Mihir P. Worah, Ravi K. Mattu
It seems paradoxical: In theory, active managers in the aggregate should not generate consistent alpha because for one investor to beat the market,
another must lag it.1,2 Yet some active managers seem to do better than others – for instance, PIMCO has consistently applied unique
insights to seek positive alpha on an after-fee basis for more than 40 years.
In this article we discuss the “structural” or “supersecular” themes that complement PIMCO’s well-known secular and cyclical investment processes. In
our opinion, the combination of structural with secular and cyclical analysis is an optimal framework for portfolio management, and it would be
extremely difficult to replicate PIMCO’s long-term success without incorporating this approach.
In the years ahead, as part of a broader global outlook we have named The New Neutral, we foresee low-single-digit returns for bonds and stocks. Thus,
we believe alpha will grow in importance to investors as they seek to achieve their goals. We suggest investors carefully consider the intellectual
framework and investment processes that a manager uses – it is clearly difficult to find the right combination.
Structural portfolio tilts or supersecular factorsPIMCO was early in identifying five factors in the fixed income markets that historically (on a supersecular basis) have offered attractive risk
premiums. Our investment process stresses the importance of constructing portfolios that have structural tilts towards these factors: duration,
yield-curve steepeners, credit spreads, volatility sales and liquidity sales. Figure 1 shows the historical returns and volatility of these factors and
below we discuss why these would be expected to generate positive returns:
Do these structural tilts still hold promise?One of the challenges of active portfolio management is that intellectual capital over time becomes public knowledge, often even documented in the academic
literature. Yet the asset management industry often ignores these key elements of long-term alpha potential.
That said, at current valuations, we expect some of these factors to offer only a modest risk premium over the next decade. We expect structural returns
from duration in developed markets and from volatility sales are likely to be lower than in the recent past, as special factors that helped duration and
option sales – such as the long-term decline in inflation from the 1980s or large mortgage investors buying interest rate options – are no longer present.
On the other hand, we believe expected returns on credit and liquidity should be consistent with historical experience. Furthermore, identifying new,
scalable sources of structural risk premia is an integral component of PIMCO’s investment process. In our view, other factors like local currency duration
and equity beta in emerging markets (for equity-centric portfolios) are likely to offer attractive risk-adjusted returns.
Moving beyond the structural: adding the secular and the cyclicalIn addition to the structural tilts that reflect our long-term (10+ years) views, the investment process at PIMCO is anchored by our annual Secular Forum
that looks out three to five years. The cornerstone of our current secular view is The New Neutral: the hypothesis that the neutral real fed funds rate is
likely to be lower than its historical average. The immediate implication is that the present value of all future cash flows and hence the price of all
financial assets must be higher than previously thought. This fundamental insight is reflected across PIMCO’s portfolios.
These long-term views are complemented by our cyclical views that look out six to 12 months and are refreshed at least three times a year through a formal
all-hands-on-deck Cyclical Forum, and fine-tuned almost daily by the Investment Committee. These discussions guide active decisions relating to the
top-down scaling of exposures to various sources of risk premia. In addition, specialist investment teams in rates, corporate credit, structured products,
real assets and equities provide inputs to our deliberations. In our view, it would be extremely difficult to outperform markets on a sustainable basis
without this combination of structural, secular and cyclical analysis (see Figure 2).
What about equities?These structural tilts generally exhibit a low correlation with equity markets and, as such, can be an attractive overlay to equity portfolios as well. A
particularly elegant way to incorporate these tilts into the equity markets was pioneered by PIMCO in the 1980s under the name StocksPLUS. This strategy,
an implementation of portable alpha, uses derivatives to gain exposure to the equity markets, then uses the cash collateral to generate alpha potential in
the fixed income markets. In fact, last year Lipper named PIMCO the large company equity manager of the year in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row
Equity investors also could benefit from structural tilts to systematic factors that are specific to equity markets. Amongst these, the equity risk premium
is the basic factor that compensates investors for bearing uncertainty in economic growth. Option sales on equity indexes and investments in less liquid
names (small cap) tend to generate positive expected returns just as they do in fixed income. In addition, other systematic factors such as value (low
price/book) and momentum are well-known to be a historical source of incremental returns over the broad equity market. More recently, the attractiveness of
exposure to factors such as low versus high volatility and profitability (quality) also have been noted. The outperformance potential of these factors can
be partly attributed to clientele-related factors similar to those in fixed income. Some of these structural tilts are incorporated in PIMCO strategies
based on the fundamental indexes developed by Research Affiliates.
Traditionally, active equity managers have tended to focus solely on name selection. On the other hand, quantitative managers rely only on the structural
or systematic factors that have outperformed historically – often without an eye to valuations. Just as in fixed income, we believe the optimal approach to
long-term outperformance in equities combines bottom-up analysis at the security level with structural exposure to factors with attractive risk premia.
ConclusionsIn our view, the adage that it takes active investing to keep the market broadly efficient is still true. Active asset management is critical to keeping
prices anchored to fundamentals. If the cult of passive investing were taken to the extreme, and everyone invested in capitalization- weighted indexes,
portfolios would be dominated by the entities (private or public) that issued the most equity or debt, without any sense of value.
Active management gains particular importance in this New Neutral world of muted expected returns across asset classes. Yet one is faced with the conundrum
that many active managers underperform their benchmarks after fees. Hence, finding the right active managers with the right processes is imperative. We
believe this process must include identifying structural or supersecular sources of return, along with robust macroeconomic and security-level analysis.
PIMCO has successfully incorporated this approach for more than four decades.
1Fama, E. and French, K. (2010) “Luck versus skill in the cross-section of mutual fund returns,” Journal of Finance 65 (5), 1915–19472Chen, Y., Ferson, W. and Peters, H. (2010) “Measuring the Timing Ability and Performance of Bond Mutual Funds,” Journal of Financial Economics 98(1), 72-89
LondonPIMCO Europe Ltd 11 Baker StreetLondon W1U 3AH England +44 20 3640 1000
AmsterdamPIMCO Europe Ltd, Amsterdam Branch Schiphol Boulevard 315, Tower A6 1118 BJ Luchthaven Schiphol, The Netherlands +31 20 655 4710
MilanPIMCO Europe Ltd - Italy Corso Matteotti 8 20121 Milan, Italy +39 02 9475 5400
MunichPIMCO Deutschland GmbH Seidlstraße 24-24a 80335 Munich, Germany +49 89 26209 6000
Zurich PIMCO (Schweiz) GmbH Brandschenkestrasse 41 8002 Zurich, Switzerland +41 44 512 4910
PIMCO Europe Ltd (Company No. 2604517), PIMCO Europe, Ltd Amsterdam Branch (Company No. 24319743), and PIMCO Europe Ltd - Italy (Company No. 07533910969) are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (25 The North Colonnade, Canary Wharf, London E14 5HS) in the UK. The Amsterdam and Italy branches are additionally regulated by the AFM and CONSOB in accordance with Article 27 of the Italian Consolidated Financial Act, respectively. PIMCO Europe Ltd services and products are available only to professional clients as defined in the Financial Conduct Authority’s Handbook and are not available to individual investors, who should not rely on this communication. | PIMCO Deutschland GmbH (Company No. 192083, Seidlstr. 24-24a, 80335 Munich, Germany) is authorised and regulated by the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) (Marie-Curie-Str. 24-28, 60439 Frankfurt am Main) in Germany in accordance with Section 32 of the German Banking Act (KWG). The services and products provided by PIMCO Deutschland GmbH are available only to professional clients as defined in Section 31a para. 2 German Securities Trading Act (WpHG). They are not available to individual investors, who should not rely on this communication. | PIMCO (Schweiz) GmbH (registered in Switzerland, Company No. CH-020.4.038.582-2), Brandschenkestrasse 41, 8002 Zurich, Switzerland, Tel: + 41 44 512 49 10. The services and products provided by PIMCO Switzerland GmbH are not available to individual investors, who should not rely on this communication but contact their financial adviser. PIMCO and YOUR GLOBAL INVESTMENT AUTHORITY are trademarks or registered trademarks of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. and Pacific Investment Management Company LLC, respectively, in the United States and throughout the world. © 2017, PIMCO.
Options are not insurance, but may be employed similarly as a hedge against a perceived move in the market (either up or down). Options are a derivative
and are subject to significant risk; see below for additional detail.
The Lipper Fund Best Group over 3 Years Large Equity award (2010–2013) recognizes funds that have delivered consistently strong risk-adjusted
performance, relative to peers
Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results.
Investing in the bond market is subject to risks, including market, interest rate, issuer, credit, inflation risk, and liquidity risk. The
value of most bonds and bond strategies are impacted by changes in interest rates. Bonds and bond strategies with longer durations tend to be more
sensitive and volatile than those with shorter durations; bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise, and the current low interest rate environment
increases this risk. Current reductions in bond counterparty capacity may contribute to decreased market liquidity and increased price volatility.
Management risk is the risk that the investment techniques and risk analyses applied by PIMCO will not produce the desired results, and that certain
policies or developments may affect the investment techniques available to PIMCO in connection with managing the strategy. There is no guarantee that these
investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are suitable for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest
long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. Investors should consult their investment professional prior to making an investment
This material contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material
has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security,
strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this
material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. No part of this material may be
reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark or registered trademark of
Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world. THE NEW NEUTRAL and YOUR GLOBAL INVESTMENT AUTHORITY are trademarks
or registered trademarks of Pacific Investment Management Company LLC in the United States and throughout the world. ©2014, PIMCO.
The information on this web site is for residents of Europe only.
All material contained on the Exchange-Traded Funds section of this website is purely for informational purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Investors should seek financial advice before making any investment decisions.
The products and services are available only to residents of those jurisdictions. The information on this web site does not constitute an offer for products or services, or a solicitation of an offer to any persons outside of Europe who are prohibited from receiving such information under the laws applicable to their place of citizenship, domicile or residence. Copyright ©2017 PIMCO Europe Limited. All rights reserved.
Are you sure you would like to leave?
You are currently running an old version of IE, please upgrade for better performance.