The Plan's investments, and in particular its equity investments, have materially underperformed its benchmarks over the last three years.
Although diversified across various investment approaches and styles, the Plan is purposefully biased toward those styles which are willing to sacrifice some returns in up markets to provide more protection in down markets. This bias leads us towards equities which exhibit value, quality, smaller size and lower volatility characteristics, which academic and empirical market research continually demonstrate outperform relative to alternative portfolio choices over the long term. As we noted earlier, these are not the styles that the market rewarded in 2021 or the two years prior.
We do not know what the future will hold, but we do believe it is prudent to maintain our investment discipline. This discipline helps us look past short-term volatility and market anomalies to focus on optimizing the long-term financial outcomes of our members.