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The Link Between Behavorial Finance and Golf According to BMO Private Bank

PHOENIX, AZ -- (Marketwire) -- 02/05/13 -- Financial markets and planning are often perplexing to individuals who struggle to make decisions when confronted with many uncertain and unknown variables. How does one decide a path forward when they hear two supposed market experts outlining two very different outcomes for financial markets? Inevitably emotions take over and well intentioned strategies go awry.

Brent Schutte, Market Strategist for BMO Private Bank, offers his thoughts related professional golfers and risks they are willing to take, or not take, depending if it is the first or the final day of a tournament.

Over the past few decades, a field of economics known as Behavioral Finance has taken root. Essentially, the advocates of this field relax the principal assumption of economic models; namely that people react in a rational manner and attempt to maximize their own utility. In other words, "Behavorialists" believe that biases and human emotion play a critical role in the decision making process and can lead to irrational outcomes. One of the foundations for this field was laid in 1979 when Nobel Prize winning professor, Daniel Kahneman and his colleague at Princeton, Amos Tversky, developed Prospect Theory. Their research defined how individuals make decisions under risk and uncertainty. Without delving too deeply into the geeky details, Prospect Theory says that humans make decisions based upon the value of individual gains and losses (reference value) rather than the more important final outcome and that they internalize losses more than gains (loss aversion).

So how does this relate to golf? Recent research has shown that professional golfers are subject to Prospect Theory and loss aversion. In a 2009 study, Professors Devin G. Pope and Maurice E Schweitzer, both then each at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, analyzed putting data from the PGA Tour during the years 2004-2009. Controlling for a number of variables, the authors found that 94 percent of golfers they analyzed made par putts about two to four 4 percent more often than they did birdie putts of a similar distance and difficulty. Birdie putts were left short of the hole, while par putts finished past the hole. The Professors found that golfers were willing to sacrifice success in putting for a birdie (gains) to avoid encoding the loss of missing a par (loss). In other words, golfers view making birdie as less important than missing par, although rationally they should be indifferent between a birdie (-1) and bogey (+1) in aggregate. The golfers that the authors interviewed quipped that gaining a stroke was not as important as just not losing one. Interestingly this phenomenon decreased as the rounds progressed. The authors hypothesized that the reason was their reference point changed from their own performance versus par on Thursday and Friday to the golfer's score who resided at the top (or behind them) on Saturday and Sunday.

For a complete copy of the report and how Prospect Theory came into play in the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open, visit: Current Market Update.

About BMO Private Bank, a part of BMO Financial Group
BMO Private Bank offers a comprehensive range of wealth management services that include investment advisory, trust, banking and financial planning to meet the financial needs of high net worth clients. Through integrated teams of experienced financial professionals, BMO Private Bank helps its clients realize their financial and lifestyle goals with solutions that are custom tailored and delivered with the highest level of personalized service.

BMO Private Bank is a brand name used in the United States by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC. Not all products and services are available in every state and/or location.

BMO and BMO Financial Group are trade names used by Bank of Montreal.

Carey Allen
[email protected]

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