Asset owners with a traditional equity portfolio (growth, value, core) may miss out on factors related to defensiveness, such as price stability (e.g., low volatility) and earnings stability. One idea for filling this gap is “compounders” — equity strategies focused on companies with high and stable free-cash-flow yield and the potential to grow modestly but steadily over time, all in the pursuit of high-single-digit or low-double-digit returns. This category includes portfolio managers we think of as “core compounders,” based on the way they pick companies, as well as listed infrastructure and listed real estate strategies.
High-single-digit or low-double-digit returns could represent significant alpha in the next decade. In addition, valuation could be a tailwind for some defensive approaches, given the category’s weak COVID-era performance. Some of these strategies (e.g., listed infrastructure) may also offer the benefit of inflation hedging, which could add to their appeal in the current environment. Lastly, it is possible that in some scenarios, fixed income will be a less effective hedge against an equity market sell-off than it has been historically, which could make defensive equities all the more attractive.
Take advantage of thematic and opportunistic investments
I define thematic investing as trying to capture structural trends that will change the world over a period of five to 10 years (or more) in ways the market hasn’t fully recognized. Today, fintech, energy infrastructure, and emerging market development are among the themes I’m most excited about.
Opportunistic investing is about taking advantage of market dislocations or negative investor sentiment, which can create massive tailwinds when fundamentals (and sentiment) inflect — a process that often plays out over a shorter cycle (three to five years) than thematic. Opportunistic investors seek to “monetize” a longer time horizon by being a liquidity provider when the market is shying away from a region, asset class, or approach. Given that there is ample liquidity today, I see fewer of these opportunities at the moment, but Japan may fit the bill and China could soon as well.
Both thematic and opportunistic investments can potentially benefit from tailwinds that aren’t reliant on the business cycle or economic growth, which means they are less dependent on the state of the broad capital markets and may add some diversification to a portfolio. Success factors include identifying the right themes or opportunities and then finding the related securities that are most attractive at any given point in the cycle.