U.S. pension funds are seeking protective strategies to offset the portfolio equity and credit losses expected in an economic downturn. Given funds are unlikely to allocate more than a fraction of their capital to such strategies, getting as much bang for the buck is a priority. They need confidence the strategy will move the needle when it really matters.
Pension fund executives might benefit from a new framework that offers them levers to help inform their decision process.
So-called crisis risk offset or risk mitigation strategies typically include both bonds and systematic trend following. The bond allocation is a bet that bonds will rally when equities fall. The trend allocation is supported by the observation that in past equity crises, trend strategies delivered positive returns, providing what some call crisis alpha. History shows crisis alpha has come from both short positions in equity index futures and the capture of large, though crisis-specific, moves in other assets. For example, during the accounting scandals in 2002, the U.S. dollar depreciated, but it appreciated during the 2008 Lehman crisis.
Mandates tend to be for core trend following: diversified across asset classes, but excluding less liquid markets, and strategies like risk premiums or long-short equity. This suits asset managers that have turned more multistrategy recently and are prepared to offer capacity in a core product at a discount. Cynics might add that competition and investor pressure leave these managers little choice.