A long and successful track record, portfolios covering global, developed and emerging markets and a sophisticated quantitative investment process are propelling the take-up of Conservative Equities, says Arlette van Ditshuizen.
Our ranking model, however, is much more sophisticated. We reduce risk by using a combination of variables and by including forward-looking measures based on a proprietary distress-risk model. Returns are enhanced by selecting low-volatility stocks which also have attractive valuation and sentiment characteristics.
If there are two stocks that are equally attractive in terms of low risk, we prefer the stock with the best valuation and sentiment. We like to say that no two low-risk stocks are created equal. One will likely have a better future return than the other—and that’s the stock we select for the portfolio.
For example, we have learned over the years that taking a broad view of risk, which incorporates non-statistical measures such as distress risk, can enhance a low-volatility portfolio. We developed a proprietary distress risk model that takes into account how balance-sheet leverage might translate into future distress and which incorporates other forward-looking financial information about a company’s corporate structure. Our distress risk model improves overall performance by helping the portfolio to avoid tail risk and by reducing the severity and occurrence of drawdowns.
The development of Emerging Conservative Equities was possible because of a unique combination of in-house experience in emerging markets equities, low volatility strategies and quant investing. We had, for example, been managing emerging markets quant portfolios since 2006. And Robeco’s fundamental Emerging Markets team had been investing in emerging markets since 1994 and using Robeco’s proprietary emerging-markets stock-selection model to generate ideas since 2001.
But, of course, performance is just part of the story. Many of our pension-fund clients are also responding to the uncertainty of the economic recovery and looking to harvest the equity risk premium at a lower volatility and to stabilize coverage ratios. They find the capital preservation aspect of the Conservative Equity strategy particularly attractive.
Clients appreciate that there is no “black box” with Robeco’s Conservative Equity portfolios. We can explain every position. Unlike many generic strategies, we are not just ranking stocks based on risk. We do more and it provides a more robust outcome. I think that’s why clients prefer our approach in today´s uncertain markets.
Arlette van Ditshuizen is the co-portfolio manager, with Pim van Vliet, of Robeco’s Conservative Equity portfolios. Together they manage more than EUR 3 billion in low-volatility equities. Van Ditshuizen, who joined Robeco in 1997, has been managing Robeco´s Conservative Equities portfolios since February 2007, when she joined the Quantitative Equity team.
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