Impact of Size on Mutual Fund Performance

Vital Information for Doctors to Consider

[By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; FACFAS, MBA, CMP™]

[By Professor Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™]dave-and-hope3

The actual size of a mutual or index fund, in terms of amount of assets, and the growth rate of a fund are the two aspects of size to consider. The impact of size on mutual fund performance varies—it can be negative, neutral, or positive. Size affects different types of funds differently; it also affects the manager’s ability to achieve objectives. Monitor size changes and make investment decisions accordingly.

Economies of Scale

A relatively large amount of assets available to a portfolio manager presents various economies. The costs at most funds (e.g., expense ratios) are reduced as a percentage of net asset value as the fund grows. Expense ratios can have a major impact on performance. In addition to being an effect of size, low fees can cause size changes. Funds do at times waive some fees to attract assets.

Asset Base

A larger asset base provides more liquidity to a fund. With more assets, the manager can buy more shares and more stocks. Transaction costs are reduced if higher trading volumes are achieved. A larger asset base also can reduce relative tax costs. Realized but undistributed capital gain can be spread over more shares at the time of year-end distribution. A larger asset base and manager success attracts higher-caliber managers to the management team.


Fund Growth

Growth of fund assets impairs certain funds more than others. Generally, bond funds are less affected by asset growth and size than equity funds. Growth may have a positive impact on bond funds because buying bonds of similar characteristics further diversifies credit, event, and other risks. Equity funds that invest in larger capitalization stocks can be less affected than funds buying less liquid small-cap stocks. (This is so because funds usually limit their investments in a single company, i.e., many funds will not buy more than 5% of a specific company. Five percent of a small company uses up less cash than 5% of a large company. Therefore, a small-cap fund is more likely to exhaust its choice of available companies sooner than a large-cap fund. A large-cap fund could increase its investment to a 5% level, whereas a small-cap fund may already be fully invested in the companies the manager likes to own.)

Growth Rate

The rate of growth can affect performance. Rapid growth may mean that a large portion of the portfolio remains un-invested. A rapidly growing growth-type equity fund with a high percentage of cash earns lower returns in a rising market than a fully invested fund. With rapid growth, the fund may not provide pure exposure to the desired asset class. At a certain point, however, fund asset growth impairs the manager’s ability to achieve objectives. For this reason, funds often close to new investors or to new investment once they have reached a certain size. Growth affects managers in many ways. Many fund managers or teams of managers direct a number of funds and possibly even private accounts. As the fund grows, managers are spread thin and may have difficulty in reacting quickly or efficiently to changing market conditions. Managers may need to hire assistant portfolio managers or delegate work to analysts or other employees. As a result, the manager manages people, administration, or internal quality control systems rather than studying companies or investment strategies. Also, a manager may become complacent in periods of rapid asset growth. Such growth can mean their own compensation is substantially greater, which may in turn change the manager’s motivation. Rapid growth often changes a fund because there are not enough opportunities to invest in the targeted securities. For example, a fund can change from aggressive to conservative, small cap to large cap. Managers may have to slow trading or increase liquidity in the portfolio to prevent this occurrence.

Meaningful Positions Difficult

Rapid growth or a large asset base can prevent managers from taking meaningful positions in market sectors they believe will outperform others. Smaller funds are more flexible and may take advantage of opportunities or liquidate unwanted positions faster than larger funds. A large fund that owns a significant position will negatively affect a security’s market price if it unloads shares all at one time. Rapid growth also impairs research of funds, affecting an investor’s choice of funds. A fund with outstanding performance over the past 5 years and a $150 million asset base may be much different when its base grows to $1 billion; at that point, it may no longer be the “right choice” for an investor.

insurance-book9Asset Declinations

Just as rapid asset growth affects performance, a rapid decline of fund assets also may impact performance. Significant quantities of redemptions over short periods force managers to liquidate security positions, often at the wrong time (i.e., they would rather be buying in a declining market than selling to accommodate redemptions). To prevent this scenario, some funds have redemption charges to discourage investors from such short-term decisions. Such environments can negatively impact bond funds as easily as equity funds. Large redemptions compound the effect of declining fund net asset values.

What a Doctor-Investor Can Do?

What can physician-investors do to avoid negative effects on investment? Avoid overloading a portfolio with hot, rapidly growing funds, if possible. Generally, size should be a neutral factor for most bond funds. Small and/or aggressive equity funds can be affected by growth, however. Emphasize funds that promise to close to new investors after assets reach a certain size. Once a fund becomes large, monitor it closely for problems caused by the growth. If there is a better, smaller fund, it may be wise to change. Also, closed-end funds are always a possibility. These funds have a major advantage in that their asset base is a factor of growth in security values, not new investment (unless the fund makes a secondary stock offering). Closed-end managers work with a finite portfolio, which reduces the problem of sudden asset growth.


To the extent that a lack of SEC and FINRA over-sight, and the recent financial, insurance and banking meltdown has affected the above; such investing is left up to the doctor’s discretion and personal situation.  When it comes to the financial services product sales industry; always remember “caveat emptor” or “buyer-beware.”

Disclaimer: Both contributors are former licensed insurance agents and financial advisors.


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NCHIT’s Bob Kolodner to Retire

National Co-ordinator of Heath IT Exits

By Staff Reportersstk166610rke

According to Government Health IT [HIMSS publication] and Paul McCloskey, Dr. Robert Kolodner, National Coordinator of Heath IT [NCHIT], said he would retire from federal service after a 30-year career during which he led the effort to build a working foundation for national health information sharing.

Enter David Blumenthal, MD

Kolodner will retire once his successor, Dr. David Blumenthal, was ready to take over the office. He will explore a range of opportunities for working in health IT after leaving government.




And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated? What do you think of the Kolodner era and legacy? Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, be sure to subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.


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