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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Dynamic Asset Allocation-a genuine way to get outperformance in sideways market

If I had a rupee for each time I got a SMS/email/report guaranteeing me a multi bagger, I’d be a millionaire by now. Naturally, I am skeptical when someone claims the magic sauce of superior returns. But when that person has achieved it over a 13 year period across multiple market cycles, one would tend to sit up and pay attention. The below post outlines the dynamic asset allocation approach.
Volatility is the friend of value investors since it is at periods of extreme volatility that Mr Market offers bargains to buy, or premium prices to sell. However, most often, volatility is not a part of time  ‘Buy and hold’ is a cliché which fails in ‘sideways markets’. As Howard Marks puts it, markets are like pendulums which spend maximum time in the middle, and very little in extremes. So while equity returns do compound over time balancing out the periods of zero returns/negative returns, one wonders whether one can avoid even these periods of low returns. In theory, one can monitor market valuations levels and change the asset mix between debt, equity and cash. In practice however, this needs expertise and transaction costs, taxes and emotions reduce the odds of making alpha. Given the necessity of active management to spot and manage such potential periods of low returns, one could consider professional fund managers to do the same via specialized products/strategies which use dynamic asset allocation.
Being a member of the ICICI family be it savings account, home loan etc, I decided to see how ICICI performs in this. They have a fund called ICICI Prudential Balanced Advantage fund. http://www.icicipruamc.com/icici-prudential-balanced-advantage-fund
The fund benchmarks itself against the CRISIL Balanced Fund-Aggressive Index and has outperformed its benchmark over the last 3 yrs ending June 30, 2016. The equity benchmarks are Nifty 50 and debt benchmark is 1 yr Tbill. While one might question the relevance of the indices(since many investments are outside the benchmarks), the fact is that the fund’s returns exceeds the total of its benchmark returns. For example, in the year ended June 30,2016, the fund returned 6.7% while Nifty 50 and 1yr Tbill returned (0.96%) and 7.67%. The benchmarks returned totaled 6.71%, and averaged 3.36%(which was coincidentally the CRISIL index return, implying a possible 50:50 split. With the benefit of hindsight, someone investing in Tbills over Nifty 50 would have earned 7.67%, but lost only 1% return by choosing ICICI Prudential balanced fund, thereby achieving investment goals with much less risk. The picture is even more stark for inception to date returns, where the scheme CAGR of 14.62% outperforms the Nifty CAGR of 11.62%. The balance 3% yield is due to asset allocation to debt in times of flat markets. They have on average 70% equity exposure.
Also, one can withdraw upto 20% of the units till 18 months from investment, without an exit load(otherwise 1%). Post 18 months, exit load is NIL.
In short, it is apt for all investors-experts or otherwise-and this appears a superior substitute to debt or NCDs, in the Indian context.
Do note as always that this blog is not a substitute for professional investment advice. Further, mutual funds are subject to market risks, and the scheme related SID/other documents should be read carefully

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