Alternative Investments have doubled as a share of global asset markets since 2003.
They have moved from 6% or $4.8 trillion of the global investment universe in 2003 to over $13.4 trillion, or 12% of the global investment universe in 2018.
CAIA Association members expect alternatives to grow to between 18% and 24% of the global investible universe by 2025.
Further growth is expected, based on the combination of very low interest rates, the shortfall in superannuation accounts to meet future retirement obligations, the maturing of emerging markets, and structural shifts in capital formation e.g. companies are remaining private for longer.
Private equity and venture capital are expected to benefit most from the future growth in alternative investments.
Private debt and real asset allocations are also expected to grow.
Although future growth in liquid alternatives is expected, hedge fund growth is anticipated to trail.
Manager selection is key to success within the alternatives universe given the dispersion in manager performance.
These are the key findings of the recently published CAIA Association report, The Next Decade of Alternative Investments: From Adolescence to Responsible Citizenship.
The assessments and predictions of the survey are based on the results of a comprehensives survey of over 1,000 CAIA members.
CAIA = Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst, the Association website can be accessed here.
The Attraction of Alternatives
CAIA members expect alternatives to grow to between 18 – 24% of the global investible universe by 2025, as highlighted in the following graph from the CAIA report.
Of note, Retail investors have around 5% of their investments in alternatives, institutional investors have substantially higher allocations.
This is significant, it is increasingly becoming apparent that continuing to invest in cash, fixed income, and developed market sharemarket alone is unlikely to generate the returns necessary to meet future retirement obligations.
Those saving for retirement have several options, including:
- Reducing their expectations as to the standard of living they wish to have in retirement;
- Increase their level of savings = work longer and/or forgo current consumption for a higher level of consumption in retirement; and
- Find new sources of returns.
From a portfolio perspective, the introduction of alternative investments, including hedge funds, liquid alternatives, private equities, and real assets can provide new sources of returns.
Investing outside of the developed markets, with appropriate exposures to emerging market currencies, fixed income, and equities can also provide new sources of return for many portfolios. The current environment offers several potential opportunities outside the developed and traditional fixed income markets.
In relation to alternatives, they are generally added to portfolios for two primary reasons:
- Enhance Returns e.g. private equity and venture capital
- Diversification – e.g. hedge funds and liquid alternative to reduce portfolio declines at time of severe sharemarket market fails as currently experienced.
Inflation hedging and yield enhancements are other reasons for allocated toward alternatives.
The following graph presents the rationale for investing in alternatives based on the CAIA Members surveyed.
As an indication to how much institutional investors have invested in alternatives, US Pension Funds increased their allocation to alternatives from 8.7% to 15.7% over the period 2001 and 2009.
Since 2009 they have increased their alternative allocations to 27%. The largest allocations include Private Equity, Real Estate, and hedged funds.
Interestingly, more than 50% of CAIA Association Members expect to have a greater allocation to private equity and venture capital in 2025 than they current hold.
According to CAIA, this is consistent with a Prequin survey that most investors are likely to continue to grow allocations to private equity and private debt over the next five years.
As the Graph below from the CAIA report highlights there is a wide dispersion of manager performance in a number of strategies, particularly private equity, venture capital, infrastructure, and hedge funds.
By contrast, manager performance dispersion within public equities (listed markets) and global fixed income managers is relatively tight.
Therefore, avoiding underperforming managers is a key success factor when investing in alternatives.
Hedge Funds and Liquid Alternatives
Portfolio diversification was the key rationale for including hedge funds, managed futures, and liquid alternatives in a portfolio amongst more than half the CAIA members surveyed.
Lessening the impact of severe equity markets declines on portfolios was a motivating factor “over 92% believe that hedge funds will outperform global equity during times of weakening stock prices.”
As the report emphasises, “This script played out dramatically in the first quarter of 2020 and is reinforced through history: volatility of returns on hedge fund indices is approximately half that of global stock market indices.”
Assets managed by hedge funds has plateaued over recent years. “Among CAIA Members, two-thirds of those who allocate to hedge funds have an allocation of less than 10%, while more than one-quarter have an allocation exceeding 15%………….. only 37% of CAIA Members who currently allocate to hedge funds expect to have a higher allocation in 2025 than they do today.”
Growth has been experienced across liquid alternatives. Assets allocated to liquid alternatives have grown to $900 billion, up from $200 billion in 2008. Liquid alternatives have grown from 12% of hedge fund assets in 2008 to over 22% today.
With the growth in liquid alternatives, which tend to be more transparent, provide greater levels of liquidity, and cheaper fees compared to hedged funds, it is of little surprise that hedge fund fees have declined as noted in the CAIA report.
A comparison of the performance and characteristics of liquid alternatives compared to hedged funds, undertaken by Vanguard, can be found here.
Private Equity and Venture Capital
As noted above, more than 50% of CAIA Association Members expect to have a greater allocation to private equity and venture capital in 2025.
The change in capital markets, with companies remaining private for longer, and the increased globalisation of capital are underlying trends expected to boost the investment into these types of strategies.
By way of example, the CAIA report highlight that in “2012 over two-thirds of venture capital investments were made in North American companies. By the end of 2016, over 45% of portfolio companies were in Asia, while only one-third of investments were made in North American firms.”
The growing trend of Emerging Market company’s requirements for capital will see an increased asset allocation to these regions by private equity and venture capital.
Considerations in determining an optimal private equity portfolio allocation are covered in this Kiwi Investor Blog Post.
The survey highlighted that there are several reasons for investing in real assets. By way of example, Real estate and infrastructure are invested in for the following reasons, offering diversification, an inflation hedge, and as a source of income.
The report noted that investments in real assets has increased from $2.7 trillion to $4.3 trillion from 2004 to 20188.
Those CAIA Members who invest in real estate and infrastructure, the majority have an allocation of less than 10% of assets. However, nearly one-third have an allocation above 10% and nearly 90% expect to have an allocation in 2025 that is greater than or equal to what they currently hold.
The benefits of real assets are noticeable in different economic environments, like stagflation and stagnation, and particularly for those investments where objectives are linked to inflation. In a previous Post I provide an outline of the characteristics of different real assets and the benefits they bring to a Portfolio.
The CAIA Report has a very good case study on climate change and real assets, highlighting the impact of increased Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) integration within investor portfolio will in their view be transformative for the real asset classes e.g. Real Estate and Infrastructure carbon-neutrality and stranded assets within the Natural Resources sector.
There is also an interesting section on Private Debt, which has experienced a dramatic increase in assets, reflecting historically low interest rates and regulatory changes that have caused banks to reduce lending to risker parts of the economy. Allocations to private debt are expected to grow.
The CAIA also unveil a four-point call to action for the industry:
- Commit to Education
- Embrace Transparency
- Advocate Diversification
- Democratise but protect
The CAIA report is well worth reading.
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