“Exploited by Complexity” by Dr. Peter Kelly
Dr. Peter Kelly
Assistant Professor of Finance
University of Notre Dame
Due to their complex features, structured financial products harm the average investor. But, can some investors benefit from this complexity? Using account-level transaction data of retail structured funds, we show that the rich (sophisticated) benefit from complexity at the expense of the poor (naive). The poor-to-rich wealth transfer that results from trading structured funds is substantially greater than the wealth transfer from trading simple, non-structured funds. In an event study, we further confirm that the wealth transfer can be partially attributed to investors’ differing responses to complexity. In particular, when a market crash triggers funds into a restructuring process and their prices are expected to shrink by half on a given day, the poor and naive subset of investors fail to respond effectively.