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A Guide to Active vs. Passive Strategies

Apr 11, 2024 | Daniel Lattimer, Investments

Let’s talk about the choice between active and passive investment strategies.

It’s a tale as old as time (well, not really, but it’s been around for a while), and it’s more relevant today than ever. Why? Because the world’s been throwing us some curveballs, and how we choose to invest today can make all the difference.

Navigating these waters requires more than just strategy—it requires insight into the market’s past, present, and future.

Let’s discuss the nuances of active and passive investing, guided by historical market performance, investor psychology, and the undulating landscape of the S&P 500’s top stocks.

The Humble Index Fund

“Almost every investor would benefit from utilizing the humble index fund.”

This principle, though simple, encapsulates a profound truth, especially when viewed through the lens of historical performance. The Barclays equity gilt study sheds light on this, revealing that shares have outperformed cash deposits in over 76% of five-year periods since 1899.

What does that tell us?

It doesn’t just showcase the resilience of the stock market, it underscores the power of patience and long-term investment strategies.

Economic downturns are like bad weather—they don’t last forever. If you’re in it for the long haul patience can work in your favour. The market has a knack for bouncing back.

The Challenge of Active Investing

Active investing, with its siren call of outperforming the market, appeals to the innate desire for achievement in all of us. Yet, the stark reality is that consistently picking winning stocks is an endeavour fraught with challenges. The vast majority of funds aiming to beat the market ultimately do not achieve their goal, highlighting the immense difficulty of making a series of correct investment decisions over time.

The Top S&P 500 Stocks Over the Decades

To truly understand the stock market’s dynamic nature and the shifts in industry leadership over time, let’s examine the top S&P 500 stocks by market capitalization across various years:

2024: Tech giants lead the charge, with Meta Platforms, Microsoft, and Alphabet at the forefront.

  1. Meta Platforms Inc. (META)
  2. Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)
  3. Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL)
  4. Inc. (AMZN)
  5. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Class B (BRK.B)

 2019: A similar story, but with Facebook and Apple jostling for position.

  1. Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)
  2. Apple Inc. (AAPL)
  3. Inc. (AMZN)
  4. Alphabet Inc. Class C (GOOG)
  5. Facebook Inc. Class A (FB)

2014 – 1999: We see a shift from Exxon Mobil and General Electric dominating, to a world where IBM and AT&T were the big dogs.

  1. Apple Inc. (AAPL)
  2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM)
  3. Google Inc. Class A (GOOGL)
  4. Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)
  5. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Class B (BRK.B)


  1. Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM)
  2. Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)
  3. General Electric Company (GE)
  4. Procter & Gamble Company (PG)
  5. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)


  1. Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM)
  2. General Electric Company (GE)
  3. Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)
  4. Citigroup Inc. (C)
  5. Pfizer Inc. (PFE)


  1. Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)
  2. General Electric Company (GE)
  3. Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM)
  4. Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO)
  5. Intel Corporation (INTC)


  1. General Electric Company (GE)
  2. Exxon Corporation (XON)
  3. Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK)
  4. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT)
  5. IBM (IBM)


  1. IBM (IBM)
  2. General Electric Company (GE)
  3. Exxon Corporation (XON)
  4. AT&T Inc. (T)
  5. Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK)

The market is always changing. Industries rise and fall, and today’s underdog could be tomorrow’s leader.

The transition from traditional industries to technology and digital innovation marks a significant shift in investment strategies and underscores the importance of adaptability in achieving long-term investment success.

Long-term Goals Amidst Volatility

Let’s face it, the recent cost of living crisis and market swings can be enough to make anyone’s head spin. This underscores the importance of focusing on long-term investment goals.

Volatility, while unsettling, is an inherent part of the investment landscape. The key to navigating these challenges lies in a disciplined approach, emphasizing the importance of staying invested, leveraging the benefits of indexing, and maintaining a long-term perspective.

What’s important is understanding which path aligns with your investment goals.

At SJB Global, we are committed to guiding our clients through this landscape, offering insights and strategies that align with their long-term financial aspirations.

Whether facing economic uncertainties or changing dynamics of the market, the principles of patience, adaptability, and a focus on long-term investment goals remain our guiding stars.

Written by: Daniel Lattimer – Independent Financial Adviser

This communication is for informational purposes only based on our understanding of current legislation and practices which are subject to change and are not intended to constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice, investment recommendations or investment research. You should seek advice from a professional adviser before embarking on any financial planning activity. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this communication is correct, we are not responsible for any errors or omissions.

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Schedule an Obligation-free Call With an Adviser

By scheduling an appointment with an adviser they will reach out to you at your requested time. 
Personal advice, whenever it suits you.

SJB Global