Many investors are convinced that alpha has disappeared from U.S. equity markets and prefer to use passive investment
tools such as exchange traded funds (ETFs) to broadly gain exposure to these markets. The problem with this approach is
that it gives up any chance of outperformance and forces an investor to settle for benchmark returns minus fees.
For the past few years, the passive versus active debate has been characterized as a pitched battle between two sides. Upon closer inspection, however, some might recognize that this ongoing argument is far more nuanced than it appears at first blush and actually involves multiple sides with somewhat vague allegiances.
A search on LexisNexis, scanning just the past 12 months, will return well over 3,000 news articles, all focused on the active-versus-passive debate that has come to define today's investment landscape. The arguments are all pretty much the same, with proponents of passive strategies keying in on the themes of lower costs and comparable performance, while those defending active strategies will underscore the value of a hands-on approach in a sideways or downward moving market.
In 1992, Morningstar introduced the Style Box™, the now-pervasive nine-square grid that visually depicts the investment style of mutual funds. The goal of the Style Box™ is to aid institutional investors seeking to categorize strategies to meet specific asset-allocation targets.
Todd Hawthorne, Lead Portfolio Manager of the Boston Partners' Redwood Strategy, highlights how investors can capture volatility-derived alpha through an alternative strategy that pairs the construct of equity buy/writes with fundamental, bottom-up analysis.
Chris Hart, the Portfolio Manager of the Boston Partners Global and International Equity products will discuss our “three circle” approach, which is characterized by the lenses through which we analyze and assess potential investments.
Among public equities, actively managed micro-cap value strategies have traditionally served as a destination for investors seeking attractive risk-adjusted returns. When looking at long-term performance, however, historic trends suggest that micro-cap stocks may actually be better compared to private equity investments.
One of the key decisions that U.S. managers of international stock portfolios face is whether to actively manage currency risk. Those who opt to hedge—typically through derivatives, such as foreign currency forwards—convert the value of shares from the local currencies of overseas markets back to U.S. dollars.
Even after a five year run up in the U.S. equity markets, many investors still have ample memories of the financial crisis of 2008. Investors are uncertain of where to invest that will offer some protection against market volatility and also mitigate drawdown risk. As a result, “liquid alternatives” have seen tremendous asset flows.
Nearly five years after the panic of March 2009, when stock prices dropped to the lowest levels in recent history, the U.S. equity markets have returned to the range of fair value. At around 1,800 the S&P 500 Index is trading at about 16.5 times estimated 2013 earnings, priced for a fair rate of return in the long run of between 7 and 9% - in line with historical averages. As such, the equity markets look neither cheap nor overvalued.
Few managers can claim to have a true competitive advantage; the WPG Partners Micro Cap team is the exception. Led by Richard Shuster and Greg Weiss, the team immerses itself in finding, analyzing, and meeting with over 600 companies each year.
Steve Pollack, the Portfolio Manager of the Robeco Boston Partners Mid Cap Value Equity Strategy for more than a decade, explains what makes mid-sized companies with market caps between $1 and $20 billion attractive and how he chooses the winners. Steve shares his insight below.
Small and micro cap stocks – securities with a market capitalization below $3 billion - offer investors a number of sustainable advantages when compared to other market cap segments. Consequently, they allow active asset managers focused on these stocks the potential to outperform over long periods of time. This is especially true of micro caps, which are typically valued at less than $1 billion.
A common approach to diversifying a U.S. equity allocation is to supplement a core of large-capitalization equity investments with an allocation to small-capitalization stocks. While simple to execute and intuitively attractive, such an approach overlooks the significant opportunities available in U.S. mid cap stocks.
Jay Feeney and Mark Donovan, Co-Chief Executive Officers: As life-long believers that the best means of achieving superior long-run investment returns is through “bottom-up” research on a stock by stock basis, we rarely contribute to the deluge of “Market Outlook” pieces that seem to proliferate in our industry.
In September, Mark Donovan, co-chief executive officer and lead portfolio manager for Boston Partners’ Large Cap Value portfolios, authored a contributed article that appeared in Fund Strategy, a U.K.-based publication that caters to investment intermediaries. The article discusses the persistence of value strategies over time, even amid an era that has been defined by an accommodative monetary policy and inflated market valuations.
In September, Paul Korngiebel, lead portfolio manager on the Emerging Markets Long/Short Equity strategy, published a bylined article in Pensions & Investments, which highlights the value of a long/short strategy in the emerging markets. The article, “Emerging Markets Without the Volatility” explains why a long/short strategy in the emerging markets could be attractive to investors who otherwise could not handle the volatility of traditional, long-only emerging markets exposure.
In January, Boston Partners’ Daniel Farren published a contributed article in Pensions & Investments that highlights why diversification, borne out of rigorous analysis and high conviction, can yield returns in line with far more concentrated portfolios, though with lower risk and reduced volatility.
Joseph (Jay) Feeney, Boston Partners Co-CEO and CIO, discussed the firm’s long/short strategy in a Financial Advisor article looking at liquid alternative funds. Feeney noted that Boston Partners has employed a long/short strategy since the late 1990s, years before liquid alts were considered a category.
Todd Hawthorne, the Lead Portfolio Manager of Boston Partners’ Redwood strategy, in an article published by Pensions & Investments, discussed the recent re-introduction of volatility to the U.S. equities market, highlighting that while market fluctuations can wreak havoc on asset allocations, portfolio managers have at their disposal strategies that feed off of and benefit from the growing perception of risk.
Boston Partners equity portfolio manager Christopher Hart provided commentary to Pensions & Investments through a contributed article that was published in the second week of February. The Article, “Europe Ripe for Active Strategies,” explored the appealing opportunity set that is developing for value-focused investors in the UK and Continental Europe.
In early February, Barron’s profiled Boston Partners Portfolio Manager Duilio Ramallo and the Boston Partners All-Cap Value Fund. The article, “Steering Clear of the Bumps,” highlighted how Duilio and the investment team apply Boston Partners’ three-circle approach — seeking cheap stocks, solid fundamentals and positive business momentum — to provide an analytical edge while avoiding value traps.