Free | Global Macro & Strategy

Portfolio implementation matters more than you might think

Efficient portfolio implementation is sometimes overlooked as a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than something that adds value to the investment process. This attitude is far less viable today given recent market volatility and product rationalisation, which have made the ability to implement timely portfolio changes essential for investors.

The market downturn in March prompted many of us to reassess our investment strategies. We tried to understand where the pockets of risk were in our portfolios and identify opportunities presented by the market dislocation. Most of the key platforms in the market recorded a significant increase in portfolio changes during this period as managers of managed portfolios repositioned their allocations, taking into account their revised view of the world.

This shift in the way we viewed the world resulted in changes to the overall asset allocation positioning of portfolios, as well as changes to underlying investments. Lonsec was no different. From an asset allocation perspective, we increased our exposure to risk assets such as equities and identified a window of opportunity to gain exposure to assets that in our view were mispriced by the market, such as parts of the credit markets.

An example of this was the syndicated loan and high yield market, which experienced a significant blowout in credit spreads as the market priced in a significant uptick in defaults in these assets. We believe the market over-anticipated a rise in defaults and that a pricing opportunity presented itself. Lonsec acted on this view by adding the Bentham Syndicated Loan Fund to the Lonsec Multi-Asset portfolio in late May. We have subsequently reduced our allocation to the fund given the strong return the fund has generated as we have seen credit spreads narrow.

The addition of Bentham offers an excellent example of how timely implementation affects return. As at 30 November 2020, Bentham added 7.38% for the five months since the fund was added to the portfolios. If implementation was delayed by a month, the return would have been only 5.70%, and if a two-month implementation delay was experienced, the return would have been even less, at 3.52%.

A one- or two-month implementation delay is not uncommon outside of a managed account structure, where advisers may be following a model portfolio and having to issue ROAs to clients to implement changes.

Efficient implementation can also be additive where a product issuer decides to close a product. Such occurrences can be difficult to predict, but there are times when the risk of a product being wound up increases, particularly where a fund may be in significant outflow.

A recent example has been the winding up of the CFM IS Diversified Trust. The trust was held in the Lonsec Multi-Asset portfolios before being removed earlier in the year. The rationale to remove the trust was primarily driven by the inconsistent nature of fund returns and a recognition of the challenges faced by systematic risk premia strategies, which generally struggled to perform in a market distorted by central bank policy.

Recently, the product issuer made the decision to wind up the trust. In contrast to a traditional model portfolio approach, whereby investors may still be invested in the trust because the portfolio change has not yet been implemented, the managed account structure ensured that—in the case of Lonsec’s Multi-Asset portfolios—all clients invested in the managed portfolio were exited from the trust.

There are numerous ways to measure value. We believe that one of the key value propositions of managed accounts is the ability to implement portfolio changes in a timely manner, allowing investors to capture portfolio exposure as intended by the model manager. We believe that platform technology will continue to evolve to allow model managers to increasingly finesse portfolio implementation with a view of adding value to end clients.

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