Two Points For Investors

September 27, 2010

By Malay Bansal

If a picture is worth thousand words, the graph below is a valuable illustration of two very important points that investors would be better off to remember. This graphic focuses on the returns from various sectors in fixed income market, but the same concept generally applies to equities too.

The Case for Active management

The creators of the graphic intended to make the case for active management. I am assuming that anyone managing investments for themselves or others already believes in benefit of active management to some extent. The points I want to make go a little further.

The first point is that sector selection is much more important for generating superior returns than individual security selection. You could be very active in selecting securities, but if they are not in the right sector, the returns might suffer, no matter how much effort is put into picking the individual bonds or stocks.

The second point that this graphic makes to me is that, when I am picking funds, it makes sense to pick funds that have broader focus and a manager with expertise in multiple sectors. In other words, funds in which the manager has the expertise and ability to switch between different sectors may be able to do a better job than an investor trying to move between different funds. That thinking leads me to pick funds like PIMCO Total Return (PTTRX), Blackrock Global Allocation (MALOX), Vanguard Wellington Income (VWELX), and others.

Note: A version of this article was originally published on Seeking Alpha.


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By Malay Bansal

I was on a panel on Tranche Warfare last month in IMN’s 11th Annual US Real Estate Opportunity & Private Fund Investing Forum. It was a very well organized conference with a lot of people in attendance, and provided a great opportunity to exchange ideas with and listen to views of significant participants in the industry.  The conference and views expressed have been reported earlier. Below are some of my thoughts on what I heard.

The most common thread in a lot of comments, both in the panels and in private conversations, was the lack of opportunities to invest. Investors, remembering how much money was made purchasing cheap assets from RTC sales during the last real estate downturn of early 1990s, have raised a lot of money in anticipation of a similar opportunity this time around. However, those fire sales have not materialized, causing some disappointment. Many do not seem to realize that the investors were not the only ones who learnt from the early 90s experience. The owners of the assets, and the regulators, learnt too – if the assets are sold at cheap fire sale type of prices, investors make a killing, but the owners of assets lose out. So, this time around, the owners of the assets are trying to hold out as long as they can and it makes sense. Regulators, having learnt from the experience too, seem to be doing everything they prudently can, to give latitude to owners to avoid fire sales. Somehow, many seem to be disappointed at things not having played out the same way as they did in 90s! Seems logical that they should not, still many are surprised.

The good news from many was that the opportunities, though not as plentiful, are there. And people are doing deals. They take a little more searching, a little more digging into the things that are out there to separate the good ones from the bad, and they are often a little smaller than ideally desired, but they are there. On the easy ones, there is competition, and sometimes those assets get overbid. So, discipline in the process is as important as ever.

Another lesson that I came back with was that those GPs who gave themselves (or were able to get) more flexibility when raising funds in terms of types of investments, timeframe, and returns are better placed to take advantage of opportunities as they come up than those who got narrower mandates from their LP investors.

The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that this time around, the process will be stretched out over a period of time. In commercial real estate, values are down – around 40% by some commonly used metrices, and there do not seem to be any immediate drivers that will quickly and significantly drive prices up. This is bound to result in transfer of assets from those owners who are overleveraged and do not have ability to put in more capital to refinance maturing loans in the new lower leverage environment. That will create opportunities for those with patient capital to invest. Just slowly. And they may not get fire sale prices, but they will be investing at today’s lower prices.

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