Institutional investors embrace risk in pursuit of better returns and yield

Faced with volatility, greater risks and still-low yields, institutional investors are raising their exposure to higher-risk assets in pursuit of better returns, according to an international survey of institutional investors published today by Natixis Global Asset Management.

At the same time, investors are doubling down on risk management to better balance long-term growth objectives and liquidity needs, whilst underlining the need to find better ways of identifying risk across their portfolios.

Natixis surveyed 500 managers of public and corporate pensions, foundations, endowments, insurance funds and sovereign wealth funds in North America, Latin America, the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Collectively, they manage $15.5 trillion in assets. The findings provide insight into how institutional investors are using risk to their advantage.

In the UK, over half of institutional managers surveyed (55%) feel they can handle near-term market risk despite greater volatility, which they say poses the biggest risk to their performance. However, their top organisational concern is low yield.

Given the prospect for greater volatility and low interest rates, few UK institutions are relying on traditional portfolio strategies to meet their performance goals.

In their efforts to manage the risks, some 90% (83% globally) believe risk budgeting is effective in managing risk, while  92% prefer diversifying holdings across sectors, 75% seek currency hedging, and 77% look to increasing their use of alternative investments.

The survey also reveals that the percentage of UK institutions using alternatives to manage risk has exploded globally from 53% in 2015 to 76% today. In addition, 56% report that their organisation is investing more in illiquid assets today compared to three years ago.

“While risk factors change over time, the challenge for institutional investors remains to deliver long-term results while navigating short-term market pressures,” said Chris Jackson, deputy CEO of Natixis Global Asset Management – International Distribution.

“Given their mandates, avoiding risk is not an option for institutional investors. They have to beat the odds or change the game, and they are doing so by balancing risks and embracing alternatives to traditional 60/40 portfolio construction, but always with an eye on their long term, objectives”.


Alicia Villegas
Alicia Villegas speaks Spanish and Italian and is Iberia Correspondent for InvestmentEurope. She was shortlisted for the Rising Star Award at the British Media Awards 2017 and Writer of the Year at the PPA Independent Publisher Awards 2016. Previously, she worked for almost three years at the seafood business website Undercurrent News as a market reporter. In Spain, she also worked for more than five years for several media outlets.

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