Tag Archives: structuring

The Year of Reconciliation, Part I

Last year was a very difficult year in terms of investment management; very rarely will I speak in extremes, but 2011 could have been the most challenging year ever. There was, and still is, a confluence of factors too divergent to properly quantify. This created an environment of high volatility; so high that tactical strategies had trouble achieving, and subsequently maintaining, investment gains. “Buy and Hold” has its own issues involving behavioral risk.

This industry is marred with contradictions. Our timeframes are too long and, simultaneously, too short. Investors seek to maximize growth and moderate risk. Our focus is divided between the macroeconomic situation and microeconomic considerations, both of which drive portfolio decisions. Returns are benchmarked variably; on an absolute basis or relative basis depending on the particular day and/or perspective. Continue reading

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The Pricing of Risk: Yield Implications

Stop viewing Treasury yields from the perspective of opportunity. For a moment, consider what they imply about the pricing of risk. The concept, “I’m taking on more risk, therefore I need to earn more return” is often misapplied. Perhaps it should be restated as such, “If you take on more risk, in order to justify that additional risk, your return needs be higher to the less risky investment just to be equivalent.” Continue reading

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The Risk of the Unknown: A New Perspective on Equities

The objective of these viewpoints is to question commonly accepted pillars of financial advice. So I took notice when Consuelo Mack interviewed Lubos Pastor, Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago. Pastor recently completed research stating that stocks become more risky over longer investment horizons. His research takes the investor point of view (i.e. forward looking and accounting for uncertainty) rather than a historical (i.e. backward looking) point of view. Furthermore, he suggests that the 7% annualized real return stocks experienced during the last century–based on Jeremy Siegel’s analysis–is uncommonly high with several lucky events bolstering that figure. Pastor’s final pearl of wisdom suggests that human capital should play a significant role in portfolio construction. Continue reading

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A Redefined Landscape Requires An Updated Map

Imagine creating a map 250 million years ago during the supercontinent phase of Pangaea. You are probably long overdue for an update. Similarly, there is a paradigm shift that is taking place among the investment management community. It is evolving slowly and growing out of necessity. Let’s refer to these strategies as “traditional” and “new normal.” I only suggest “new normal” because it is an already popularized phrase used to describe a time period with a new landscape. The difference between portfolio strategy from the traditional perspective and the new normal perspective is constraint; time constraint, weight constraint and, most importantly, mental constraint.

With time constraint, I’m referring to holding periods with long-term philosophies. With weight constraint, I’m referring to maximum mandated percentages of particular holdings or asset classes. What establishes the prior two obstacles is an emphasis on history; an emphasis that constrains the possibility of what a portfolio structure should resemble in the future. If this is a new normal economic period, it stands to reason that portfolio strategy should be redefined as well. Continue reading

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When the tipping point arrives, how will the market react?

With QE2 ending in June, I can’t help but wonder if we are at a tipping point in anticipation of that date. On the one hand, you have Bill Gross, who runs the world’s largest fund—PIMCO Total Return. On the other, you have Jeff Gundlach, whose Doubleline bond fund outperformed all other bond funds in 2010; gathering $4.5 Billion assets in the process. PIMCO has eliminated Treasuries from its holdings in search for better opportunity—and less risk—elsewhere. The question he poses is this: Who will buy Treasuries? If there is no demand, price will decline. Unless of course, supply also declines and there is demand. Gundlach approaches the situation from this angle, “In any kind of deficit cutting exercise, like we are now heading into, stocks are the losers and bonds are the winners.” Continue reading

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The Individual Investor is at a Disadvantage

In the following video, Michael Lewis, author of “The Big Short,” delivers his personal experience with investment management during the financial crisis. He describes the inherent conflict of interest investment banks have because of their dual roles as both client advisors and proprietary traders. Continue reading

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What’s the equation for long-term, consistent returns?

Clients and advisors ask me–all too frequently–“What is a good ETF/Mutual Fund/Stock to invest in?” Generally, these questions are accompanied by some type of buy-and-hold comment indicating these monies are for retirement. Let’s break this question apart in this way: … Continue reading

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Playing by the Rules and Winning the Game

You can distinguish one money manager from another by how well they play the game. In order to determine the winners and losers, you must know the objectives. Here they are: consistent returns, positive returns, and–for the bonus round–outperformance of equity benchmarks at all times. There is no rulebook for this game. Nor was this game shrink-wrapped neatly on the shelf of a Toys-R-Us [sic]. These are the rules imposed by clients. While these requirements do change, the past ten years and the current “new normal” economy have formed these parameters. Continue reading

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On A Long Enough Timeline…

The problem with hedging longevity risk is that it requires a significant time period to play out. Things change during the course of that time. Life expectancies change. Population dynamics change. Knowledge and science changes. To “hedge” for the next 78 years—the current life expectancy in the United States—is not hedging, its speculation. Continue reading

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The Positive Effects of Consistent Returns

What I am about to suggest could very well revolutionize portfolio management. In the current market environment—an environment in which one needs to prepare for both the journey and the destination—portfolio strategy and structuring needs to be addressed from a different perspective. The essence of portfolio strategy, for the time being, is this: allow yourself room for error while outperforming absolute and relative benchmarks. Continue reading

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