Different investments accounted for $13 trillion in property beneath administration (AUM) in 2021, practically twice what it was 2015. By 2026, that determine is predicted to achieve greater than $23 trillion, in line with Preqin analysis. Growth instances are right here for enterprise capitalists, non-public fairness (PE), and hedge fund managers.
Though 2022 hasn’t been type to enterprise capital, amongst different options, some fund managers are faring higher than others. Why? As a result of they will finesse their investments’ valuations. PE funds haven’t any every day mark-to-market accounting, to allow them to clean losses out throughout a number of quarters.
The ingenuity of this follow is that though they’ve comparable danger publicity PE returns seem uncorrelated to equities. On paper, every little thing appears to be like nice.
Correlations are the hallmark of different investments. Producing uncorrelated returns in a yr when the normal 60/40 equity-bond portfolio has posted double digit losses is a fast strategy to seize investor curiosity and capital. Nonetheless, correlations are like icebergs floating within the sea, there’s a lot hiding beneath the floor.
So simply what are the pitfalls of utilizing correlations to decide on various methods?
The Different Champions
To search out out, we chosen seven well-known methods from the hedge fund universe which have attracted billions from capital allocators. Our information is sourced from HFRX, which has every day returns going again to 2003. This practically 20-year interval covers a number of market cycles when various methods ought to have demonstrated their worth by offering diversification advantages.
We calculated these hedge fund methods’ correlations to conventional asset courses. Three of those methods — fairness hedge, merger arbitrage, and event-driven — have S&P 500 correlations in extra of 0.5. It wouldn’t make a lot sense so as to add these to an fairness portfolio given their comparable danger profiles.
Nonetheless, three methods demonstrated low inventory market correlations with out excessive correlations to US investment-grade bonds. This means they might supply some worth for buyers.
Hedge Fund Methods: Correlations to Shares and Bonds, 2003 to 2022
Quantifying Diversification’s Advantages
When introduced with a spread of different methods, a capital allocator ought to choose these with the bottom correlations to shares and bonds since they reveal the best diversification potential.
To check this speculation, we sorted the seven hedge fund methods by their common correlations to shares and bonds and ran simulations that added a 20% allocation to every technique to a 60/40 equity-bond portfolio after which rebalanced on a quarterly foundation.
Opposite to expectations, including another allocation didn’t enhance the Sharpe ratios for the 2003 to 2022 interval.
What’s much more uncommon is that there doesn’t appear to be any relationship among the many correlations. For instance, merger arbitrage had a better common correlation to shares and bonds than fairness market impartial. But including the latter to a standard portfolio didn’t result in a considerably increased Sharpe ratio.
60/40 Portfolio Plus 20% Different Allocation: Sharpe Ratios, 2003 to 2022
We subsequent calculated the utmost drawdowns for all of the portfolios. These all occurred throughout the world monetary disaster (GFC) in 2009. Each shares and bonds fell, very similar to they’ve this yr.
Our equity-bond portfolio plunged 35%, whereas our diversified portfolios all declined between 31% and 39%. Such danger discount is just not notably spectacular.
However as with our earlier Sharpe ratio evaluation, the utmost drawdowns didn’t fall additional when extra diversifying various methods had been added.
We’d count on a linear relationship between lowering correlations and drawdowns, at the least till correlations attain zero. In the event that they develop into too destructive, as with a tail danger technique, then diversification advantages deteriorate once more. We’re anticipating an sad smile, however nobody is smiling.
So, are correlations failing buyers of their efforts to determine helpful various methods?
60/40 Portfolio Plus 20% Different Allocation: Max Drawdowns, 2003 to 2022
Truthful Climate Correlations
One partial clarification for our outcomes is that correlations are deceiving. Even when they’re near zero on common, there nonetheless could also be durations of excessive correlation. Sadly, correlations usually spike precisely when buyers require uncorrelated returns.
Take merger arbitrage for example. The technique is usually uncorrelated to equities, however when inventory markets crash, mergers crumble. A portfolio with lengthy positions in acquirable corporations and quick positions in buying companies will be constructed beta-neutral. However that doesn’t negate financial cycle danger, which can be inherent in shares.
All our seven various methods misplaced cash throughout the world monetary disaster between 2008 and 2009. Convertible arbitrage misplaced much more than equities. That’s fairly an accomplishment because the S&P 500 declined by 53%.
Hedge Fund Technique Efficiency throughout the International Monetary Disaster (GFC), 2008 and 2009
Why else have options failed to enhance Sharpe ratios and scale back drawdowns? As a result of, frankly, they’re horrible at getting cash. They could generate enticing returns earlier than charges, however their web returns for buyers have been poor over the past 19 years.
The S&P 500 produced a CAGR of 9.5% for the 2003 to 2022 interval, however that isn’t the correct benchmark for hedge fund methods. Beating bonds is a extra affordable purpose, and solely merger arbitrage achieved it. And that technique is just too strongly correlated to equities to supply a lot in the best way of diversification.
Inflation was roughly 2% for this era, so CAGRs under that suggest destructive actual returns. Inflation is way increased as we speak, so the goalposts for these methods have moved a lot additional away.
Hedge Fund Technique Efficiency: CAGRS and Correlations, 2003 to 2022
Correlations alone should not sufficient to determine various methods. A extra nuanced method is required. Particularly, buyers ought to measure correlations when shares are falling. It will weed out merger arbitrage and different methods which have inherent financial danger.
If calculated accurately, this could reveal that almost all non-public asset courses — PE, VC, and actual property — present the identical danger. They subsequently supply restricted diversification advantages. We’d like higher instruments to measure the diversification potential of different methods.
In fact, this doesn’t change the underlying problem: Many methods not generate constructive returns. The common fairness market impartial fund, for instance, misplaced 0.4% per yr since 2003.
The case for uncorrelated destructive returns is just not a robust one.
For those who preferred this publish, don’t overlook to subscribe to Enterprising Investor.
All posts are the opinion of the writer. As such, they shouldn’t be construed as funding recommendation, nor do the opinions expressed essentially mirror the views of CFA Institute or the writer’s employer.
Picture credit score: ©Getty Pictures / maybefalse
Skilled Studying for CFA Institute Members
CFA Institute members are empowered to self-determine and self-report skilled studying (PL) credit earned, together with content material on Enterprising Investor. Members can report credit simply utilizing their on-line PL tracker.