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The appraisal ratio

Investors and financial analysts employ a variety of ratios to assess the performance of their investment portfolios. One such measure, the Appraisal Ratio, plays a crucial role in evaluating the effectiveness of portfolio managers in generating returns beyond a benchmark.

The appraisal ratio is the difference between the actual return of the investment and the return of a benchmark index or a risk-free rate. By factoring in the level of risk associated with an investment, the appraisal ratio offers a more comprehensive assessment of its performance. It is calculated by dividing the excess return of an investment by its risk.


The Appraisal Ratio is a performance metric that assesses a portfolio's returns adjusted for its level of risk, particularly in comparison to a benchmark. The formula for the Appraisal Ratio is as follows:

Appraisal Ratio = Excess Return / Risk


  • Portfolio excess return is the difference between the actual return of the portfolio and the return of a benchmark index or a risk-free rate.

  • Portfolio active risk is the standard deviation or another measure of risk associated with the active management of the portfolio.

In a portfolio context, the formula can be expressed more specifically as:

Appraisal Ratio = Portfolio Return − Benchmark Return / Portfolio Active Risk


  • Portfolio Return is the actual return of the investment portfolio.

  • Benchmark Return is the return of the chosen benchmark or a risk-free rate.

  • Portfolio Active Risk is the standard deviation, or another measure of risk associated with the active management of the portfolio.


The Appraisal Ratio is an essential tool for investors seeking insights into the skill of portfolio managers in generating excess returns relative to a benchmark, considering the level of risk taken.

  • A positive ratio suggests that the portfolio's returns are exceeding the benchmark, providing an indication of skillful management.

  • A negative ratio may indicate that the portfolio's returns do not compensate for the risk taken, possibly signaling the need for adjustments in the investment strategy.

Tracking errors play an important part in calculating and interpreting the appraisal ratio.

  • A low tracking error shows that the portfolio closely tracks the benchmark, indicating that the manager is effectively mirroring the benchmark's performance.

  • While, a high tracking error indicates that the portfolio's returns deviate from the benchmark, implying active management decisions.

High tracking errors lead to increased risk; therefore, it is important to balance the tracking errors and excess returns.

Let's illustrate with an example. Suppose an investment has an actual return of 10%, and the benchmark or risk-free rate is 5%. If the risk (standard deviation) of the investment is 8%, the calculation would be as follows:

Appraisal Ratio = 10% − 5% / 8% = 0.625

Appraisal Ratio= 8% / 10%−5% =0.625

In this example, the positive Appraisal Ratio (0.625) suggests that the investment has generated returns higher than the benchmark or risk-free rate for the level of risk taken.

Determining the best option based solely on the appraisal ratio can be subjective since it depends on an investor's risk appetite and investment goals. It is also crucial to consider other factors and conduct a thorough analysis before making any investment decisions solely based on the appraisal ratio to make a well-informed decision.


While the Appraisal Ratio focuses on risk-adjusted returns, it is essential to distinguish it from other commonly used ratios like the Sharpe Ratio and Information Ratio.

Sharpe Ratio: The Sharpe Ratio also assesses risk-adjusted returns but considers total risk (standard deviation) rather than active risk. The appraisal ratio, on the other hand, is concerned with measuring the risk-adjusted return in relation to a benchmark, therefore, is more tailored to evaluate a manager's skill in active portfolio management.

Information Ratio: The Information Ratio measures the excess return of a portfolio relative to a benchmark per unit of tracking error. While similar to the Appraisal Ratio, the latter incorporates a broader view of risk through active risk.

Treynor Ratio: The Treynor ratio is another performance measure that evaluates the excess return generated by a portfolio relative to the systematic risk, measured by the portfolio's beta.

Jensen's Alpha: Jensen's Alpha, also known as the Jensen Index or Alpha, measures the risk-adjusted performance of a portfolio by comparing the actual excess return to the expected excess return based on the portfolio's beta. It takes into account both the systematic risk exposure and the benchmark's performance.

While each performance measure provides valuable insights into portfolio performance, the Appraisal Ratio stands out as the preferred measure when evaluating active management skills since it provides a comprehensive evaluation by taking into account both risk and return, making it a valuable tool for investors in portfolio analysis.


  1. Identifying Skillful Portfolio Managers: The Appraisal Ratio serves as a key indicator of a portfolio manager's skill in generating excess returns for a given level of risk. Investors can optimize their investment performances by identifying and allocating resources to managers who consistently demonstrate a positive Appraisal Ratio.

  2. Fine-Tuning Asset Allocation: Investors can optimize their portfolios by adjusting asset allocation based on the Appraisal Ratio. Assets contributing positively to the ratio may warrant increased allocation, while those with a negative impact may be reassessed or reallocated.

  3. Benchmark Selection: Careful consideration of the benchmark is paramount. Investors can optimize their use of the Appraisal Ratio by selecting a benchmark that accurately reflects the market segment or asset class relevant to their portfolio. A well-chosen benchmark enhances the meaningfulness of the ratio in evaluating active management performance.

  4. Dynamic Risk Management: Optimization involves a dynamic approach to risk management. Investors can adjust the level of risk in their portfolio based on the Appraisal Ratio trends. If the ratio consistently declines, it may signal the need for a reassessment of risk exposure and potential adjustments to the portfolio.

  5. Periodic Review and Rebalancing: Regular reviews of the Appraisal Ratio provide insights into the changing dynamics of the portfolio. Investors can optimize performance by incorporating a disciplined approach to periodic reviews and rebalancing strategies, ensuring alignment with investment goals and risk tolerance.

In conclusion, the Appraisal Ratio provides investors with a valuable tool to evaluate the effectiveness of portfolio management. By assessing risk-adjusted returns, investors can make informed decisions, optimize their portfolios, and align their investment strategies with their financial goals.


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