I think the article is a hard sell, especially to this crowd (a finance forum). First of all, the person writing the op-ed is chairman and CEO of an investment fund company. Of course he wants you to believe that managed funds are better. Huge red flag that the piece is likely to be biased.
Then, there is some blatantly misleading information in the piece. When he says that indexes "provide no cushion against down markets," this is absolutely false. There are bond indexes and plenty of other indexes that are less volatile than a 100% equity index like the S&P500. Yes, he was initially speaking about the S&P500 index, but when he makes the statement about volatility, he is speaking about indexes in general, and does not limit his statement to only all-equity indexes.
Then, there is this statement:
An investor who was smart enough to have put $10,000 in the first S&P 500 index fund 40 years ago would have more than a half million dollars today. That said, someone who invested the same amount with the best five active funds from American Funds (The Growth Fund of America, AMCAP, Washington Mutual Investors Fund, The Investment Company of America and American Mutual Fund) would have achieved more wealth.
Okay...how much more? Is it actually a significant amount, or is it like, $5? Again, speaks to bias on the part of the author.
Basically, I don't trust the source, and although the conclusion is sound (we need to talk about how to save and invest to retire), the article reads as just pushing the author's agenda (buy my funds!).