Shortcuts to Factor Investing: Equities and Beyond


The progress of issue investing is being pushed not simply by a rare backlash towards typical asset lessons and high-fee lively administration but additionally by a stream of modern analysis.

Traditional portfolio diversification amongst and inside completely different asset lessons for a lot of buyers failed at its most important take a look at in 2008, though rather less badly for these with giant money allocations. Correlations throughout asset lessons spiked and lively managers in every single place floundered relative to passive funds monitoring market-cap–weighted indices.

The first installment of the Shortcuts to Factor Investing collection describes the mental historical past of issue investing, with its origins within the late Stephen Ross’s arbitrage pricing idea (APT). In this submit, we take a deeper dive into equities and issue investing’s wider purposes to different asset lessons, together with mounted revenue. The third installment will consider multifactor investing and benchmarking.

Let’s start with a reminder of a working definition of a scientific issue, and why these elements are related to funding professionals, as outlined in a paper by Andrew Ang of BlackRock, summarized in CFA Digest. According to Ang, an element will need to have the next traits:

  1. Be confirmed within the finance literature.
  2. Demonstrated notable extra premiums over benchmarks which might be predicted to proceed.
  3. Have a clear return historical past that features down durations.
  4. “Be implementable in liquid, traded instruments.”

Ang means that a big half (70%) of the current lively returns of Norges Investment Management, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, could be defined by systematic elements that would have been accessed much less expensively via passive administration, an impact which will get worse the bigger the fund. The answer, no less than for Ang, is a dynamic strategy deploying leverage and throughout completely different asset lessons to optimize the issue publicity.

So issue investing isn’t just about equities, and not nearly well-known semi-passive and long-only approaches similar to dimension, worth, momentum, and low-volatility. As issue investing is utilized to a wider vary of asset lessons, it suggests many probably helpful options to subtle buyers and asset allocators. Equally essential, the broader utility of issue investing calls for novel serious about combining elements with one another and with different asset lessons in addition to some new methods for measuring efficiency in a rigorous, helpful, and constant approach.

Equities and Beyond: The First Identified Factors

One reminder of issue investing’s roots within the equities sphere got here lately in “A Five-Factor Asset Pricing Model,” summarized within the CFA Digest. As each MBA and finance scholar (ought to) know, the unique one issue (the market) asset pricing mannequin, the capital asset pricing mannequin (CAPM), was prolonged by Eugene Fama and Kenneth French right into a three-factor mannequin with the addition of dimension and worth elements, in what’s the most generally cited paper in finance. The two authors have now prolonged this right into a five-factor mannequin to embody two new elements: profitability and funding which will make the worth issue redundant.

Value for a lot of buyers is a deeply held and honest conviction primarily based on the enduring ideas of Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, however the that means of the time period and the definition of the worth issue have lately come into query. The introduction of the primary type indexes by Russell in 1987 was adopted by a proliferation of formulaic accounting-based definitions. In one paper summarized in CFA Digest, Clifford Asness, Andrea Frazzini, Ronen Israel, and Tobias Moskowitz think about the poor efficiency of stand-alone formulaic worth methods, similar to these for bigger companies the place analysis signifies the book-to-market (a measure of worth) has no vital explanatory energy on the cross-section of realized returns.

In a brand new examine, “Facts About Formulaic Value Investing,” revealed in CFA Institute Financial Analysts Journal® and summarized in our new easy-to-read In Practice seriesU-Wen Kok, CFA, Jason Ribando, CFA, and Richard Sloan distinguish the extra formulaic sort of worth investing from different approaches. They counsel that these methods shouldn’t be confused with worth methods that use a complete strategy in figuring out the intrinsic worth of the underlying securities.

Another route to understanding the various linkages amongst issue investing approaches, together with derivatives (leverage) and wider asset lessons similar to currencies, could be present in “Return of the Quants: Risk-Based Investing,” a abstract of a speech Sébastien Page, CFA, head of asset allocation at T. Rowe Price, offered on the 69th CFA Institute Annual Conference. Especially in a low-yield, low-return surroundings, the authors suggest a managed volatility technique can alter the asset combine over time to stabilize a portfolio’s volatility and scale back that portfolio’s publicity to loss in lots of forecast methodologies, asset lessons, time durations, elements/danger premiums, and areas.

This strategy can then be mixed with a popular outperforming technique to generate even higher returns: Covered name writing, wherein the investor sells a name choice and concurrently buys the underlying safety, provides publicity to the volatility danger premium that’s thought to benefit from buyers “demand for hedging” and to compensate for tail dangers.

Returning to the (contentious) subject of definitions in issue investing, lined name writing types a part of a wave of approaches labeled “alternative beta.” This serves as a subset of the widely long-only “smart beta” amid the a lot broader universe of issue investing approaches. Alternative beta is distinguished from sensible beta by use of quick in addition to lengthy investing. Confused? A glossary of phrases could be discovered under.

Fixed Income and Factor Investing

But what about alternatives for issue investing in asset lessons exterior of equities? One examine by a gaggle of researchers from AB Global, summarized in CFA Digest, finds {that a} restricted set of things — price, progress, and volatility — clarify the return on fixed-income portfolios.

Meanwhile, new analysis signifies {that a} basic indexing strategy to world authorities bond markets outperforms a market-value-weighted index, in accordance to a current examine by Lidia Bolla, CFA, published recently in the Financial Analysts Journal and summarized as an In Practice article. Results present vital exposures of essentially weighted indexes to six fixed-income elements: time period and length danger, default danger, convexity danger, liquidity danger, and carry commerce danger that assist clarify the outperformance.

Factors could be recognized not simply in authorities bonds, but additionally in company mounted revenue. In a current Journal article, additionally summarized in the In Practice series, two researchers from Robeco within the Netherlands, discover that dimension, low-risk, worth, and momentum issue portfolios generate economically significant and statistically vital alphas within the US company bond market.

Momentum and Low Volatility

We conclude this second a part of our issue investing collection with a particular be aware on two particular person elements. In reality, a trio of current articles within the Journal discover momentum and low volatility, two of the unique “smart beta” elements boasting long-run extra returns and low correlation, and the authors supply challenges to typical knowledge on each. “Two Centuries of Price-Return Momentum” means that worth momentum is dynamically uncovered to market danger, conditional on the signal and length of the trailing market state. “The Low-Volatility Anomaly: Market Evidence on Systematic Risk vs. Mispricing” finds that the comparatively excessive returns of low-volatility portfolios can’t be considered solely as compensation for systematic issue danger. “Low-Volatility Cycles: The Influence of Valuation and Momentum on Low-Volatility Portfolios” examines the efficiency of each the low-risk technique and a beta-neutral low-risk technique.

A full topical assortment of really helpful hyperlinks for all of the associated materials on issue investing lined on this collection could be discovered under together with a Glossary.


Factor Investing: Applies to a variety of risk-based approaches that sit between lively and passive funding administration however possess attributes of each. Uses each lengthy and quick methods.

Smart Beta: A advertising and marketing label describing easy, rules-based, and clear approaches to constructing portfolios that ship pretty static exposures (relative to capitalization-weighted benchmarks) to traits traditionally related to extra risk-adjusted returns. Often lengthy solely.

Alternative Beta: A subset of  “smart beta,” different beta is distinguished from sensible beta by its use of quick in addition to lengthy investing.

Fundamental Indexation: Another subset of “smart beta” with a concentrate on utilizing accounting, financial, and weighting information to develop new indices.

Topical Reading Collection

1. What Is Factor Investing?

Count on Low Expected Returns, Says Antti Ilmanen

“I have got bad news as a starter,” Antti Ilmanen advised the viewers on the 2016 CFA Institute European Investment Conference. “It is not only a low interest rate world, it is also a low expected return world on any long-only investment.” Ilmanen, a principal and researcher at hedge fund AQR, stated low anticipated returns are going to anchor unhealthy information for all of us for the remainder of our working lifetimes. And possibly past.

The Asset Manager’s Dilemma: How Smart Beta Is Disrupting the Investment Management Industry

Smart beta merchandise are a disruptive monetary innovation with the potential to considerably have an effect on the enterprise of conventional lively administration. Ronald N. Kahn and Michael Lemmon present an essential element of lively administration by way of easy, clear, rules-based portfolios delivered at decrease charges.

Quantitative Investing Is Fundamental

The quant supervisor has the identical set of instruments that any lively supervisor has: Quants merely apply them utilizing the ever-increasing energy of computer systems, Gina Marie N. Moore, CFA observes. These instruments enable the supervisor to pursue reward and cope with danger, prices, and charges, and shopping for themselves the time obligatory to distinguish funding talent from luck.

Fundamentals of Efficient Factor Investing (In Practice Summary)

Combining long-only-constrained issue subportfolios is usually not a imply–variance-efficient approach to seize anticipated issue returns, Roger ClarkeHarindra de Silva, CFA, and Steven Thorley, CFA, observe. For instance, a mixture of 4 absolutely invested issue subportfolios — low beta, small dimension, worth, and momentum — captures lower than half (e.g., 40%) of the potential enchancment over the market portfolio’s Sharpe ratio. In distinction, a long-only portfolio of particular person securities, utilizing the identical danger mannequin and return forecasts, captures most (e.g., 80%) of the potential enchancment.

2. Industry Scope and Challenges to Factor Investing

The Rise of Institutional Investors

Since the start of the 20th century, institutional buyers have gained prominence in UK and US monetary markets not solely due to adjustments in financial entry, but additionally due to adjustments in the best way governments defend buyers, in accordance to Janette Rutterford and Leslie Hannah.

Does Academic Research Destroy Stock Return Predictability?

Financial analysis has uncovered many new elements (e.g., small cap, worth, momentum, low beta) that designate inventory returns; in truth, many of those elements have already been commercialized into monetary merchandise. R. David McLean, CFA, and Jeffrey Pontiff look at whether or not these historic insights and return patterns stay after the tutorial analysis discovering them is revealed.


Because of the potential for information mining and a number of testing, it’s common follow to haircut reported Sharpe ratios by 50% when evaluating backtests of buying and selling methods. Campbell R. Harvey and Yan Liu suggest an strategy that calculates a haircut to the Sharpe ratios to account for information mining and a number of testing.

Smart Beta Is Not Monkey Business

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have been rising in recognition with current developments in factor-tilted methods. Some buyers have noticed that these portfolios derive most of their outperformance from publicity to solely two elements — worth and small dimension — and the portfolios outperform even when randomly put collectively or turned the other way up (monkey portfolios), in accordance to Noël AmencFelix Goltz, and Ashish Lodh.

Robustness of Smart Beta Strategies 

Investors are cautious of the robustness of the outperformance of sensible beta methods. Noël AmencFelix GoltzSivagaminathan Sivasubramanian, and Ashish Lodh deal with this concern by offering measures of relative and absolute robustness. They look at the causes of an absence of robustness and suggest cures for these issues. Their conclusions concentrate on the risks of knowledge mining and an absence of transparency.

Will Your Factor Deliver? An Examination of Factor Robustness and Implementation Costs (In Practice Summary)

The multifactor investing framework has turn out to be very fashionable within the indexing group. Both tutorial and practitioner researchers have documented a whole bunch of fairness elements. But which of those elements are possible to revenue buyers as soon as carried out? Noah BeckJason HsuVitali Kalesnik, and Helge Kostka discover that lots of the documented elements lack robustness.

3. Equities Factor Investing

A Five-Factor Asset Pricing Model

Eugene Fama and Kenneth French introduce a five-factor asset pricing mannequin that outperforms the well-known Fama–French three-factor asset pricing mannequin in explaining inventory returns. Surprisingly, when the 2 extra elements of profitability and funding are added to the unique three-factor mannequin, the worth issue turns into superfluous. Although the five-factor mannequin will not be with out its challenges, it’s helpful in describing the cross-sectional variance of the elements’ anticipated return.

Dissecting Anomalies with a Five-Factor Model

By including profitability and funding elements to their earlier three-factor mannequin, Eugene Fama and Kenneth French clarify the market β, internet share points, and volatility anomalies. The accruals and momentum anomalies can’t be defined by the five-factor mannequin.

Return of the Quants: Risk-Based Investing

Managed volatility and lined name writing are two of the few systematic funding methods which were proven to carry out effectively throughout quite a lot of empirical research and in follow. So far, they’ve been studied largely as separate methods. It seems that when mixed, these two methods create a robust toolset for portfolio enhancements, in accordance to Anna Dreyer, CFA, Robert L. Harlow, CFA, Stefan Hubrich, CFA, and Sébastien Page, CFA.

Fact, Fiction, and Value Investing

The concept that seemingly low-cost securities, in accordance to measures of basic and intrinsic worth, outperform seemingly costly securities has been scrutinized by teachers for greater than 30 years, but the worth technique continues to be extensively misunderstood. Recent analysis that up to date the extensively cited Fama–French three-factor mannequin launched two new elements that declare to make the worth issue redundant. Clifford Asness, Andrea Frazzini, Ronen Israel, and Tobias Moskowitz establish numerous information and fictions about worth investing that want clarification.

Facts about Formulaic Value Investing

The time period “value investing” is more and more being adopted by quantitative funding methods that use ratios of frequent basic metrics (e.g., guide worth, earnings) to market worth. An indicator of such methods is that they don’t contain a complete effort to decide the intrinsic worth of the underlying securities. U-Wen Kok, CFA, Jason Ribando, CFA, and Richard Sloan argue that these methods shouldn’t be confused with worth methods that use a complete strategy in figuring out the intrinsic worth of the underlying securities.

Chapter 14: Factor Investing

In issue investing, belongings are considered as bundles of underlying danger elements, in accordance to Andrew Ang. Investors ought to maintain elements whose losses they will endure extra simply than the standard investor can. Ideally, the benchmark for issue investing is dynamically primarily based on investor-specific circumstances moderately than on market capitalization.

4. Bond Factor Investing

Factor Approach to Fixed-Income Allocation

A danger issue–primarily based strategy can be utilized for managing fixed-income portfolios. Ramu Thiagarajan, Douglas J. Peebles, Sonam Leki Dorji, Jiho Han, and Chris Wilson present {that a} restricted set of things — price, progress, and volatility — clarify the return on fixed-income portfolios. Investors can use this strategy in managing and analyzing their portfolios and in incorporating their macro views into their asset allocation choices.

Fundamental Indexing in Global Bond Markets: The Risk Exposure Explains It All (In Practice Summary

To examine the elemental indexing methodology, Lidia Bolla, CFA, applies it to world authorities bond markets and examines its publicity to a number of newly launched danger elements. She finds that the elemental indexing strategy outperforms a market-value-weighted index. However, her outcomes present statistically vital and economically related exposures of essentially weighted indexes to the danger elements time period and length danger, default danger, convexity danger, liquidity danger, and carry commerce danger. The elevated danger publicity explains the outperformance of the elemental indexing methodology in authorities bond markets.

Shedding Light on Fixed-Income Performance Attribution

Fixed-income attribution explains the sources of a supervisor’s lively return, Deborah Kidd, CFA, observes. A fancy course of, attribution could be difficult to implement and typically tormented by giant, unexplained residual returns. Understanding the assumptions underlying a supervisor’s attribution mannequin and their relation to the funding course of, together with a qualitative evaluation, may help decide how effectively the attribution displays the supervisor’s decision-making abilities and present a clearer image of efficiency.

5. Other Asset Classes

Factor Investing in the Corporate Bond Market

Patrick Houweling and Jeroen van Zundert, CFA, supply empirical proof that dimension, low-risk, worth, and momentum issue portfolios generate economically significant and statistically vital alphas within the company bond market. Because the correlations between the single-factor portfolios are low, a mixed multifactor portfolio advantages from diversification among the many elements: It has a decrease monitoring error and the next data ratio than the person elements.

Understanding the Risks in Alternative Beta Indices

The variety of alternatively weighted fairness indices, additionally referred to as “alternative beta indices,” has risen dramatically since their introduction into the index scene within the mid-2000s. Deborah Kidd, CFA, supplies an outline of in style alternatively weighted index schemes and provides buyers a framework with which to perceive and gauge the suitability of an alternate index for his or her desired danger exposures.

Two Centuries of Price-Return Momentum

Having created a month-to-month dataset of US safety costs between 1801 and 1926, Christopher C. Geczy and Mikhail Samonov conduct out-of-sample assessments of price-return momentum methods which were carried out within the post-1925 datasets. The extra time-series information strengthen the proof that worth momentum is dynamically uncovered to market danger, conditional on the signal and length of the trailing market state.

The Low-Volatility Anomaly: Market Evidence on Systematic Risk vs. Mispricing

Xi Li, Rodney N. Sullivan, CFA, and Luis Garcia-Feijóo, CFA, CIPM, discover whether or not the well-publicized anomalous returns related to low-volatility shares could be attributed to market mispricing or to compensation for increased systematic issue danger. The outcomes of their examine, overlaying a 46-year interval, point out that the comparatively excessive returns of low-volatility portfolios can’t be considered solely as compensation for systematic issue danger.

Low-Volatility Cycles: The Influence of Valuation and Momentum on Low-Volatility Portfolios

Research exhibiting that the lowest-risk shares have a tendency to outperform the highest-risk shares over time has led to fast progress in so-called low-risk fairness investing in recent times. Luis Garcia-Feijóo, CFA, CIPM, Lawrence Kochard, CFA, Rodney N. Sullivan, CFA, and Peng Wang, CFA, look at the efficiency of each the low-risk technique beforehand thought-about within the literature and a beta-neutral low-risk technique that’s extra related in follow.

6. Multifactor Approaches

Chapter 11. An Introduction to Multifactor Models

After finishing this chapter of Quantitative Investment Analysis, Third Edition, readers can be ready to describe arbitrage pricing idea (APT), together with its underlying assumptions and its relation to multifactor fashions; outline arbitrage alternative and decide whether or not an arbitrage alternative exists; calculate the anticipated return on an asset given an asset’s issue sensitivities and the issue danger premiums; and extra.

Risk Factors as Building Blocks for Portfolio Diversification: The Chemistry of Asset Allocation

Asset lessons could be damaged down into elements that designate danger, return, and correlation traits higher than conventional approaches, Eugene L. Podkaminer, CFA, explains.

Factor Investing and Asset Allocation: A Business Cycle Perspective

This monograph, by Vasant NaikMukundan DevarajanAndrew NowobilskiSébastien Page, CFA, and Niels Pedersen, attracts closely on the huge physique of information that has been constructed by monetary economists during the last 50 years. Its aim is to present how to remedy actual‐life portfolio allocation issues. The authors have discovered that utilizing a broad vary of fashions works greatest and favor easy over advanced fashions.

Asset Allocation with Macroeconomic Foundations: The Risk Factor Approach (A Summary)

Diversification in portfolios is fascinating, however the fashions we use to obtain this goal could also be deceptive as a result of they’re divorced from macroeconomics. Individual and institutional buyers ought to pay shut attention to enhancements to the normal strategy to asset allocation, together with consideration of forward-looking macro views, Vasant Naik and Sébastien Page, CFA, observe.

Practical Considerations for Factor-Based Asset Allocation

Despite the shortcomings of conventional asset allocation insurance policies, most funding portfolios are nonetheless constructed primarily based on direct asset class publicity. In addition, it might not be possible for buyers to implement policy-level choices utilizing a factor-based allocation framework. Daniel Ung, CFA, and Xiaowei Kang, CFA, talk about three approaches to danger issue–primarily based portfolio building and supply their reflections on the sensible elements of implementation.

7. Performance Measurement of Factor Investing

What Is an Index?

The current advances in computational and monetary expertise and resultant monetary innovation have created the potential of a brand new perspective on indexes, indexation, and the excellence between lively and passive investing, writes Andrew Lo.

Factor Investing: When Alpha Becomes Beta

Many sources of alpha have turn out to be straightforward to establish and extensively replicated over time, Deborah Kidd, CFA, notes. Such systematic return drivers, or elements, occupy the house between conventional beta and alpha. They characterize funding methods that require talent past passive investing however not the complexity obligatory for alpha technology.

Does It Pay to Bet Against Beta? On the Conditional Performance of the Beta Anomaly

In trying to revenue from the anomaly that the noticed returns for high-beta shares inadequately compensate for his or her increased publicity to market danger, practitioners have more and more “bet against beta” — promoting quick high-beta belongings and shopping for low-beta belongings. Scott Cederburg, CFA, and Michael S. O’Doherty problem the existence of any such anomaly.

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All posts are the opinion of the creator. As such, they shouldn’t be construed as funding recommendation, nor do the opinions expressed essentially mirror the views of CFA Institute or the creator’s employer.

Image credit score: ©Getty Images/erhui1979

Mark Harrison, CFA

Mark Harrison, CFA, is director of journal publications at CFA Institute, the place he helps a collection of member publications, together with the Financial Analysts Journal, In Practice summaries, and CFA Digest. He has greater than 12 years of funding expertise as a portfolio supervisor and securities analyst. Harrison is a graduate of the University of Oxford.

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