Demystifying the Role of Alternative Investments in a Diversified Investment Portfolio - Dec. 2011
Demystifying the Role of Alternative Investments in a Diversified Investment Portfolio By Baird’s Advisory Services Research Introduction Alternative investments, which have been used by large institutions and endowments for quite some time, have become more mainstream in recent years. Not only are they more popular among individual investors, but there are also more products available, making investing in alternatives possible for a much broader universe of investors. Given their non-traditional approach and their Traditional Investments ability to invest in areas and ways traditional investments cannot, they have the Domestic Equity potential to improve the overall risk-return characteristics of a portfolio. As such, International Equity a modest allocation to alternatives may be prudent for more investors than Taxable Fixed Income Tax-Exempt Fixed Income previously was the case. However, the non-traditional approach and structure of Satellite Asset Classes* these investments bring with them unique risks of which investors must be aware. Cash Alternatives Defined Alternative Investments Alternative investments utilize a different approach to investing than do traditional Private Equity equity or fixed income investments. This approach may involve holding both long Fund of Hedge Funds and short positions in securities and holding private securities instead of publicly Managed Futures Special Situation Mutual Funds traded investments, and there may be derivatives or hedging strategies as well. Structured Products Investors using alternatives may also have a goal of achieving a particular level of Exchange Funds absolute return as opposed to relative performance versus an index.* atelliteAssetClassesincludeCommodities, S Alternative investments have the potential to enhance the risk and/or return GlobalRealEstate,HighYieldFixedIncome, andEmergingMarketsEquity characteristics of an investment portfolio. Given their low correlation to traditional investments, they can potentially enhance diversification and reduce risk; with their ability to be more flexible and invest in a wider opportunity set, they can potentially enhance return; and they can be used to hedge certain portfolio exposures, thereby reducing concentration risk.
As a result of the different investment higher-net-worth individuals with more approach, alternative investments have investment experience (often referred different risks and characteristics than to as accredited or qualified investors) do traditional investments. They are at high minimums and often has often less liquid, particularly in periods liquidity restrictions. of stress; they are generally more Fund of hedge funds. A managed complex and less transparent, making portfolio of investments that uses them difficult for untrained investors to advanced investment strategies such as understand; they are more susceptible leveraged, long, short and derivative to investment manager failure; and they positions in both domestic and can have a complicated tax profile. international markets with the goal The successful implementation of of generating strong returns either in an alternative investment strategy an absolute sense or over a specified relies largely on investment manager market benchmark. They are generally experience and skill due to the broad available only to higher-net-worth range of investment opportunities. individuals with more investment This is in contrast to managers experience at high minimums and often specializing in specific asset classes such have liquidity restrictions. as commodities, real estate, emerging Managed futures. An investmentMultiple Manager Approach markets equity and high-yield fixed strategy that seeks to participate inMany of these alternative income. These non-traditional, or medium- to long-term trends in globalinvestments are available in a satellite, asset classes provide portfolio futures markets. Strategies includemulti-manager structure, such diversification due to low correlation the use of stock index, interest rate,as a fund of funds. A multi- with traditional asset classes, but like currency, energy and commodity futures.manager approach brings traditional investments, performancediversification, which can be Most managed futures traders are is primarily driven by asset class systematic in nature, meaning they applyparticularly beneficial in a space exposure as well as manager skill. sophisticated computer models designedwhere manager skill is paramount.So, while the multiple-manager to invest in a disciplined, unemotional Types of Alternativesstructure may bring with it fashion. Managed futures are relativelyadditional fees, the diversification Below we highlight several types of tax-inefficient and are thus best utilizedbenefits may outweigh the added alternative investments. However, in a qualified account structure.cost, particularly in uncertain or new approaches are constantly being Special situation mutual funds.volatile markets. developed, and this list is meant to Funds in which the managers are not be more illustrative than exhaustive. constrained by traditional portfolio Private equity. An investment strategy management methods. They have that seeks to participate in the growth varying approaches, ranging from of private companies through long- absolute return, long/short equity, term investments in private securities broad mandate or “go-anywhere” funds, globally. Private equity is an illiquid and hedge fund-like strategies. Many of asset class that offers the potential for these funds also have a total return or greater long-term capital appreciation absolute return objective. They provide and diversification away from the public access to non-traditional investment markets. It is generally available only to approaches while still providing investors -2-
with daily liquidity at reasonable without triggering a taxable event.investment minimums. (The cost and availability may vary.)Structured products. Hybrid Benefits of Alternative Investmentsinvestments that combine thecharacteristics of two or more asset Despite unique risks and considerations,classes in order to provide unique alternative investments can be usefulbenefits to the investor. They are tools to improve the risk-returndesigned with traditional fixed income characteristics of an investment portfolio.features, such as a set maturity date, and They can increase diversification andcan have principal protection, yet their reduce volatility, given low correlationsreturn is generally derived from to more traditional investments; theythe performance of an underlying asset can offer the potential for enhancedclass such as equity or fixed income returns due to the wider investmentindices, equity baskets or individual opportunity set; and they can hedgeequities, commodities or currencies. certain portfolio exposures, thereby reducing concentration risk.Exchange funds. Special purposefunds that may allow holders of Graph 1 illustrates a sample Markowitzconcentrated positions, often efficient frontier, representing allaccompanied by a low cost basis, the portfolios with the lowest risk (asability to diversify by exchanging their measured by volatility) for a givenstock for shares of a diversified fund level of return, or conversely all portfolios with the highest return for a given level of risk.1GRAPH 1:Markowitz Efficient FrontierExpected Return Traditional and Alternative Investments Traditional Investments Only Expected VolatilityForillustrativepurposesonly,notdrawntoscale.1 Harry Markowitz was an economist renowned for his research on Modern Portfolio Theory. He received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1990 for his work in this area. -3-
The inclusion of alternative investments can move the efficient frontier up and to the left, so for a given level of return, risk is lower, or for a given level of risk, return is higher. Diversification. While alternative investments on their own may have higher volatility than more traditional investments, particularly fixed income, they typically have low correlations to more traditional asset classes. As such, their inclusion in an investment portfolio tends to result in lower overall volatility (Graph 2). GRAPH 2: Correlation with SP 500 Index* Standard Deviation** 12% 5 years ending 6/30/2010 as of 6/30/2010 1.0 1.0 0.9 0.9 11% .5 10%Value Axis 0 -0.1 -0.1 9% -0.2 -.5 Equity Fixed Alt. Mutual Private Hedge Managed 8% Income Funds Equity Funds Futures 5 Years 10 Years 20 Years 60 Equity/40 Fixed Income/0 Alternative Portfolio 50 Equity/30 Fixed Income/20 Alternative Portfolio *AssetClassesrepresentedbyvariousindices,definedonpage6. ** ypotheticalportfoliosrepresentedbySP500(equity),BarclaysCapitalUSAggregateBond(fixedincome)andHFRIFundsWeightedComposite H Index(alternatives).Additionalstandarddeviationdataavailableonpage7. Return. Because they have a wider universe in which to invest (public and private) and do not have some of the same investment constraints (can short and hedge), alternative investments have the potential for higher performance than traditional investments (Graph 3). GRAPH 3: Return* 10% as of 6/30/2010 8% 6% 4% 2% 0% 5 Years 10 Years 20 Years 60 Equity/40 Fixed Income/0 Alternative Portfolio 50 Equity/30 Fixed Income/20 Alternative Portfolio * ypotheticalportfoliosrepresentedbySP500(equity),BarclaysCapitalUSAggregateBond(fixedincome) H andHFRIFundsWeightedCompositeIndex(alternatives). Pastperformanceisnotaguaranteeoffutureperformance.Additionalreturndataavailableonpage7. -4-
Hedge. There can be circumstances in which an investor has a concentrated position in a single stock and is unwilling or unable to sell in order to diversify the portfolio due to, for example, sizable tax consequences associated with selling a security with a low cost basis or restrictions from selling based on his or her role at a public company. In these cases, using alternative investments to hedge the exposure can reduce overall portfolio risk. Risks of Alternative InvestmentsBenefits There are several risks associated with alternative investments above and beyond theDiversificationReturn typical risks associated with traditional investments.Hedge • Higher fees. Alternative investments can have higher fees. For example, fees can include an annual management fee (1–2%) and an additional incentive feeRisks (10–20%). Fund of funds may also charge yet another management fee. WhileFees higher than traditional investments, these fees may or may not be justified whenComplexity comparing returns net of fees.Transparency • More complicated. Alternative managers may invest in a wide variety ofLiquidityTax Consequences investments, including derivatives, and utilize short selling. UnderstandingPotential Not to Perform as Expected complicated investment strategies requires more upfront and ongoing due diligence. • Less transparent. There can be limited transparency into the underlying holdings of these investments. Additionally, many manager evaluation tools are not as well suited for alternative investments, making a manager’s investment ability more difficult to assess. Also, some alternative investments are largely unregulated. • Less liquid. Limited partnerships may hold illiquid investments and as such restrict an investor’s ability to redeem money. For example, managed futures only offer monthly liquidity, many funds of hedge funds do not allow redemptions in the first year and only annual or quarterly thereafter, and private equity may not allow redemptions for seven or more years. The underlying investments used in an alternative investment strategy may also be exposed to a significant lack of liquidity in stressful trading environments. • Less tax-friendly. Most alternative investment strategies have little to no focus on minimizing taxes. Also, those whose legal structure is a partnership issue a K-1 statement rather than a 1099. • May disappoint in strong up markets. Investments that seek to generate an absolute return often use short selling strategies, and as such tend to lag long only strategies in strong up markets, which may discourage some investors. • May not diversify risk in extreme down markets. In periods of dislocation, the correlations of many types of investments, including alternatives, may increase significantly, as was the case in the extreme down market of 2008. • Credit risk. For some structured products, notes in particular, principal protection guarantees are limited to the credit worthiness of the issuer. Often clients and their financial advisors come to the conclusion that the benefits of alternatives warrant the added risk. -5-
Incorporating Alternatives into PortfoliosWe believe there are two main considerations to keep in mind when incorporatingalternatives into an investment strategy.1. Conservative approach. By definition, alternative investments use a non- traditional approach to investing. Additionally, performance is largely dependent on manager skill, unlike traditional investments, in which much of the performance is driven by asset class exposure. Therefore, it is prudent to take a conservative approach, opting for those strategies with a proven track record and stable investment team and process. With new products being offered regularly in this fast-growing space, it is wise to exercise caution, having a bias toward offerings with demonstrated success, as opposed to “paper” portfolios or back- tested track records.2. Appropriate allocation. Generally allocating 10–20% of a portfolio to alternative investments is most appropriate, although the allocation can be higher in unique situations. This is a large enough allocation to be impactful in terms of enhancing returns or helping to reduce risk, without being so large that it dominates the overall portfolio. Typically alternatives can be funded proportionately from the equity and fixed income portions of an investment portfolio. For example, in a portfolio consisting of 60% equity and 40% fixed income, to add a 20% allocation to alternative investments, 12% could come from traditional equity (includes satellite asset classes) and 8% from traditional fixed income.ConclusionWhen used appropriately, alternative investments can potentially enhance the overallrisk-return profile of an investment portfolio. There are unique benefits but alsounique risks associated with these non-traditional investment strategies, and as suchit is paramount that investors be comfortable with alternatives when incorporatingthem into their investment strategy. Therefore, it is important to discuss alternativeswith your Financial Advisor to determine the suitability of incorporating them intoyour existing investment approach, as each individual’s circumstances are unique. -6-
DefinitionsCorrelation: the extent to which the values of different types of investments move intandem with one another in response to changing economic and market conditions.Standard Deviation: a gauge of risk that measures the spread of the difference ofreturns from their average. The more a portfolio’s returns vary from its average, thehigher the standard deviation. It is important to note that higher than averagereturns affect the standard deviation just as lower than average returns.Standard Deviation and Returns 5 Years 10 Years 20 Years as of 6/30/2010 Return Std Dev Return Std Dev Return Std Dev Equity -0.9% 17.7% -1.0% 17.8% 8.2% 16.4% Fixed Income 5.5% 3.5% 6.3% 3.6% 7.0% 4.1% Alternatives 5.1% 9.1% 6.4% 8.3% 12.2% 8.8% 60/40 Portfolio 2.0% 10.6% 2.3% 10.4% 8.0% 9.9% 50/30/20 Portfolio 2.5% 10.4% 3.0% 10.1% 8.9% 9.7%Asset Class Index ProxiesEquity: SP 500 Index – a representative sample of 500 leading companies inleading industries of the U.S. economy; considered a large-cap index.Fixed Income: Barclays Capital US Aggregate Bond Index – comprised ofapproximately 6,000 publicly traded bonds, including U.S. Government, mortgage-backed, corporate, and Yankee bonds with an average maturity of approximately10 years.Alternative Mutual Funds: Style-specific universe of mutual funds categorized asLong-Short by Morningstar, which included 335 funds as of October 31, 2010,but only 55 for the trailing five-year period.Private Equity: Cambridge Associates Private Equity Index – based on data compiledfrom 823 U.S. private equity funds, including fully liquidated partnerships, formedbetween 1986 and 2009. Returns are net of fees, expenses and carried interest.Hedge Funds: HFRI Funds Weighted Composite Index – designed to reflect hedgefund industry performance by constructing equally weighted composites ofconstituent funds, as reported by the hedge fund managers listed within HFRDatabase; encompasses more than 2000 funds.Managed Futures: SP 500 Diversified Trends Indicator – composed of 14 sectors,equally divided between physical commodities and financial futures. -7-