During the economic crisis of the past decade, markets and industries crashed and hundreds of companies and millions of people were caught with their pants down. This ordeal has taught everyone the value of security during uncertain times. One of the surest ways to buffer yourself from economic crunches is by making sound investments. While there are traditional investment strategies available to first-time investors, alternative investments are rapidly gaining momentum, and for good reason.
Alternative Investments: The Basics
Alternative investments refer to investment strategies that go beyond traditional investments like stocks, bonds, cash, or property. Popular financial assets in the alternative investment category are:
1. Hedge Funds
2. Private Equities
3. Financial Derivatives
4. Venture Capital
They also include several tangible assets including, but not limited to, the following:
Characteristics of Alternative Investments
Unlike traditional investment strategies, alternative investments are not direct fixed-income or equity claim on the assets of an issuing body. They are complex in nature, so most of these assets are held by accredited, high net-worth individuals. They also tend to lack liquidity and have a low correlation to traditional financial investments such as shares of stock in a company. This low correlation adds to its appeal, especially with investors who are looking to diversify their investment portfolio (the low correlation coefficient will be discussed in depth in a later section).
Also, compared with more common investments like mutual funds, alternative investments have higher minimum investment requirements and fee structures. The cost of purchase and sale is relatively high. In addition, they are subject to less regulation. While this may be good on one hand, it also has the effect of limiting opportunities to publish verifiable performance data. Hence, historical data on risk and returns may be limited. This data could be useful in promoting an alternative investment to potential investors.
Because current market values of some forms of assets are difficult to determine at the least, it is imperative for investors looking to invest in alternative investments to conduct proper due diligence. This especially applies to tangible assets like artworks and wine.
Some investors consider alternative investments as a good means to diversify their portfolio, thereby reducing overall investment risk. However, this is not the only reason why more and more investors are now looking into expanding their financial prospects via alternative channels.
The Appeal of Alternative Investments: Low Correlation, Absolute Return
Although there are a number of alternative assets presently being offered in the marketplace, a common characteristic among these numerous options is their low correlation coefficients with both fixed income and equities. Low correlation is considered important when choosing assets for inclusion in a portfolio, primarily because assets that are relatively uncorrelated with both bonds hult private capital reviews and stocks tend to have minimal exposure to systematic market risk factors. Absolute Return Strategies – strategies that seek a low correlation to systematic risks in the market, make it their objective to attain relative independence from the underlying equity or fixed-income market benchmarks’ overall performance.
Absolute return does not come without its challenges, however. There are potential constraints on the upside. To illustrate, when broader stock markets are picking up, investors with low-correlation alternatives may see their portfolios performing weaker in relation to those with traditional assets. This somehow implies that absolute returns can be maximized in negative market climates and tend to underperform during positive economic climates.
The Economic Atmosphere for Alternative Investments
It would not be an understatement to say that alternative investments were, for the longest time, reserved mostly to high net-worth investors. The broader retail market finds the field of alternative investments difficult to penetrate because of reasons mentioned earlier in this article:
– High minimum investment sizes;
– High minimum fee structures; and
– Assets with no liquidity.
Recent years show a change – an evolution – in the economic atmosphere, where alternative investments are concerned. Progress in global financial markets has developed and provided greater opportunities and a wider range of products through which more investors can enrich their portfolios with alternative assets. Directional alternative assets like commodities, real estate and foreign currencies, as well as hedge strategies like buy-write become accessible to more investors through exchange-traded funds (ETFs), exchange-traded notes (ETNs), and mutual funds.
These options were not available until recently. With increasing entry points into alternative investments, investors now find themselves able to participate in innovative investment approaches that promise increased profits. If alternative investments appeal to you, now would be the best time to start investing in alternative assets.