mercredi 5 mai 2010

"Cautiousness and Economy. Institutionalising attitudes towards an uncertain future"

*Communication présentée à la conférence "Finance in Crisis / Finance in Question" du CRESC à l'université de Manchester (UK), les 12-14 avril 2010.

Financial asset managers trade securities on capital markets on behalf of other investors, such as pension funds, insurance companies and individual households, who have given them a discretionary mandate to do so. Investors expect asset managers to make more out of their savings and capital than they would have done themselves. With any asset traded from a speculative point of view, that is in order to profit from a price discrepancy, there is a risk to lose money or to earn less than what could have been gained otherwise. Asset managers thus deliver a risky service.

Unlike other asset managers, multi-managers do not directly buy stocks or other securities. They buy shares of funds run by other asset managers. Therefore, the returns earned by multi-managers face a risk dependant on the outcomes of the underlying managers. As they seek to choose the best managers for future earnings, multi-managers try to estimate which ones are likely to perform the best. Yet, multi- managers do not know in advance what returns they should expect from their investments in underlying funds. They do not know as well which underlying funds they should blend in their funds of funds. In order to circumvent this uncertainty, multi-managers build and use numerous statistical figures, and they try to interpret qualitative information that they obtain from meetings with underlying managers and from other sources.

Using ethnographic data drawn from an internship in an asset management company specialised in multi-management and various interviews with asset managers, multi- managers and other asset management professionals, I study how multi-managers interact with material and immaterial artefacts and how these measurement technologies create a frame that helps people deal with uncertainty. They contribute to the rationalisation and institutionalisation of different attitudes towards the future (such as the most prudent cautiousness or the calculated economy of means).

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