Fundamental vs. Quantitative Investing: Same Goal, Different Process


You may be investing for retirement, a child’s education or building your portfolio for other dreams. The “why” is personal to every investor, but the “how” can be challenging. With literally thousands of mutual funds and financial products to choose from, it can make your choices difficult. To boost your knowledge, we break down two approaches to managing stock portfolios.

Two Investment Strategies

There are various approaches commonly used to manage stock portfolios. We’re going to take a closer look at two foundational methods that have been around for decades—fundamental and quantitative. 

Fundamental Analysis – Often referred to as “traditional” investing, this approach uses an in-depth analysis of a company’s business, management team and market opportunity to determine a stock’s attractiveness. It relies on investment manager expertise to make informed decisions about which stocks to buy and which to sell.

Quantitative Analysis – Also known as “systematic” or “scientific” investing, this approach uses data-driven analysis to evaluate a broad universe of stocks. It relies on factors identified over time by portfolio managers and academics to build portfolios of stocks with attractive characteristics.


Both of these approaches aim to get clients to the same financial destination—to help reach their goals. The two also attempt to beat a market benchmark. For example, two stock funds—one traditional and one quantitative—might both be managed against the S&P 500® Index (a common U.S. stock market benchmark).

Even though they share the same broad investment goal, the strategies and tools the portfolio managers use in each are different. In a general sense, quantitative/systematic equity money managers view investing as a science, removing emotional biases and buying stocks with specific traits. While fundamental/traditional managers could be said to see investing as more of an art, relying on their judgment and experience.

Breaking Them Down

Fundamental Strategies

  • Uses fundamental insight into a company’s business prospects to determine a stock’s attractiveness.
  • Provides greater depth of analysis on a smaller opportunity set of individual stocks.
  • Looks for compelling individual stock opportunities based on a company’s fundamentals and the portfolio manager’s own experience.

Quantitative Strategies

  • Uses data-driven models to determine a stock’s attractiveness in terms of specific factors. 
  • Provides greater breadth of analysis across a larger opportunity set of stocks.
  • Aims to avoid getting caught up in the emotion of the markets or media attention—looks instead to build a portfolio of stocks with desired exposures. 

Fundamental Strategies

  • Uses fundamental insight into a company’s business prospects to determine a stock’s attractiveness.
  • Provides greater depth of analysis on a smaller opportunity set of individual stocks.
  • Looks for compelling individual stock opportunities based a company’s fundamentals and the portfolio manager’s own experience.

Quantitative Strategies

  • Uses data-driven models to determine a stock’s attractiveness in terms of specific factors. 
  • Provides greater breadth of analysis across a larger opportunity set of stocks.
  • Aims to avoid getting caught up in the emotion of the markets or media attention—looks instead to build a portfolio of stocks with desired exposures. 

Capitalizing on Market Inefficiency

Both traditional and quantitative managers believe that stocks can be and often are mispriced. This means the current price of a stock is out of line with the managers’ estimate of its value, either now or in the future.  

Such mispricing can come from legitimate differences of opinion about a company’s business prospects. Or, it can result from any number of irrational reasons—fear and greed being the most obvious cited for the bubbles and crashes that periodically upset markets.

In addition, investors and academics found that certain types of stocks tended to have specific performance characteristics, and these factors have been identified in numerous studies.* Armed with modern computing power, researchers sought to uncover more and more of these predictable, readily identifiable attributes to find market inefficiencies.

These documented market inefficiencies and the wide availability of financial data spurred the launch of quantitative active strategies in the mid-1980s. The core tenets of quantitative investing are:

  • Behavioral and market inefficiencies create investment opportunities.
  • Capturing these inefficiencies is best done using a multi-factor model. These factors are typically grouped into four broad categories: value, sentiment (sometimes also referred to as momentum), growth and quality.
  • Using multiple factors in stock selection may improve the consistency and predictability of performance.
  • Managing risk and minimizing transaction costs are essential components to delivering active returns to investors.

Contrast this approach with that of traditional/fundamental managers. The core tenets of fundamental investing are:

  • A deep dive into a company’s business, its management team and a host of other considerations determine a company’s future prospects.
  • This analysis of a company’s inner workings and growth trajectory has to be combined with some assessment of the stock’s valuation.

Which is Better–Fundamental or Quantitative?

There is no clear winner. Both approaches seek to outperform a market benchmark—they just take different roads to get there. In our view, it’s not that one is better than the other, but both serve a purpose within a well-diversified portfolio. Rather than set quantitative and fundamental approaches against one another, we believe they are complementary. Quantitative strategies may be seen as a third “style” of equity investing, along with fundamentally-based growth and value disciplines.

To learn more about using either a fundamental or quantitative investment process in your portfolio, please call us. 


*Hoyle, Edward. Factor Investing (academic paper providing historical review of factor investing), December 2019, Man Group Academic Advisory Board, man.com/maninstitute/factor-investing .


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