Given the ever-present danger of adversity caused by natural catastrophes and manmade disasters, utmost importance in an earnest investment program must be afforded to the structural integrity of the aggregate portfolio which protects the long-term compounding effect for the committed saver. Over time the Fund has demonstrated aptitude in weathering the sporadic violent downdrafts in parts of the portfolio, keeping intact the solid trajectory in its historical track record. In the segment below we would like to share with the reader some of the reasons behind this resilience.
How to diversify is a multi-faceted topic that may mean entirely different things to different people. We think of it as pairing art with science. For us, putting a portfolio together is not unlike a designer creating a mosaic while heeding the statistical insights from Harry Markowitz’s famed modern portfolio theory (MPT). In other words, crafting an expressive mosaic [i.e., equity portfolio] calls for rigor in assembling the overall composition but concurrently drawing on eclecticism and creative nous when it comes to the selection of the individual pieces.
On the portfolio level, the foremost principle we adhere to is an impartial approach to portfolio construction. Each of our companies deserves as much importance within the Fund as do the others. First, this means that we don’t allocate money in proportion to market capitalization. Such a practice, usually applied to indexed and benchmarked funds, bears the danger of overinvesting in recent winners while underappreciating recent laggards. For example, funds weighted according to market cap had a big allocation to financial stocks just as the financial crisis of 2007/8 struck, something which we were able to avoid. By the same token, our investors would not have been able to participate as much from the strong performance contribution of our broad Japanese equity exposure over the last ten years. Back then, those stocks were utterly neglected by global asset allocators, with the Topix and Nikkei Indices languishing near multi-decade lows.
Second, we run an equitable portfolio structure maintaining roughly equal weights in modestly sized individual positions. Practically speaking, we usually establish a new investment in a range of 1% to 1.5% of total assets. If it subsequently rises in price, we may trim it back to a “normal” allocation. And if it falls, we buy more of it, thereby reducing the average entry price. This practice ensures that the margin of safety and diversification profile of the aggregate portfolio is being replenished at all times, even if there are no new additions or disposals of entire securities.
As far as the selection of the individual pieces making up the mosaic [i.e., equity portfolio] are concerned, we strive to unearth highly unique and complementary ideas which are as compelling on their own as in combination with the others. We are meticulous about avoiding redundancy in stock selection, a common deficiency encountered in conventional fund management. The variety of asset characteristics ensures that we don’t overemphasize exposure to certain areas that exhibit the same price swings in the market, even though the Fund takes advantage of so-called “pockets of value” in holdings with similar descriptive traits (see past quarterly commentaries for more details).
A classic Graham & Dodd approach lets the statistical properties of a well-diversified aggregate portfolio work its magic. The beauty of this methodology is that we can assemble a portfolio with a high degree of upward revaluation capacity without having to incur undue concentration risk.
The portfolio management techniques described above capture the key purpose of MPT, namely that we make low correlation our companion in the endeavor to maximize potential return for a given level of risk. On top of that, our highly differentiated offering causes the Fund to exhibit low correlation vis-à-vis to other investment products as well, be they passively or actively managed. Thus, our fundholders get the double benefit from low correlation (1) within our Fund and (2) in the context of their overall investment program.
Chief Investment Officer SG Value Partners AG