Investment strategy

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An investment strategy is a set of rules, behaviors or procedures, designed to guide an investor's selection of an investment portfolio.[1]

In the most general sense[2], investment strategy starts with decisions about asset allocation, as part as an investment policy statement (IPS) or investment plan that considers your objectives, time horizon, tolerance for risk, etc. These aspects are covered in other articles. Here we assume that an IPS and asset allocation have been established and the investor is deciding how to manage investments within specific asset classes.

Different investing strategies can be adopted, and will suit different investors, depending a number of factors, such as tolerance for risk, investing knowledge and experience, time available for portfolio management, temperament, etc. Strategies can be broadly classified as passive versus active, although some strategies do not fit neatly into these categories. Passive strategies are often used to minimize transaction costs and accept the return of an investment benchmark, while active strategies make specific investments with the goal of outperforming an investment benchmark index, reducing risk, or creating more income.

This article attempts to summarize a number of strategies to give you some background and ideas that might be helpful for you to determine what might be good strategy or strategies for you to follow. A number of the strategies are specific to equities. Fixed income specific strategies such as laddering, barbell, bullet and immunization are beyond the scope of this article.

Strategy vs. style

In investing, the terms strategy and style are not generally well defined and sometimes (often?) used interchangeably (e.g., by the Globe and Mail[3]).

Strategy:

  • a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time
  • the skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal

"Definition of Strategy by Merriam-Webster". http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/strategy.

Style:

  • a particular way in which something is done, created, or performed
  • a particular form or design of something
  • a way of behaving or of doing things

"Definition of Style by Merriam-Webster". http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/style.

In some definitions, investing strategy can include asset allocation and risk management, but here we assume that the investor already has a financial plan, has chosen an an asset allocation, and is now deciding on how to manage each asset class within the portfolio.

For the purposes of this article, investment style refers to different style characteristics of equities, bonds or financial derivatives. For example, the investment style of a mutual fund or index fund helps set expectations for long-term performance potential and aids in advertising the fund to investors looking for a specific type of market exposure.[4] Many mutual fund investors may be familiar with the Morningstar Style Box system.[5]

Choosing a strategy

So how should you choose an investing strategy? It comes down to personal fit.

So how should you choose an investing strategy? It comes down to personal fit.

Growth strategies appeal to technology-oriented investors who have the time to research potentially disruptive new products and can handle the swings involved in buying upstart companies that either win big or flame out. Value-oriented approaches also test investors’ nerves because they emphasize buying cheap, out-of-favour companies. They work best for those who have the training and interest to scour financial statements in search of hidden value. Dividend investing is a favourite of those who like the stability of a steady income stream and who don’t want to put in the hours involved in researching growth or value stocks. Indexing takes that a step further and involves passively tracking market benchmarks – an approach that appeals to those of us who believe it’s difficult to outperform the market over time and see no particular reason to spend our evenings and weekends reading financial reports. “Whatever approach you choose has to fit your personality,” says Mr. Heinzl, our dividend investor. “You have to find it interesting and fun and you have to commit to it.”

— Globe and Mail Strategy Lab[3]

Passive investing

Main article: Passive investing

Passive investing (also called passive management) is a strategy in which an investor (or a fund manager) invests in accordance with a pre-determined strategy that doesn't entail any forecasting (e.g., any use of market timing or stock picking would not qualify as passive management). The idea is to minimize investing fees and to avoid the adverse consequences of failing to correctly anticipate the future. The most popular and time-tested passive strategy is called indexing.

Active management

Active management attempts to outperform the market, lower the risk of a portfolio, or increase its yield, using various techniques.

In its traditional form, the active manager is given free rein to manage a mutual fund or other pool of assets in whichever way he or she likes, within a given asset class. The equivalent for individual investors is stock picking (building a portfolio of individual stocks). Of course, active managers use certain strategies, such as those described below, but they are not necessarily rules-based. Canadian mutual funds with active management have a hard time beating their benchmarks over five years.[6] This is largely due to high costs.

"Smart" beta

A more passive form of active management is the so called smart-beta strategies, which have been called the "flavour of the month".[7] ETFs based on such strategies follow pre-determined rules, and often follow alternative (i.e. not cap-weighted) indexes.[8] According to the Financial Times, "Smart beta refers to an investment style where the manager passively follows an index designed to take advantage of perceived systematic biases or inefficiencies in the market. It therefore costs less than active management, since there is less day-to-day decision-making for the manager, but since it will, at the very least, have higher trading costs than traditional passive management (which minimises those costs), it is a pricier option."[9] Depending on the definitions, smart beta or ‘strategic-beta’ strategies can include fundamentally weighted indices, equal weighted indexes, value, growth and dividend-oriented funds, and low-volatility strategies.[10] William Sharpe says that smart beta makes him “definitionally sick” and that "if smart beta is really only exploiting others’ stupidity, the anomalies it exploits will be eliminated over time".[7]

Strategies

Many investors like to draw a clear distinction between passive vs. active management, but strategies don't necessarily fit into this classification, and many equity management strategies can be implemented as using either passive or active management.

An investor may choose to implement their investment policy statement (IPS) or investment plan and asset allocation with a portfolio that uses one or more of the following equity management strategies. A combination approach if often used for investments in different asset classes, for example active management of Canadian equities and passively managing other asset classes.

The following strategies are presented in alphabetical order.

Beating the TSX

Main article: Beating the TSX

Beating the TSX is a Canadianized version of the 'Dogs of the Dow' strategy. It is based on choosing the ten highest-yielding stocks in the S&P/TSX 60 index, excluding former income trusts, and reconstituting the portfolio once a year. There is no need to conduct detailed research on each company.

Buy and hold

See also: Buy and hold

One of the better-known investment strategies is buy and hold. Buy and hold is a long term investment strategy, based on the concept that in the long run equity markets give a good rate of return despite periods of volatility or decline. A purely passive variant of this strategy is indexing, where an investor buys a small proportion of all the shares in a broad-based market index such as the S&P/TSX Composite (Canada) or S&P 500 (US), or more likely, in a mutual fund called an index fund or an exchange-traded fund (ETF).

This viewpoint also holds that market timing, that one can enter the market on the lows and sell on the highs, does not work or does not work for small investors, so it is better to simply buy and hold.

Contrarian investing

Main article: Contrarian investing

Contrarian investing involves going against the crowd to exploit perceived mispricings in stock markets.

Dividend growth investing

Dividend growth investing is an active management strategy that focuses on stocks with a long history of dividend increases. The objective is to produce a steadily increasing income stream that is immune to market fluctuations.

Dollar cost averaging

Main article: Dollar cost averaging

Dollar cost averaging (DCA) is the method of buying a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment such as equities on a regular schedule, regardless of the share price.

Dollar value averaging

Value averaging uses mathematical formula to control the amount of money invested in a portfolio over time. It uses spreadsheets to determine how much to allocate to various asset classes, so that their value increase every month up to a scheduled amount.

Growth investing

Main article: Growth investing

Growth investing is an investment approach that focuses on stocks with above average growth.

Indexing

The efficient market hypothesis (EMH) is one of the factors that leads one to indexing. Put simply, since you can't beat the market, you attempt to passively replicate market performance. It involves the use of broad-based index funds and index-based exchange-traded fund (ETFs). Turnover is normally low which improves the tax efficiency.

Another argument for indexing is Bogle's cost matters hypothesis:[11]

No matter how efficient or inefficient markets may be, the returns earned by investors as a group must fall short of the market returns by precisely the amount of the aggregate costs they incur.

— John C. Bogle

Because index funds and ETFs have the lowest costs, they beat most other funds or strategies.

Ways to implement indexing in a Canadian context are listed under Portfolio design and construction.

Low beta investing

Main article: Low beta investing

Low beta investing (also called "Low-Volatility Investing") involves investment in stocks that have lower volatility than the market in an attempt to get higher returns.

Momentum investing

Main article: Momentum investing

Momentum investing is an investment approach that focuses on stocks with large increases or decreases in price. It assumes that the price trend will continue. Basically, it says buy when the price is increasing and sell when the price is decreasing.

Multifactor investing

Main article: Multifactor investing

Multifactor investing attempts to tilt a portfolio towards value stocks and small cap stocks, in the hope of achieving a higher return than with a total stock market approach.

Value investing

Main article: Value investing

Value investing involves buying stocks at undervalued price based on some fundamental measure such as high dividend yield, low price-to-book value, or low price-earnings ratio.

See also

References

  1. Wikipedia, Investment strategy, viewed January 12, 2016
  2. Investment Strategy Definition | Investopedia, viewed December 29, 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ian McGusan, Strategy Lab: Three years later, one investing style is victorious, The Globe and Mail, September 13, 2015, viewed December 31, 2015
  4. Investment Style Definition | Investopedia, viewed December 29, 2015.
  5. Morningstar Style Box, viewed December 29, 2015.
  6. SPIVA® Canada Scorecard Mid-Year 2015, Oct 15 2015, viewed January 1, 2016.
  7. 7.0 7.1 John Authers, Is ‘smart beta’ smart enough to last?, Financial Times, June 11, 2014, viewed January 23, 2016
  8. Investopedia, Smart Beta, viewed January 23, 2016.
  9. Financial Times lexicon, Definition of smart beta, viewed January 23, 2016
  10. Financial Times, Smart beta often treated as actively managed, October 11, 2015, viewed January 23, 2016
  11. The Relentless Rules of Humble Arithmetic, Remarks by John C. Bogle, Financial Analysts Journal; November/December 2005. Viewed January 20, 2015.

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