Managing risk or volatility

richardwinward Jan 21st, 2019

Over the past few years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of funds shifting their investment strategy away from the ‘traditional’ structure we’re accustomed to. The traditional structure sees funds providing their returns by holding a percentage of their assets in equities, or shares, within a set of predefined parameters, or sectors. More recently we have seen a trend towards an investment strategy that instead focuses on providing returns within a specified volatility target.

This marginal shift comes at a time when we appear to be reaching the end of the longest ever rally of US equity markets (known as a Bull Run) following almost a decade of sustained economic growth. The timing of this shift poses the question of whether fund managers are beginning to think about how to best structure their funds in order to provide future risk-adjusted growth, which might mean having to hold assets outside of the previously prescribed limits.

The benefit of the ‘traditional’ type of fund structure is that by providing a set of fixed parameters, we as advisers can utilise a number of funds to construct a portfolio with both an appropriate level of equity exposure, and consequently risk. This structure also makes it simple to compare how each of the funds within the relevant sectors performs against its peers, who are also constrained by the same equity parameters.

The key difference with the this asset-type approach compared to funds that are managed with a specified volatility target is that the equity constraints are replaced by objectives to manage returns within specified volatility parameters. In simple terms, the fund manager can structure the asset allocation, and consequently the equity content of the fund, as they see fit with the aim of providing an appropriate level of return to the given volatility target of the fund.

We are about to witness such a change with the Prudential Dynamic Portfolio Fund Range. From the 21st January 2019, the Prudential funds will move away from their current asset-type constraints and instead be managed within a specified level of volatility.

As James previously set out in his blog entitled 'Fudge and Caramel', risk and volatility are not the same thing. Consequently, it will be interesting to see what impact this move will have on asset-allocation and the ability to manage underlying risk.