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Robeco has long been a pioneer in quantitative investing, having exploited the Value and Momentum effects since the early 1990s and Low Volatility since 2006. But we’re constantly looking for new factors to exploit. In 2013 we instigated a large-scale study that confirmed the existence of a fourth factor – Quality. Simon Lansdorp from our Factor Investing Research team explains the Quality effect and how we are now exploiting it.
Throughout his career, Noël Amenc has championed the incorporation of academic research into the decision-making of finance professionals and regulators. Having set up the Edhec Risk Institute in 2001, today he is chief executive of ERI Scientific Beta, the institute’s initiative to put its research on smart beta into practice. We spoke to him to find out his views on the state of the smart beta industry today and what the future may bring.
The 2015 edition of the Global Investment Returns Yearbook contained several interesting long-term analyses. One chapter documents the existence of value and momentum effects for US and UK industry returns since 1900. This is yet another confirmation of the seemingly universal presence of these two effects.
This paper challenges the earlier work of Fu (2009), who claims to find a positive empirical relationship between risk and return using a sophisticated (EGARCH) idiosyncratic volatility measure for risk. Fu’s result flies directly in the face of the large number of studies that find strong evidence for a low-volatility anomaly.
One of the explanations for the low-volatility anomaly is that stocks with lottery-like characteristics (a small chance of experiencing a large positive payoff) are overpriced. This paper finds a similar result for stock options. The authors find that the degree of lottery-like features can explain differences in expected option returns between 10% and 50% per week.
The Robeco Global Diversified Carry fund was launched in August 2015 to take advantage of a quantitative investment strategy that searches for yield opportunities in different asset classes. In its first year it has delivered a strong return of 7.35%, resulting in a Sharpe ratio of 1.27. In this question and answer session, portfolio managers Klaas Smits and Shengsheng Zhang from Robeco’s Investment Solutions team explain how the fund works, and outline the reasons behind its success.
As portfolio managers of Robeco Conservative Equities, we want to place our role into a historical perspective and learn from the history of financial markets, and mutual funds in particular. History teaches us that good ideas do not necessarily guarantee successful funds. Timing is everything. Still, capital protection, high income and low turnover are timeless factors that are still relevant today.
Although Factor Investing is rapidly gaining popularity, there are still ongoing debates about this concept. In our view, the key feature of Factor Investing is that asset owners select factors and their weights themselves, rather than leaving this up to their asset managers.
Recently a new factor was added to the literature: Quality. In credits, we see Quality as a natural extension of pure Low-Risk. All our credit factor models have used Quality since inception, and have expanded its use over the years.
Investors are worried about the high valuations of stocks in general and low-volatility stocks in particular. And so are we! In relative terms, low-volatility stocks have become more expensive during the last two years, but it’s not the first time. It happened first in 2008 and again in 2011.
Some people argue that the low risk anomaly can be explained by ‘profitability’, an example of a ‘quality’ factor. In our paper ‘The Profitability of Low Volatility’, we challenge this hypothesis and conclude that the low-risk anomaly is a distinct phenomenon, which cannot be attributed to profitability alone.
Laurens Swinkels is back at Robeco. With the researcher's return, Robeco is strengthening its Scandinavian sales and account management team and Investment Research department. “I’m going to explain quant investing and the application of research multi-factor investing strategies .”
A recent study suggests that sector investing does as well or even better than factor investing in a long-only context. We challenge this conclusion and show that an explicit allocation to well established factors yields better results than allocation to sectors.
Inspired by the recent surge in M&A activity, Deutsche Bank investigates a strategy which systematically invests in stocks that are the target of a publicly announced M&A deal. They find that the strategy has a good historical performance, and conclude that it may be interesting for investors interested in capturing factor premiums.
Macquarie applies Benford’s law to identify firms which may be manipulating their accounting data, or perhaps even engaging in outright fraud. According to this law, there is a natural frequency of 1 to 9 occurring as the first digit in a number, with the chance of 1 for instance being around 30%, and the chance of 9 less than 5%.
“Putting your research to the test is always exciting, and if it then works out well, then that’s very satisfying.” That’s how Patrick Houweling describes celebrating the first anniversary of the Global Multi-Factor Credits fund, with an outperformance chart to go with the birthday cake.
Robeco has added Quality to the key list of factors that it follows when constructing factor investing portfolios in equities. But how to define it? There is a disconnect between definitions of the factor ‘quality’ by academics and how it is defined by many in the asset management industry.
Smart beta indices are a popular way of implementing a factor investing strategy. However, research suggests that this may not the best way, as the factor exposure provided by popular smart beta strategies varies greatly and they do not unlock the full potential of factor premiums.
Factor investing – the investment strategy that aims to capture ‘hidden’ returns in financial markets – is rapidly gaining in popularity. However, it is important to follow the right factors, and to be wary of one factor counteracting another, to get the best results. Otherwise, investors might follow generic factor strategies that expose them to risks that are not properly rewarded, resulting in inferior performance.
This study examines whether over thirty accounting-based fundamental variables known to be related to future stock returns are also effective for predicting future bond returns. The frequency of significant returns to trading strategies based on these anomalies turns out to be similar for the bond and stock markets.
Actively managing a portfolio’s sensitivity to interest rate movements is crucial for the returns on fixed income portfolios, as they are predominantly driven by changes in government bond yields. To forecast yield changes, Robeco developed a quantitative model in the 1990s, which has proven to have very good predictive power.
Investors increasingly decide to allocate strategically to factor premiums such as Value, Momentum and Low-Volatility. Robeco is now incorporating a fourth factor, Quality, in the investment process of its factor funds.
Research shows that factor investing strategies work well in corporate bonds, but actually building a portfolio requires greater care due to liquidity issues, Robeco’s quantitative experts argue in a new white paper.
Investors looking for value in global equities have been disappointed in recent years, as ‘expensive defensive’ and growth stocks have held sway in markets. But over the long term, value investing can be shown to outperform growth investing, depending on the economic environment of the time, says Robeco portfolio manager Maarten Polfliet.
The much anticipated ‘Factor Investing – Collected Robeco articles’ (the 2nd edition) is now available. We’re delighted to present this book on factor investing, which brings together ten articles that Robeco researchers have published over recent years.
There is strong evidence that momentum investing works, even though some critics claim that a stock’s past performance can’t be relied on to predict its future returns, and that momentum strategies can involve high turnover and the risk of a trend reversing.
This study* shows that institutions typically trade on the wrong side of anomalies. For instance, they tend to buy growth stocks and sell value stocks, thereby going directly against the value anomaly.
While at Robeco we strongly believe in the benefits of taking a highly active approach to factor investing, there’s no denying that passive factor strategies are growing in popularity among many investors.
A study* by three Blue Sky pension provider researchers (Bastiaan Pluijmers, Imke Hollander and Ramon Tol) together with Dimitris Melas from MSCI compares the characteristics of nine different low-volatility strategies.
We provide empirical evidence that the Size, Low-Risk, Value and Momentum factors have significant risk-adjusted returns in the corporate bond market. By combining these factors in a multi-factor portfolio, drawdowns and tracking error vs. the market are reduced, while the higher return and Sharpe ratio are preserved.
The poor long-term live performance of the first generation of value indices indicates that capturing the value premium is not easy. This does not mean, however, that the value premium is beyond the reach of investors. We argue that a value premium still exists, but that harvesting it requires an approach that is much more sophisticated than simply following a straightforward value index.
To the best of our knowledge, no study has been conducted on the added value of innovative investment strategies that incorporate academic insights. As a result, we do not know how many investment managers have incorporated academic insights or how successful they are. We have researched the topic to fill this gap in the literature.
The added value of allocating to emerging markets (EM) has always been a topic of discussion among equity investors, especially when there was a large difference in performance with developed markets (DM). After a period of market decline, investors sometimes consider to lower the weight of emerging markets in their portfolio. What are the lessons that history can teach us?
Emerging markets are going through a volatile period, but the defensive investment strategy of Robeco Emerging Conservative Equities is proving its worth by outperforming the index. “Despite its relatively short history, we are very confident about the fund as is demonstrated by its Bronze Morningstar Analyst Rating. The results are more than promising.”
A paper* argues that size, value, momentum and other factor portfolios might be considered as alternative building blocks for strategic asset allocation, because these offer an attractive risk premium and powerful diversification benefits.
In 2014 Robeco went live with its Factor Investing Solutions: tailored solutions based on multiple factors. “Robeco is not the founder of factor investing, but we are among the first to translate the theory into practical investment solutions,” says Robeco’s Head of Factor Investing Research Joop Huij with pride.
Usually focusing on how to design the best low-volatility strategy, David Blitz, Matthias Hanauer and Pim van Vliet have set out to construct a very bad low-volatility strategy. Comparing good and bad low-volatility strategies they found very different performance characteristics. Clearly, not all low-volatility stocks are created equal. The results highlight the importance of being selective when investing in low-volatility stocks.
Some argue that the mere mechanism of rebalancing increases returns, and that this explains the success of factor investment strategies. Although factor strategies do need rebalancing to maintain their exposures, there are several reasons why it is unlikely that this is their source of added value.
Factor investing is the talk of the town. But how does it fit into the debate of active versus passive? We interviewed two experts with different perspectives: one working for an index provider while the other represents an active management house.
What are the challenges of smart beta and factor investing? Factor strategies will have a profound impact on the way portfolios are constructed, says James Price, Investment Consultant at Towers Watson.
Generic strategies designed to harvest a certain factor premium regularly conflict with other factor premiums. We find that the premiums associated with these strategies tend to shrink, sometimes even to zero, in these periods of factor disagreement. But enhanced factor strategies avoid stocks that are unattractive on other established factors and continue to deliver when generic factor strategies struggle.
Factor Investing is increasingly in the spotlight. Financial magazines run features on it, seminars are organized on the subject, and investors consider adopting its approach. Yet you might wonder: is it just a hype?
How can factors be useful to implement de-risking programs of pension plans? Alex Neve, Director of equities at Univest talks about the lessons learned. Univest is the investment advisor of all Unilever pension plans.
Factor investing is becoming more popular. Professional investors are increasingly considering investing strategically in certain parts of the financial market which realize better risk-adjusted returns over longer periods. The question is: “How can investors best implement this strategy?”
Value is one of the oldest factors in the world. Graham and Dodd already laid the intellectual foundation in the 1930s for what would later be called value investing and Basu published the first academic study in 1977 documenting the existence of the value premium.
Robeco’s assets under management in Quant Equities recently surpassed the EUR 20bn milestone. On this occasion, we asked Peter Ferket, CIO Equity Rotterdam and closely involved in Robeco Quant Equity since the late 1990s, how he explains the success of quant equity investing and Robeco’s role as a thought leader in this field.
There is a shift towards allocating to the factor premiums momentum, value and low volatility. However, since common factor indexes are a suboptimal way to harvest factor premiums, this paper shows the improved results of a more sophisticated approach. Factor strategies developed by Robeco lead to higher returns, while lowering the risks, resulting in higher Sharpe ratios.
Low-volatility stocks are in high demand. According to Pim van Vliet, portfolio manager of Conservative Equities, a generic low-volatility strategy is getting more expensive. An enhanced approach is necessary to prevent buying too expensive stocks.
Investors increasingly embrace “smart beta” investing, by which we mean passively following an index in which stock weights are not proportional to their market capitalizations, but based on some alternative weighting scheme. Examples include fundamentally-weighted indices and minimum-volatility indices. In this whitepaper we first take a critical look at the pros and cons of smart beta investing in general. After this we successively discuss the most popular types of smart indices that have been introduced in recent years.
Passive investing has become increasingly popular. Despite its undeniable appeal, there are also some considerations which should make investors think again about the desirability of a passive approach.
You would not be pleased if you thought you had the right exposures to factors that drive expected returns, but it turns out you actually have precisely the opposite tilts. This is happening quite often though. Quantitative researcher Joop Huij and head of equity research David Blitz argue that institutional investors should be careful when assessing asset managers.
Interest in factor investing - investing in systematic sources of return - is rapidly increasing. But how are pension funds incorporating factor investing into their portfolios and investment processes?
Behavioral explanations of momentum suggest that momentum can be caused by overreaction or underreaction. The latter, which turns out to be less risky and more sustainable, is exploited in Robeco’s quantitative models.
Commodities have become less popular for investors. They are wondering if the traditional arguments for investing in commodities – like diversification- still apply. This paper explores a better way to invest: by setting up a commodity factor portfolio
Investors are increasingly allocating strategically to factor premiums. But momentum has—so far—missed the party, thanks to its associated challenges. Willem Jellema looks at new ways to capture the momentum premium while eliminating the drawbacks.
The theoretical returns of factors such as value, low-volatility and momentum are well documented. But how do you translate them into workable strategies? In this interview, David Blitz, Robeco’s Head of Quantitative Equities Research, explains how investor portfolios can benefit from factor investing.
In this video, Investment Solutions’ Tom Steenkamp discusses Robeco research showing that the traditional small-cap, value, low-volatility and momentum factors not only improve equity portfolio efficiency but also work for credit and commodity portfolios.
“Why limit yourself to the equity premium,” asks David Blitz, Head, Robeco Quantitative Equity Research, “when there are systematic factor strategies that outperform market-cap-weighted benchmarks?” Recent research from Robeco looks at how to translate the theory of factor premium investing into practice.