Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 329

Managing risk using asset diversification

Employing a strategic asset allocation (SAA) can minimise the overall level of portfolio risk for a given level of return. The investment strategy sets target weights to the asset classes in a portfolio. Weightings are primarily allocated based on the investment objective, time horizon and, most importantly, the risk tolerance of the investor.

Combining uncorrelated assets

Support for SAA is provided by the fundamental benefit of portfolio diversification. Combining a group of assets that are less than perfectly correlated can reduce the overall risk of a portfolio for a required rate of return. The main theory, known as Modern Portfolio Theory, was pioneered by Harry Markowitz for which he was later awarded a Nobel Prize (for Graham Hand's interviews with Mr Markowitz, see here and here).

It is centered on the notion that the return of an asset should not be viewed in isolation but assessed on its contribution to the overall portfolio risk and return. The portfolios that provide the highest return for a defined level of risk fall on what is called the efficient frontier. This combination of assets is deemed to have greater diversification and be less susceptible to nonsystematic risk.

To illustrate the risk and return benefits of a SAA in a portfolio, 10 year back-tested data has been provided for three portfolios with different risk profiles: Conservative, Balanced and High Growth.

The portfolio asset weightings have been based on the corresponding BetaShares ETF Model Portfolios of the same risk profiles. This example is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to reflect the actual performance of the model portfolios they have been based on. Risk profiles of each model portfolio are produced in accordance with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s (APRA) standard risk measure.

In Figure 2, we have calculated the performance over a period of 10 years ending 30 September 2019, with monthly rebalancing back to the target SAA weights. Broad market cap weighted total return indices are used to generate asset class returns, focusing on indices that are commonly tracked by ETFs.

Figure 2 illustrates that each of the portfolios can be seen as ‘optimal portfolios’ that broadly fall on the efficient frontier. Compared to a portfolio of solely Australian Equity, the ‘High Growth’ portfolio provided a higher 10-year return and lower risk whilst having a monthly return correlation of 92.4%.

A 100% weighting towards Australian Equity would have been a sub-optimal portfolio and an inefficient investment strategy over the 10 years. This highlights the importance of asset diversification in a portfolio and the long-term risk versus return benefits it can provide.

Correlations in returns between different asset classes are also relevant in building a portfolio. Figure 3 shows a 10-year correlation matrix, including the blended portfolios described above. It's notable that even a 'balanced' portfolio has a high correlation to equities.

The results also show the higher returns come with greater 'risk', measured by the standard deviation. These are the classic trade offs expected under Modern Portfolio Theory.

 

Will Gormly is an ETF/LIC Specialist at Bell Potter Securities. This article is for general information only and does not consider the circumstances of any investor.

Firstlinks provides regular reports on LICs trading at discounts and premiums in the Education Centre.

 

RELATED ARTICLES

Diversification lessons from the GFC

Diversification: past, present and future

banner

Most viewed in recent weeks

How much super is enough?

We cannot see into the future, but here are some general guidelines on how much to save in super, and then how much you can spend to enjoy a good retirement. Start as soon as possible.

How to include homes in the age pension assets test

A reader speaks out about the inequity of ignoring own homes in the assets test for the age pension, plus a proposal on how it could work politically. Take our survey on the merit of the policy. 

OK Boomer: fessing up that we’ve had it good

The pre-Boomer generations faced global wars and depressions, but Australians born after 1946 have enjoyed prosperity. Superannuation, education, strong markets and surging property prices locked in gains.  

Four reasons to engage a financial adviser

The value of financial advice is increasingly questioned after the Royal Commission and changes to advice business models, but the case for financial advice for many people remains strong.

Should you buy CBA PERLS XII Capital Notes?

CBA's latest PERLS offer is directly offered to hundreds of thousands of investors who already hold CBA shares or other PERLS securities. How does it compare with the rest of the hybrid market? 

Latest Updates

Retirement

OK Boomer: fessing up that we’ve had it good

The pre-Boomer generations faced global wars and depressions, but Australians born after 1946 have enjoyed prosperity. Superannuation, education, strong markets and surging property prices locked in gains.  

Investment strategies

Young women are investing more in shares

Young woment are showing increasing confidence in the sharemarket, promising a better future than the Boomers and Gen X women who hold significantly less assets than males of their generation.  

Investment strategies

Shorting deserves more respect

A fund manager that can short sell stocks with weak investment characteristics while reinvesting the proceeds in long positions in preferred stocks has a high degree of flexibility.

Economy

Policymakers fear cutting stimulus can lead to recession

Prolonging a recovery with stimulus could lead to a worse slump later. Even today, policymakers are haunted by actions taken in 1937 which led to a loss of production and jobs and a falling GDP.

Shares

Bank reporting season scorecard for FY19

Our annual scorecard for Australian banks shows earnings were hit by remediation costs and slow credit growth, but they are in good health and look attractive versus other listed companies. 

Sponsors

Alliances

Special eBooks

Specially-selected collections of the best articles 

Read more

Earn CPD Hours

Accredited CPD hours reading Firstlinks

Read more

Pandora Archive

Firstlinks articles are collected in Pandora, Australia's national archive.

Read more