Keeping multi-asset solutions on track

In an evolving world of tighter monetary policy, increased volatility and moderating growth it is crucial to engineer solutions that can go the distance.

japanese bullet train

In 1829 Robert Stephenson revolutionised the steam locomotive when he invented Rocket. By bringing together several innovations, it became the most advanced locomotive of its time. It captured the public’s imagination and demonstrated the potential of the railway. Nearly 200 years later we have the Japanese Maglev, almost more science fiction than locomotive, it travels along a guideway of magnets allowing for a faster and smoother journey than conventional trains. With an incredible top speed of 375mph it is a far cry from Rocket’s top speed of 30mph.

Significant developments have also occurred in multi-asset investing – albeit over a much shorter time horizon. Take the advent of volatility-managed solutions, for example, which, over the last ten years, has signalled a change in approach. Unlike their predecessors they do not look to outperform a peer-group. Instead, risk is the primary objective and for a given level of risk they look to maximise returns.

However, with the threat of tighter monetary policy, increased volatility and moderating growth, it is reasonable to ask: How will these newer solutions fare?

2018 served as a reminder that global synchronised growth and buoyant asset prices, underpinned by central bank policy, cannot last for ever. To deal with the changing market conditions our multi-asset approach is based on three key tenets: a strong framework, dynamic management and smart componentry.

Strong framework: A globally diverse starting point to align to client risk profiles

Rather than following the crowd by outsourcing our asset allocation framework to a peer-group benchmark or a third-party provider, we design it in-house.  Our starting point is a global asset allocation model, which is not only based on expected return and volatility, but on factors such tail risk, growth and inflation. This gives us a thorough understanding of the driving factors of risk and return.

From there, we divide assets into three simple categories to create effective diversification and enhance risk-adjusted returns. These are: Growth, Defensive and Uncorrelated.

Growth

Growth assets have the potential to drive each portfolio's capital growth. Typical assets include equity as well as riskier forms of fixed income.

Defensive

Aims to protect the value of your investments and manage risks. This includes cash, government bonds and lower risk corporate bonds.

Uncorrelated

Have the potential to perform in all conditions or with low correlation to traditional asset classes. This includes absolute return funds.

Dynamic management: Adapting to market conditions and proactively managing risk

Once a strong framework has been established, we can then look to add tactical asset allocations, where compelling opportunities arise. Market conditions continually evolve, and rebalancing in a considered and adaptable way is sensible – particularly when compared to arbitrary monthly or quarterly schedules. This is especially pertinent when volatility is heightened, given the more fertile environment it creates for active asset allocators. 

At the hub of our tactical views is our Asset Allocation Committee. This forum brings together the expertise of over 50 multi-asset experts, as well as key representatives of the investment strategy team and investment professionals. Based on qualitative and quantitative research, we collectively form our views on different regions and asset classes.

Smart componentry: Cost effectively selecting underlying assets 

Regardless of the prevailing environment, implementing ideas in a cost-effective manner is key. One crucial decision is the choice between active and passive strategies. It is a debate which is usually couched as binary. However, we believe a blend of both strategies works well. 

For example, we prefer to take a passive approach when allocating to large-cap US and Japanese equities. These markets are highly informationally efficient and liquid, making it incredibly difficult for an active fund manager to outperform.

Yet, we firmly believe that in markets that are not overcrowded and can be accessed at reasonable cost, skilled fund managers can materially improve outcomes for investors. Moreover, asset classes such as emerging market small-cap equities offer attractive expected returns but at additional risk to the more vanilla equity markets. Therefore, it makes sense to be more selective in terms of which companies you should hold.

Keeping on track

By following our three key tenets – strong framework, dynamic management and smart componentry – we aim to offer investors a solution designed and engineered to withstand the impact of a changing market environment.

Key risks

Investment risk

The value of an investment and any income from it can go down as well as up and can fluctuate in response to changes in currency exchange rates. Investors may not get back the original amount invested.

Important Information

This commentary is not an investment recommendation and should not be viewed as such. Except where stated as otherwise, the source of all information is Aviva Investors as at 28 March 2019. Unless stated otherwise any opinions expressed are those of Aviva Investors. They should not be viewed as indicating any guarantee of return from an investment managed by Aviva Investors nor as advice of any nature.

Portfolio holdings are subject to change at any time without notice and information about specific securities should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any securities.

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