Reverse Asset Allocation: Alternatives At The Core
By P. Brett HammondINTRODUCTION
Institutional investors have shown an increasing interest in alternative asset classes—including private equity, venture capital, real estate, commodities, hedge funds, and others—due to their strong performance and low correlations with traditional assets. In addition, diminished expectations for returns from traditional assets have made alternative assets even more attractive. The inclusion of alternatives in formal asset allocation models, however, can make these models highly sensitive to small changes in a portfolio’s allocations. Moreover, because most alternatives do not have long track records, some institutions may be unsure how to predict the risk/return behavior of these investments in a traditional asset allocation model. A new approach—“reverse asset allocation”—addresses these challenges by taking into account the special characteristics of alternative assets. Unlike traditional asset allocation, which, to produce the bulk of overall return, puts equities at the core of the portfolio and then, to limit risk and improve efficiency, adds bonds plus alternatives, reverse asset allocation does the opposite. It begins by finding the expected return from a desired allocation to a core group of alternative assets, and then adds bonds and equities as the completion elements, to achieve the overall desired portfolio characteristics. The rationale for reversing the usual approach is based on the notion that alternatives offer an opportunity to obtain asset-based return alpha with low correlation to traditional asset classes while limiting risk.