Information Ratio (IR) Definition, Formula, vs. Sharpe Ratio


The information ratio (IR) is a crucial tool for evaluating a portfolio manager’s skill in generating returns beyond a benchmark while considering volatility. This article delves into the essence of the information ratio, its calculation, implications, and comparisons with other metrics. Discover how the IR aids investors in assessing consistent performance and making informed investment decisions.

Understanding the information ratio (IR)

The information ratio (IR) serves as a powerful metric to gauge the proficiency of portfolio managers. It measures the excess returns of a portfolio compared to a designated benchmark, often an index, while accounting for the volatility of those returns. This assessment reveals a manager’s ability to consistently outperform a benchmark while managing risk.

Key components of the IR

The IR hinges on two key components: portfolio returns and tracking error. Portfolio returns represent the gains or losses generated by a portfolio during a specific period. Tracking error, on the other hand, quantifies the consistency with which a portfolio’s performance mirrors that of an index. Lower tracking errors indicate consistent outperformance, while higher tracking errors signify greater volatility.

Calculating the information ratio

To calculate the IR, subtract the total portfolio return from the total benchmark return for a given period. Divide this difference by the tracking error, which can be found by calculating the standard deviation of the variance between portfolio and index returns. This standardized approach allows for the comparison of various funds regardless of their inherent differences.

Deciphering the implications

An elevated information ratio signals a portfolio manager’s prowess in consistently exceeding a benchmark. This metric aids investors in selecting suitable funds based on their risk profiles. However, it’s important to remember that past performance doesn’t guarantee future outcomes. The IR aids in assessing if a portfolio is consistently surpassing a benchmark index fund.

Comparing IR and sharpe ratio

While both the information ratio and the Sharpe ratio evaluate risk-adjusted returns, they differ in their focus. The IR measures risk-adjusted return relative to a specific benchmark, while the Sharpe ratio contrasts an asset’s return against a risk-free rate. The IR’s emphasis on benchmark comparison makes it particularly useful for evaluating index funds.

Limitations and considerations

Interpreting the IR can vary among investors due to differing risk tolerances, goals, and financial situations. Comparing funds against a benchmark can be challenging due to varying asset allocations and investment entry points. To make well-informed decisions, investors should complement the IR with other ratios and financial metrics.

Putting it into practice

An illustrative example showcases the IR’s relevance. Consider Fund Manager A with a 13% annualized return and 8% tracking error, and Fund Manager B with an 8% return and 4.5% tracking error. Despite lower returns, Fund Manager B boasts a higher IR due to its lower tracking error, signifying more consistent performance relative to the benchmark.


Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.


  • Assesses portfolio manager skill
  • Evaluates consistent outperformance
  • Guides fund selection based on risk


  • Past performance isn’t indicative of future results
  • Comparing against benchmarks has limitations
  • Doesn’t account for changing market conditions

Frequently asked questions

What is the key purpose of the information ratio (IR)?

The Information Ratio (IR) is primarily used to assess the ability of portfolio managers to consistently generate excess returns compared to a designated benchmark, while accounting for the volatility of those returns.

How does the information ratio differ from other performance metrics?

Unlike traditional return metrics, the Information Ratio takes into account both returns and risk by evaluating the excess returns in relation to the tracking error. This makes it a valuable metric for measuring risk-adjusted performance.

Can the information ratio be used for different types of investments?

Yes, the Information Ratio can be applied to various types of investments, including mutual funds, ETFs, and other portfolios. It is particularly useful for assessing the performance of active managers who aim to outperform a benchmark.

How is the tracking error calculated in the information ratio?

The tracking error is calculated as the standard deviation of the variance between the portfolio returns and the benchmark returns. This measurement quantifies the consistency of a portfolio’s performance relative to the benchmark.

Is a higher information ratio always better?

A higher Information Ratio suggests that a portfolio manager is consistently outperforming the benchmark. However, it’s important to consider other factors such as market conditions, investment strategy, and risk tolerance before solely relying on the IR to make investment decisions.

Can the information ratio predict future performance?

No, the Information Ratio, like any historical performance metric, cannot guarantee future results. While a high IR may indicate a manager’s skill, various external factors can impact future performance.

Are there any drawbacks to using the information ratio?

Yes, the Information Ratio has limitations. It relies on accurate and consistent benchmark data, and comparing funds against a benchmark may not capture all aspects of a portfolio’s strategy. Additionally, it doesn’t account for changing market conditions that could impact performance.

Key takeaways

  • The information ratio (IR) gauges portfolio managers’ ability to outperform a benchmark while considering volatility.
  • IR calculation involves subtracting portfolio return from benchmark return and dividing by tracking error.
  • High IR suggests consistent outperformance; however, other factors must be considered.
  • IR’s benchmark focus makes it valuable for assessing index fund performance.
  • Complement IR with other metrics for comprehensive investment decisions.
View Article Sources
  1. An information ratio-based goodness-of-fit test for copula models on censored data – PubMed
  2. Ratio Study Information Sheet – Department of Revenue Washington State
  3. Interest Coverage Ratio, Formula, and Examples – SuperMoney
  4. Sharpe Ratio: A Guide to Measuring Risk-Adjusted Returns – SuperMoney