NBK wealth thought leadership

Strategies to navigate market volatility

KUWAIT: Nobel Prize winner Harry Markowitz famously said, “Diversification is the only free lunch in finance.” Diversification is indeed crucial for investors to navigate market volatility and to maximize their risk adjusted returns. Hedge funds can offer valuable diversification opportunities when implemented correctly.

The hedge fund industry has evolved from obscurity to over $4 trillion in Assets Under Management (AUM). Originating in 1949, hedge funds were initially favored by high-net-worth individuals (HNWI). By the 1980s, they attracted a broader investor base, including pension funds and sovereign wealth funds. The 1990s witnessed accelerated growth as hedge funds attracted top talent leading to the emergence and refinement of additional trading strategies to cater to varying risk appetites and market conditions. The 2000s saw advancements in computing power, enabling sophisticated algorithmic trading programs that enhanced performance. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 prompted regulatory reforms and stricter reporting standards to ensure transparency and stability in the industry.

Hedge funds are private, unconstrained investment vehicles that take long and short positions and use leverage. A long position involves buying an asset with the expectation of price appreciation, while a short position benefits from price decline. The hedge fund industry comprises various strategies that can broadly be categorized as Return Enhancers or Diversifiers.

Return Enhancers are typically net long stocks seeking to outperform through both long and short positions. These strategies aim to enhance portfolio returns while providing a moderate level of diversification. An example is the long-short equity strategy, which involves buying undervalued stocks (long positions) and selling overvalued stocks (short positions) based on fundamental analysis.

Diversifiers are strategies expected to provide greater diversification benefits to investors. These strategies also take long and short positions but without a structural long bias. Global Macro is an example of a diversifying strategy where investment decisions are based on top-down analysis of global macroeconomic trends and events and their impact on various asset classes. Investors focusing on uncorrelated hedge fund strategies can achieve substantial diversification benefits to enhance the risk- adjusted performance of their portfolios.

Given the significant dispersion among hedge fund managers, the importance of manager selection and a rigorous due diligence process cannot be overlooked. The due diligence process includes Investment Due Diligence (IDD) and Operational Due Diligence (ODD) to assess the manager’s investment and risk management processes.

In conclusion, hedge funds provide valuable exposure for navigating market volatility, and investors should consider the diverse nature of hedge fund strategies when constructing their portfolios. Conducting thorough due diligence, including IDD and ODD, is essential to ensure the effective implementation of strategy allocation with top-tier hedge fund managers. Investors lacking expertise in hedge fund investing should seek guidance from trusted advisors to achieve their desired outcomes.

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