Viewpoints

CAIA Viewpoints offer a summary-level look at industry trends and models that continue to shape alternative investment strategies. Each Viewpoint links to the full text of the paper as it appeared in CAIA journals.

April 19, 2019
Additional Risk Products: Trading ARPs

Investment banks offer access to both academic alternative risk premia (ARPs) and trading ARPs. Both include several distinct strategies, yet much heterogeneity exists within the same ARP strategies. This is in part, due to the many implementation choices available. Investors need to understand the risk and return characteristics of investable ARP products and how they may be similar or dissimilar to those factors that are well documented in the academic literature. In “An introduction to Alternative Risk Premia” Guillaume Monarcha surveys a wide range of ARP strategies available to investors and investigates their properties. Read the full summary below.

April 19, 2019
One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Two hedge funds reporting to follow the same strategy, may have very different return generating processes. As a result, statistical properties of their returns may be quite different. It is beneficial to investors to identify funds that perform differently than others labeled as following same strategy. The difference could provide alpha or indicate trouble that needs further investigation. The Editor’s Letter “Machine Learning and Hedge Fund Classification using a Self-Organizing Map” is concerned with the ability of a machine learning tool to make such identifications. It illustrates the ability of self-organizing maps (SOMs), which rely on artificial neural networks (ANNs), to group a set of long-short hedge funds into homogeneous groups. Read the full summary below.

March 18, 2019
A Risk Parody?

In Hossein Kazemi’s Editor’s Letter “Risk Parity and Volatility Targeting Strategies: Recent Performance,” he highlights two volatility-based strategies that have recently increased in popularity. They are not active allocation strategies but are very different from traditional market capitalization weighting for strategic allocation. Recent news reports have speculated that fund flows to these volatility-based strategies have caused volatility to spike and equity prices to drop. Why are these strategies expected to work? How do they work? Do they impact the market? How have they performed and how are they expected to perform in the future? Read the full summary below.

March 14, 2019
Does ICO Founder Education Matter?

How can an investor distinguish a good opportunity in the crypto-space from a poor one, or potentially even a fraudulent one? The paper by Jiafu An, Tinghhua Duan, Wenxuan Hou and Xinyu Xu summarized here seeks to answer this question for Initial coin offerings (ICO) tokens. Tokens are unlike cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin that are designed to enable transactions. ICO participation generally involves purchasing tokens from a blockchain based start-up company. Usually like the stocks of initial public offerings, the tokens are expected to subsequently rise in price as the company becomes successful. Read the full summary below.

February 14, 2019
Is it Time to Take the Toll Road?

How will investments in toll roads and other infrastructure projects fare during the upcoming period of rising interest rates? Historically, listed infrastructure has provided a positive return during periods of rising interest rates (10.1%), but this is lower than its average return (11.5%). During rising real interest rates, some infrastructure subsectors perform significantly worse than usual. This is in sharp contrast with equities that have had above average performance during periods of rising real interest rates in the recent past (10.4% versus an average of 8.52%). Read the full summary below.

February 14, 2019
An Alternative Retirement

Can alternative investments improve target date funds (TDFs) and provide a better retirement? Target date funds are a type of defined contribution (DC) plan that automatically shifts allocation from risky assets to safer assets as the employee nears retirement. For many employees this automated asset allocation management increases expected annual income at retirement. Yet defined contribution plans were originally designed to only supplement retirement income and these DC plans, including target date funds, provide a risk-return profile that is usually inferior to that of defined benefit plans with allocations to alternative investments. Read the full summary below.

January 22, 2019
Man AND Machine

Artificial intelligence has recently experienced a remarkable increase in attention, following staggering achievements in applications such as image, text and speech recognition, self-driving cars or chess and Go tournaments. It is therefore not surprising that the financial industry is ever more heavily trying to improve investment decisions by incorporating self-learning algorithms into the investment process. For that matter, the application of quantitative tools and algorithms in order to define systematic trading strategies already has a strong history in the hedge fund industry. Against this backdrop, quantitative hedge funds may provide fertile soil for the application of new machine learning techniques. Read the full summary below.

January 18, 2019
Know What You Own

Huge losses suffered by investors in alternative assets during the financial crisis have pushed to the forefront a previously opaque part of the investment universe: the valuation of complex and illiquid assets held by hedge funds. Investors are demanding increased transparency and stricter controls around the valuation process as mispricing assets can lead to a miscalculation of fees and flawed performance expectations. In addition, inaccuracies in pricing impact redemptions, which are calculated using the net asset values of the investments, to the possible detriment of both redeeming and remaining investors. This intensifying scrutiny has fueled the use of third-party valuation specialists by managers striving to create a robust framework of controls to review and assess the worth of the illiquid assets their funds hold. Read the full summary below.

October 24, 2018
More Illiquidity Please

It is common practice for investors and consultants to establish return, volatility and covariance assumptions for all their asset classes, and to use these to produce a raft of portfolio return and risk statistics. A key assumption underpinning this kind of analysis is that portfolios can be rebalanced to target, even after large market drawdowns. One of the key benefits of diversification comes from the idea that we can rebalance from assets that have performed well into those that have not, and then reap the benefits as they mean revert to their long-run returns. However, that assumption is out the window if no one’s buying. Read the full summary below.

October 23, 2018
The Mean Reverting Fear Factor

The complacency that investors experienced most of the year is starting to be a thing of the past. As we witnessed an uptick in volatility in October 2018, it behooves us to revisit some of the volatility products to investors specifically short volatility products. In "In Free Fall and Yet Attractive? Short Volatility in ETFs" by Claus Huber, he poses the question: "How can an ETF, which is accessible to retail investors, suffer an almost total loss in such a short time?" Read the full summary below.