1. Continue to allocate at the pace prior to the 2022 market drawdown
Advantages: This may put more capital to work today at lower valuations. Our research also shows that there have historically been strong private equity vintages in crisis years as well as the one to three years following a market downturn. The premise is that during times of disruption, well-positioned general partners may act as liquidity providers and make timely investments at attractive valuations. Continuing the prior pace should also position asset owners well if the market bounces back to its pre-2022 levels in fairly short order.
Disadvantages: This approach may put strain on a portfolio’s overall liquid/illiquid balance, especially if markets experience another leg down. Investors may be locking themselves into commitments that turn out to be disproportionate relative to their asset base at the end of 2023 or 2024.
2. Cut private equity commitments substantially, with a focus on bringing allocations back to target
Advantages: This approach most directly addresses governance concerns about being overallocated to private equity, and the portfolio should be positioned relatively well if markets fall further. There should also be a greater margin of safety if the pace of capital returns slows (we may be in a period where private equity distributions slow somewhat, affecting those who rely on the distributions to fund future capital calls).
Disadvantages: If markets bounce back, asset owners taking this approach could find themselves with a meaningful private equity underweight for an extended period. They may also find they missed an opportunity to put capital to work at compelling valuations. Investors should recognize they still face the risk of remaining overweight private equity even after taking this step, given the slow pace at which private equity allocations evolve.
3. Decrease future commitments in line with the overall portfolio’s new size
Advantages: This approach avoids pulling back too dramatically when valuations are compelling while still accounting for today’s market realities and the risks of being overallocated to private equity over time.
Disadvantages: This option could create a missed opportunity if markets enjoy a strong rally while upcoming commitments are being reined in. On the other hand, this approach would take some time and until the desired private equity exposure is achieved, the portfolio may still be exposed to liquidity challenges if markets sell off further.