent individuals in the investment industry.
Rob Arnott, chairman, Research Affiliates, Newport Beach, CA
Has anyone in the past century disrupted the world of investing (and perhaps finance more broadly) more than Jack Bogle? I think not. Sure, Bill Sharpe, Harry Markowitz, John Burr Williams, Warren Buffett and his mentor Ben Graham, have all had lasting impact. But, Jack begat the retail index fund industry, asset management through a mutual company owned by its customers, fee wars (he was hardly the first to play that game, but he played it with gusto), and the list goes on. Even though he was a vocal critic of ETFs, and of our own idea of the Fundamental Index, neither would likely exist today without the astonishing prior successes of cap-weighted indexing. He was inspiration for my decision to launch Research Affiliates; a few months before launching the company, I had dinner with him to pick his brain. He started the Vanguard Group at age 46; I started Research Affiliates at age 47. He urged me to proceed, with the counsel: “Until you try it, you cannot know how much fun you’ll have!”
Sure, we differed on smart beta and fundamental indexing. But, it was always with mutual fondness and respect. He was a curmudgeon and an occasional scold, whom we could all love for his pithy insights and for his demand that we all look to “do the right thing.” He truly put clients first. Obviously, he became rich. But, he did well by doing good – far too rare in the world of finance. His customers benefited from his efforts scores of times more than he did. He was one of my heroes. I will miss him very much.
Ted Aronson, founder and CEO, AJO, Philadelphia, PA
I was a FOJ – friend of Jack! – for well over 40 years. I adored the man – his wit, charm, intelligence, energy, drive, generosity (time and treasure), books and articles.
Jack will be remembered for the above, for decades to come. But what will be remembered for the rest of time is what he did for global securities markets. Jack democratized capital market returns. Plain and simple.
Cliff Asness, founder and CEO, AQR Capital Management, Greenwich, CT, reprinted from Barron’s with permission from the author
Though we knew it was imminent, the day we lost Jack, nevertheless, still felt shocking. While perhaps unlikely, given our age and investing style differences (everyone knows an indexer and a quant active manager can’t be friends, right?) we had become quite close over the years. He was such a force for good, and had such vitality, it’s difficult to imagine the world without him. He was one of the last heroes and one of the last old school gentlemen. And up to the very last he was working! He was writing his business memoir (and a history of Vanguard) and commenting widely and, of course, honestly and bravely, on the burning investing issues of the day. Put simply, no single person has ever done more for investors while asking less for himself. Nobody comes within a mile. We won’t see his like again.
Bill Bernstein, neurologist and financial theorist, Portland, OR
Few things stir the memory as does emptying out a house. It can move you to tears and arouse wonder, and it can also make you count your blessings, as happened to me a decade ago as I was paging through a stack of correspondence long since forgotten. As my wife and I were downsizing a decade ago, one letter hit me with a jolt: a two-page, single-spaced missive from Jack Bogle written in the early 1990s in response to what I suspect was a crotchety letter asking why Vanguard wasn’t offering a fund in this or that asset class.
At the time, I had not yet begun to write about finance and was just one among a million or two Vanguard shareholders. This is who Jack was: he cared: He cared enough to forego an enormous fortune and bequeath ownership of Vanguard to its fund shareholders; he cared enough to tirelessly crusade against the soulless rapacity of the financial services industry; he cared enough to greet by name thousands of Vanguard employees and eat his lunches with them in the company cafeteria, and he cared enough to hit the phone banks when call volume spiked. And he also cared enough to pen a polite and thoughtful letter to Vanguard customer #1,500,000 or so.
Jack’s influence was a stone tossed into the global financial pond. At its center were his family and the lucky few who worked closely with him at Vanguard; further out were the movers and shakers of finance and government who labored to reform the industry; further out still were those like myself who were inspired by his example and, if lucky enough, benefited from the odd email, snippet of face time, and generous encouragement. (One relatively small but influential group, of which I’m proud to be a member, the Bogleheads, meets annually near the Vanguard campus in Valley Forge and devotes itself to the dissemination of common-sense finance expertise. A nicer and more well-informed group of folks you won’t meet, not an accident considering Jack’s philosophy and character.)
Further out were the 20 million Vanguard customers worldwide whose financial lives Jack helped assure. His ambit rippled even beyond that; if you own a low-cost mutual fund from Schwab or ETF from State Street – thank Jack. If you own a zero cost one from Fidelity, an organization that mainly enriches a family of plutocrats, and which got dragged kicking and screaming into the era of passive investing – you can thank Jack as well. And you can do the same if you’re a beneficiary of a traditional defined-benefit pension plan, whose costs have been slashed by the cut-throat competition Jack introduced into that playground.
With apologies to William Shakespeare, the good Jack did will not be interred with his bones, but will cascade down generations.
Michael Edesess, author, professor and financial advisor, Hong Kong
Jack Bogle may be most remembered as the creator of commercially viable index funds. That will be unfortunate, because it is only a small fraction of his contributions. Bogle was a towering figure, who was often called Saint Jack. As businessmen go, that appellation hits the mark well. He was the very model of a successful businessman, one whom everybody can admire for reasons far beyond his creation of index funds. He, more than any other corporate leader, put the customer first. He was successful for that very reason. Perceiving, correctly, that investors in mutual funds only lost by paying fees, he lowered those fees to a bare minimum by creating low-cost index funds and eliminating conflicts of interests with outside shareholders, then offering low-cost actively-managed funds as well.
Bogle, furthermore, was a beacon of light to emulate an honestly and rightly severe critic of his own industry – yet with good humor, without being cantankerous. He was a paradigm of someone who pursued business as it should be pursued, for a public purpose, rather than for greed. He created Vanguard as a model corporate culture. My chief experience of it was as a Vanguard client, but the experience was far better than with any other corporation. Call answerers sound natural rather than like robots, who – because they are not trusted – have been trained to mouth pablum phrases. When they put you on hold you get blessed silence (a much-desired feature, from my viewpoint), not blaring music or pitches for more services.
To a course of study in business – Bogle should become as Einstein is to a course of study in physics – the almost-godly inspiration for all that (let us fervently hope) would come later.
Harold Evensky, professor and advisor, Evensky & Katz, Foldes Financial, Lubbock, TX
It’s difficult to find any one or two examples of Jack’s influence on my practice and how he benefited my clients as his influence transcended individual issues. Certainly the list would include: expenses matter, time in the market, not market timing; impulse is bad, patience is a virtue; and simple is smart. However, his most important influence for me was simply his rock solid passion for the best interest of his clients and the investing public. Early in my career when I first met Jack, he treated me, a neophyte and unknown practitioner, with grace and kindness. What amazing and wonderful man.
Rick Ferri, author and founder and CEO, Portfolio Solutions, LLC., Detroit, MI
I had been a stockbroker for eight years by the time 1996 rolled around. I was frustrated, angry, depressed, and disappointed. I was a Marine Corps Officer, prior to joining Wall Street. We had integrity, honor, and most importantly – trust. Nothing came close to those virtues working on Wall Street. Integrity was a marketing term, honor was an unknown, and trust came with a wink.
I had studied hard, worked hard, and believed somewhere there was a win-win-win between me, my clients, and the firm. I earned a CFA charter, read every investment book I could get my hands on, and was taking courses toward a Master of Science in Finance degree to find the answer. It didn’t happen. There was no ‘win-win-win’. There was a win for the shareholders of the brokerage firm and a win for me through a commission cut, but no win for the clients.
I took a long, hard look at leaving the industry, and then, in October 1996, I read a book titled: Bogle on Mutual Funds. It was my epiphany. The ‘Aha!’ moment that changed my life.
I learned from Jack that I was not alone in my struggle. There were many people who had enough with the way Wall Street worked and were doing something about it. He talked about a new path, one of honor, integrity and trust – words I understood. I left the brokerage industry and followed Jack into his world.
Now that Jack is gone, the army of followers he gathered must continue with his mission. I intend to do my part and others will too. I will not be easy, but we will press on, regardless!
Robert Huebscher, founder and CEO, Advisor Perspectives, Lexington, MA
I had the privilege of reading the other tributes that appear here before I wrote mine. I will not repeat what others have said so eloquently, except to say that I agree with every word that was written.
I will comment on one aspect of Jack’s career that, perhaps, has not been sufficiently highlighted. He continued to make valuable contributions and to be intellectually engaged, well after he left his day-to-day position at Vanguard. Indeed, judging from Jason Zweig’s tribute, he was at his desk until shortly before his death. It is rare to find someone with the intellectual stamina and drive to pursue their profession so late in life. But working on behalf of investors was his passion, he wasn’t willing to give it up.
His achievements truly spanned his lifetime and for that he should be a role model for all of us.
Burton Malkiel, professor emeritus, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Jack Bogle was a loyal Princeton graduate, who supported his University with both financial and intellectual contributions. Others will surely comment about these many contributions. The one I know best concerns his founding support of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. Jack saw the Center as the embodiment of his moral conviction, that the purpose of life was to help make life better for others rather than to seek personal gain for oneself.
The now-long-established success of the Pace Center, together with the new program of Bogle Fellows in Civic Service (established by Jack’s son and daughter-in-law in his honor), means that Jack’s commitment to service is well known in the Princeton community. What may be less known is how his undergraduate experience shaped his entire business career.
The way I like to tell the story to Princeton audiences is as follows. Some time ago – at a sister institution in New Haven, Connecticut – an undergraduate economics concentrator named Fred Smith wrote a thesis about the way packages were being delivered in the United States. Smith argued that the U.S. Postal Service was run inefficiently and that a competing private delivery service was badly needed. The thesis was given a grade of C and was described as being totally impractical. Smith then went on to found Federal Express, on the basis recommended in the thesis.
At Princeton, a young economics student named Jack Bogle wrote his thesis on the mutual fund industry. He described the distribution system as antiquated and the fees that were being charged to ordinary investors as unconscionably excessive. He documented that the net returns being earned by investors were wholly inadequate and suggested that a new kind of mutual fund company was badly needed. I could not find the grade Jack Bogle received, but it must have been a superior one since he graduated with high honors, and the senior thesis represented at least half of his final standing in the department.
Jack went on to establish the Vanguard Group, along the lines outlined in that prescient senior thesis. Vanguard today is a $5 trillion enterprise and the most consumer-friendly financial institution in the world. Because of Jack’s vision and moral commitments, Vanguard investors have saved billions of dollars in fees and have been able to achieve better financial security and a more comfortable retirement. Warren Buffett has rightly described Jack Bogle as the best friend the ordinary investor has ever had.
Read the full article here by Ted Aronson, Larry Siegel and Robert Huebscher – Advisor Perspectives