Connect with us

Hedge Funds, Smart Beta and Volatility Timing are Magically Delicious

Michael Maduell, President of the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute

Michael Maduell, President of the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute

The first three months of 2016 has startled institutional investors and the asset management community. Many name brand hedge funds posted lackluster returns, thus giving less credibility to the name “absolute return”. Billionaire Ken Griffin’s Citadel posted a negative 8% return in its main hedge fund from the start of 2016 through March 11, 2016. A major contributor to Citadel’s recent performance losses were in the company’s Surveyor Capital group, which focuses on a global equity, long/short multi-manager strategy. Surveyor Capital has around 200 employees. In February, Citadel let go around fifteen members of its investment staff, including Jon Venetos who lead Surveyor. Did CalPERS make the right decision to leave hedge funds alone?

Smart Beta Herd

As institutional investors start to feel a bit icky from hedge funds, a number of fee-conscious asset owners float toward smart beta or factor-based strategies. These rules-based strategies often use factors such as volatility, momentum, dividends and other non-market cap measures. Investment experts warn about the crowing effect on factors. Having a herd mentality in smart beta can be dangerous and lead to investment disappointment. The ideal moment to enter a smart beta strategy is contested, but some see when a factor begins to trend higher with a market rally an opportune time to jump in versus buying late into the factor performance cycle. Asset managers are also cashing in on smart beta such as WisdomTree, State Street Global Advisors and BlackRock. BlackRock witnessed US$ 152 billion in new assets flowing to mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in 2015. Not only institutional investors are driving the use of smart beta ETFs, but so called robo-advisors. This could lead to significant excesses in factor strategies.

Yale Professors Investigate Volatility Timing

This leads to my third bit, timing volatility which is a key element of market timing (aka make money). A research study conducted by Yale assistant professors of Finance Alan Moreira and Tyler Muir, called “Volatility Managed Portfolios” discovered that taking less risk when market volatility is high, can result in large positive alphas and boost Sharpe ratios by substantial amounts. The study finds that short-term and long-term investors can benefit from volatility timing and the returns would have a material impact on performance. Some parts of the study are quite obvious, portfolios that cashed out of equities before the global financial crash of 2008 and that came back after volatility dropped post-crisis, made substantial bits of money. Yes, some sovereign funds timed this quite well.

The views in this article are expressed by Michael Maduell.
Michael Maduell is President of the SWFI.

CIC Sells 10% Logicor Stake to Blackstone Fund

The China Investment Corporation (CIC) is selling a 10% stake of in European warehouse firm Logicor Ltd to a real estate fund managed by The Blackstone Group. Furthermore, CIC also hired Blackstone to oversee and manage Logicor’s warehouses and logistic properties portfolio.[ Content protected for Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute Standard subscribers only. Please subscribe to view content. ]

Continue Reading

Fintech Affirm Raises $200 Million in Series E Led By Singapore’s GIC

Affirm Inc., a financial technology firm which provides instant loans to consumers as an alternative to credit cards for their online shopping, has raised US$ 200 million in a Series E round lead by Singapore’s GIC Private Limited, with participation from Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Spark Capital, Caffeinated Capital, and Ribbit Capital. The new infusion of capital brings the San Francisco-based company’s total funding to US$ 450 million and a reported valuation of US$ 2 billion.

The company is founded by Max Levchin, a co-founder of PayPal (part of the PayPal mafia, dubbed by the tech press). Max Levchin is also an advisory board member of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFSB) in the United States.

[ Content protected for Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute Standard subscribers only. Please subscribe to view content. ]

Continue Reading

CHANGE: Saudi Arabia to Re-Open Movie Theaters, PIF Inks MoU with AMC

The Saudi Arabian government is ending its 35-year ban on cinemas. Next year, the government will allow cinemas to open. This watershed moment provides opportunities for entertainment companies to invest in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding region.

[ Content protected for Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute Standard subscribers only. Please subscribe to view content. ]

Continue Reading


© 2008-2017 Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute. All Rights Reserved. Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute ® and SWFI® are registered trademarks of the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute. Other third-party content, logos and trademarks are owned by their perspective entities and used for informational purposes only. No affiliation or endorsement, express or implied, is provided by their use. All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws. Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms of use agreement which includes our privacy policy. Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI) is a global organization designed to study sovereign wealth funds, pensions, endowments, superannuation funds, family offices, central banks and other long-term institutional investors in the areas of investing, asset allocation, risk, governance, economics, policy, trade and other relevant issues. SWFI facilitates sovereign fund, pension, endowment, superannuation fund and central bank events around the world. SWFI is a minority-owned organization.