latamen
Robeco adds fourth factor Quality to its factor investing strategies

Robeco adds fourth factor Quality to its factor investing strategies

15-06-2016 | Insight

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.

  • David Blitz
    David
    Blitz
    Head of Quant Research
  • Pim  van Vliet, PhD
    Pim
    van Vliet, PhD
    Head of Conservative Equities
  • Joop  Huij
    Joop
    Huij
    Portfolio Manager, Head of Factor Investing Equities and Factor Index Research

As a pioneer of factor investing, Robeco’s latest contribution to the debate on how it works was to conduct a study on how investors apply factor investing to their equity portfolios in practice. The study found that the Value, Momentum and Low-Volatility premiums have been particularly large and robust over time, and over different markets. Even when using more conservative expected returns for the future, the study still found that the optimal allocation to these premiums should be sizable.

Moreover, allocation to factor premiums should be diversified (where a simple equal-weighted approach already seems to be quite efficient) and determined strategically in order to avoid chasing recently winning styles. The study revisited this recommendation by using five years of new data and also incorporating the Quality factor. It showed that in ‘out-of-sample’ data, such a factor investing strategy continued to add value. Interestingly, similar factor premiums also appear to be present in other asset classes, such as bonds and commodities.

Stay informed on Quant investing with monthly mail updates
Stay informed on Quant investing with monthly mail updates
Subscribe

The Quality premium

The quality effect is the tendency of high-quality stocks to outperform low-quality stocks and the market as a whole. What sets the Quality factor apart from the other factors is that the concept of ‘quality’ is less well defined than these other factors. For instance, even though Value can be defined using different measures, the consensus is that a stock is considered cheap if the market price is low relative to a fundamental measure. The Low-Volatility effect relates to the premium prevalent for low-risk stocks. High-quality companies typically are considered to be highly profitable, have high earnings quality, and/or are conservatively managed. Other stock characteristics that are linked to the Quality premium include safety and growth. Hence, ‘quality’ has a very broad meaning and as a result is much vaguer than the other factor definitions.

A potential issue with this vague factor definition is that the term quality can be misused or even abused. For instance, Robeco research shows that safety, measured by financial leverage, earnings stability, low credit risk and sometimes even return-based metrics such as market beta and volatility is actually a very different factor on its own, essentially becoming the low-volatility (or low-risk) factor.

And secondly, the research reveals that other quality definitions have weak or sometimes even non-existent (standalone) predictive powers for future returns, as is the case for growth measures such as rising profitability, but also an often-used measure like return on equity (ROE). Robeco’s concerns with existing generic Quality strategies is that these are suboptimal due to the use of poor definitions which are sometimes even mixed with other factors to boost their (back-tested) performance. This approach does not result in achieving efficient exposure to the Quality factor to capture the quality premium.

Strong evidence for Quality factor

This research on the quality factor resulted in a multi-dimensional view on ‘quality’ that incorporates profitability, earnings strength and management policy. Each of these three themes has a deeply rooted academic underpinning, and is shown to have a strong standalone performance. Robeco therefore believes that a sophisticated approach to quality investing will result in a positive and robust return premium.

Meanwhile, a vast amount of studies have attempted to validate or falsify the existence of the Value, Momentum and Low-Volatility premiums. For the ‘newer’ Quality factor premium the evidence is strong, but it has been put to the test less frequently than the other factors. As such, Robeco is positive on the Quality factor but would start with a lower weight to this factor.

Leave your details and download the report

Disclaimer:

This report is not available for users from countries where the offering of foreign financial services is not permitted, such as US Persons.

Your details are not shared with third parties. This information is exclusively intended for professional investors. All requests are checked.

Important information

The Robeco Capital Growth Funds have not been registered under the United States Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, nor the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended. None of the shares may be offered or sold, directly or indirectly in the United States or to any US Person.

This website is intended for use only by non-U.S. Persons outside of the United States (within the meaning of Regulation S promulgated under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”)) who are professional investors. By clicking “I Agree” below and accessing the information on this website, including any subdomain thereof, you are certifying and agreeing to the following: (i) you have read, understood and agree to this disclaimer, (ii) you have informed yourself of any applicable legal restrictions and represent that by accessing the information contained on this website, you are not in violation of, and will not be causing Robeco or any of its affiliated entities or issuers to violate, any applicable laws and, as a result, you are legally authorized to access such information, (iii) you understand and acknowledge that certain information presented herein relates to securities that have not been registered under the Securities Act, and may be offered or sold only outside the United States (within the meaning of Regulation S under the Securities Act) and only to, or for the account or benefit of, non-U.S. Persons (within the meaning of Regulation S under the Securities Act), (iv) you are a non-U.S. Person (within the meaning of Regulation S under the Securities Act) located outside of the United States (within the meaning of Regulation S under the Securities Act) and (v) you are a professional non-retail investor.

Access to this website has been limited so that it shall not constitute directed selling efforts (as defined in Regulation S under the Securities Act) in the United States.

Nothing contained herein constitutes an offer to sell securities or solicitation of an offer to purchase any securities in any jurisdiction.

We reserve the right to deny access to any visitor, including, but not limited to, those visitors with IP addresses residing in the United States.

This website has been carefully prepared by Robeco Institutional Asset Management B.V. (Robeco). The information contained in this publication is based upon sources of information believed to be reliable. Robeco is not answerable for the accuracy or completeness of the facts, opinions, expectations and results referred to therein. Whilst every care has been taken in the preparation of this website, we do not accept any responsibility for damage of any kind resulting from incorrect or incomplete information. This website is subject to change without notice. The value of the investments may fluctuate. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. If the currency in which the past performance is displayed differs from the currency of the country in which you reside, then you should be aware that due to exchange rate fluctuations the performance shown may increase or decrease if converted into your local currency. For investment professional use only. Not for use with the general public.
I Disagree