Disciples of factor-based investing need to respond to a new challenge - while factor analysis is valuable for two reasons, investors are better served by a strategy based solely on allocating to asset classes, a new study claims.

Risk tolerance is a key constraint in designing a portfolio, but it should also be considered a key constraint in establishing their goals for investing in the first place.

Michael Kitces | 0.25 CE

Arguably, the future of designing portfolios for accumulators in particular is that the asset class and sector exposures of the portfolio should be adjusted around the risk/return characteristics of the worker's job.

Michael Kitces | 0.50 CE

The efficient frontier for retirement income generally consists of combinations of stocks and income annuities - perhaps surprisingly, bond funds do not serve a useful role in the optimal retirement income portfolio.

With interest rates at record lows, it is a really good time to revisit how we build debt portfolios. A three box approach can really help in making and communicating investment decisions for the secure part of their portfolio in the new, low interest rate environment.

Tim Farrelly | 2 comments | 0.50 CE

The typical approach to portfolio construction in the world of financial planning is a two-step process encompassing asset allocation and investment selection. It is the second step where a major flaw exists.

Crisis and Complexity explores over a dozen economic and financial catastrophes since 1720, focusing on both the unique characters and historical events that shaped each crisis as well as their common recurring pattern.

Markets have a habit of coming along and kicking you in the teeth when you least expect it - and often when you are most confident you know what you are doing. The bull market in central bank omnipotence is probably over.

Focusing on a client's investment portfolio alone ignores their greatest asset - their ability to continue earning income through the fruits of their labor, also known as their "human capital". Deciding how much risk to take with financial capital given a client's human capital risks is crucial.

Michael Kitces | 0.25 CE

Turmoil often provides a fantastic opportunity to reassess one's portfolio - and we're currently going through exactly such turmoil. The question is: what are the critical issues that investors should focus on as they rethink portfolio positioning today?

Yellen has confirmed what should have been obvious all along - the Fed is not indifferent to international financial stress and its risk-management approach remains strongly biased in favour of "lower for longer". But four things about US monetary policy are frequently misunderstood.

The progress we have seen in European markets in 2015 is sustainable over the next 12 months. But, investors should temper return expectations and anticipate continued market volatility.

PortfolioConstruction Forum Strategies Conference 2015 featured a carefully selected faculty of more than 35 international and local portfolio construction experts offering their best high conviction ideas about critical portfolio "crossroads". Here are the highlights.

Our eclectic Panel - a politician, a pastor, a professor, a portfolio manager, a practitioner, a provocateur, and a 'preneur, moderated by our Publisher - addresses Conference 2015 delegates' questions about key Crossroads, Dilemmas and Decisions.

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A recent survey of 1000 Australian investors found that individuals who are advised have greater confidence in their retirement readiness and a heightened awareness of the retirement strategies and solutions available.

The danger that “sequence of return risk” can devastate a retirement portfolio is both increasingly recognised and frequently misunderstood. Three concrete, research-driven strategies can help manage it.

Michael Kitces | 1.00 CE

Portfolio construction specialists face a new set of challenges. What matters is the ability to deliver a robust and predictable outcome. This requires institutional capabilities.

While 36% of investors say they are ‘reviewing their need for downside protection’, only 8% are currently implementing it. Yet there are many strategies to manage risk in portfolios.

By avoiding unrewarded risk and by avoiding going against other factors, the risk return profile of factor investing portfolios can be improved further.

EM policymakers have wasted their commodity-fueled Goldilocks Era and are sitting at a crossroads. Without a dramatic policy shift, EM are a value trap, if not an outright bubble.

Indexing could be as problematic during the next few decades as it has been successful in the past few. This heightens the appeal of active management for those brave enough to pursue it.

Woody Brock | 0.50 CE

With traditional asset classes expensive and historically low yields on bonds compromising their role as a diversifier, investors are at a crossroads. Investors should be looking for alternative sources of return and genuine diversification.

There are two possible outcomes from the extreme debt levels in the global economy - high inflation or long-term below trend growth. The key dilemma is how to minimise this uncertainty and return dispersion.

Warryn Robertson | 0.75 CE

Recent stock market volatility demonstrates that asset price growth expectations can’t be taken for granted in China, despite intervention from policymakers. The bursting of China’s property bubble poses a major risk to the stability of China and the global economy – and a critical dilemma for investors.

QE has driven a search for yield globally, resulting in a unique Australian experience that has seen the major ASX indices become increasingly concentrated. We are at the crossroads for active Australian equity management.

The US Federal Reserve is (reluctantly) ending a long period of abnormally low rates. Investors should consider flexible benchmark unaware approaches in their fixed income portfolios, to potentially mitigate adverse market conditions going forward.

Investors need to be more focused on downside risk management. An environment of lower expected returns and higher volatility means risk management is just as important as return management.

The diverse range of quality small cap companies with recurring earnings and growing dividend yields offer investors essential risk diversification and should be incorporated into portfolios.

Many investors are facing a dilemma with the perceived risk embedded in debt markets as Fed lift-off looms. However, reality beckons - rates will rise and investors can benefit.

Tony Crescenzi | 0.75 CE

Having a clear investment philosophy based on our own belief set - a living document that we evolve and sharpen over time - is the best tool to making investment decisions under uncertainty.

Tim Farrelly | 0.50 CE

Our panel debated the contrasting views of the two presenters who addressed this "crossroad" - that rates are likely to go higher than most expect over the next three years vs that markets will go on tolerating lower interest rates for far longer.

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The view that markets will go on tolerating lower interest rates for far longer is the more benign, market friendly (almost bullish) outlook than the common thinking that higher interest rates will be good.

With the Fed signalling its intention to raise rates, there is great disagreement about the quantum of rises ahead. Rates are likely to go higher than most expect - and the risk of a material equity market correction is elevated.

Portfolio construction is approaching a crossroads – critical questions must be answered, and critical decisions must now be made.

It is time to properly account for risk characteristics of client’s most valuable asset - their human capital. This isn’t easy to implement and places practitioners in a difficult situation...

Investors can substantially improve the risk/return characteristics of their strategic asset allocation by considering not only the classic equity premium, but also other premiums present in the equity market.

Although it is widely appreciated that past performance is not a guide to future returns, it is less appreciated that past diversification is not a guide to future risk.

Individuals have three types of capital - financial capital (pretty obvious, everybody understands that) as well as human capital and social capital. All three affect our financial and retirement decisions.

High active share is often profiled as "better" but such portfolios can exhibit risk concentrations which may lead to volatile return streams. Low active share funds should not be excluded from asset allocators’ tool kit.

The US Federal Reserve is (reluctantly) ending a long period of abnormally low rates. Traditional drivers of portfolio returns such as productivity and earnings growth are set to reassert themselves.

Traditionally, risk management might have been considered as a monitoring activity only. Risk analysis, can, however, add value at the earlier stages of the investment process.

The single most important macro-trend of our time is China's attempt to transform itself from a typical (if large) emerging market into an empire. The interesting bit for investors is that growing empires usually breed strong currencies.

A simple ratchet-style "safe" withdrawal rate approach, where spending is increased by 10% any time the portfolio rises more than 50% above its starting value, beats the traditional 4% rule, generating equal or better retirement spending, even while being conservative enough to not require a spending cut in the event of a market pullback in the future.

We should acknowledge the Greek crisis for what it is - the death-knell for the European dream of empire. The growing reality is the return of borders, national preferences, and opt-outs. The euro has become a structurally weak currency and European bonds are likely to underperform those of other, nonshrinking, empires.

Despite all the negative ink that's been spilt over the recent collapse in Chinese equities, we continue to believe that a year from now there will be more marginal buyers of Chinese equities than today.

Understanding PETS - Political, Environmental, Technological/Scientific, Social - factors is relevant, if not crucial, to us as citizens. But to what extent are they relevant or important to investing?

The classic 4% rule holds withdrawals at 4% of the initial value of the portfolio at retirement. A great deal of recent research has focused on strategies that adjust withdrawals depending on investment experience.

We hear this one a lot. It's incredibly misleading. Bank hybrids offer better than bond returns with higher risk, and lower than equity returns with much lower than equity risk.

Will low interest rates be with us for decades? Or are higher rates ahead? Our Academy panel argues the case for "lower for longer" versus "back to higher" - and the implications for portfolios.

Four "big picture" geopolitical conditions will affect policy and markets going forward - in order of importance, the South China Sea, Russia returns, the end of Sykes-Picot in the Middle East, and the unwinding of the EU.

As always, PortfolioConstruction Forum Symposium is the highlight of my year in terms of professional development. This year's was probably the best to date. Here are the key takeouts I sent to my clients.

PortfolioConstruction Forum Academy challenges and advances portfolio construction knowledge and wisdom. Open to a select group of just 80 senior, experienced portfolio construction practitioners each year, Academy will enable you to continuously develop, test, and validate your portfolio construction philosophy and decision-making framework.

The 2014-2015 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2014-2015 curriculum year...

The 2013-2014 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2013-2014 curriculum year...

The 2012-2013 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2012-2013 curriculum year.

The 2011-2012 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2011-2012 curriculum year.

The 2010-2011 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2010-2011 curriculum year.

PortfolioConstruction Forum Academy Winter Seminar 2015 featured four sessions. This Resources Kit contains the materials for preparing for the Seminar, as well as the presentation slides.

I am convinced that both economies and markets are reaching a point of transition where one of two discrete outcomes is likely. Portfolios must offer the potential for reasonable performance in either eventuality.

In 2015, currencies will basically drive the outperformance candidates as economies try to steal growth from each other. Plus, there is a decade-long mania candidate - healthcare.

Symposium 2015 featured 20+ leading investment professionals arguing their best, high conviction ideas about the markets, strategies and investing.

The surprising result of a recent study is that the "conventional" view that earnings rise steadily (above inflation) throughout our careers is not accurate. Good spending habits established early on can make an astounding difference to wealth over a lifetime.

Michael Kitces | 0.50 CE

We now have enough history to determine who the winners were from 25 years of globalisation. The answer? Small countries. The investment conclusion is obvious - overweight good companies listed in small countries.

Divergences in global economic and policy outcomes have important implications for markets around the world. This policy divergence has directly influenced asset prices across the globe with implications for stocks, bonds and currency markets.

China now has to deal with a massive excess supply of property… This is unlikely to be “just another property cycle” in China. The bursting of China’s property bubble poses a major risk to both the country’s stability and the global economy.

In this environment, what’s very important is capital preservation. The problem investors have is that there are very few places to hide. So, while cash may not be king, I think it could end up being a very handsome prince.

If you have a DIMS license, you are required to stress test portfolios. Here are two practical approaches to stress testing, and the strengths and weaknesses of each to help you build your approach to portfolio stress testing.

Tim Farrelly | 0.75 CE

Portfolio construction should focus on three risk buckets – beta, smart beta, and alpha. If not, you run the risk of creating a poorly diversified (that is, over diversified) portfolio – and, worse, a portfolio that costs far more than it should.

Michael Furey | 0.75 CE

Each of our Symposium 2015 DDF presenters gave a 2-minute overview of their high conviction portfolio construction strategy idea.

Rather than large, liquid companies with significant global revenue bases which dominate benchmark allocations, investors should seek exposure to India’s surging local demand…

When combining managers together to form a multi-manager global equity portfolio, investors should still aim to keep active share relatively high.

uilding NZ fixed interest portfolios is harder than it has ever been… Portfolios need to be constructed for the specific needs of clients, which will typically be a combination of liquidity, income, quality, and diversification

The diverse range of quality small cap companies with recurring earnings and growing dividend yields offer investors essential risk diversification and should be incorporated into portfolios.

Investors will need to hunt out alternative sources of yield to meet their investment objectives. All is not lost. Yield can be preserved in a low yield world but investors need to be aware of the risks and trade-offs.

Each panelist outlined which high conviction markets idea from Symposium 2015 day one they agreed with most, and which one they agreed with least.

What return premia - if any - are attached to different types of investment risk? And just how reliable are those premia are in practice? Can the risks be diversified?

Tim Farrelly | 0.50 CE

It’s possible, or more likely probable, that for future generations, our money will run out before our body does. This means that our historical models of accumulation and decumulation will not work for future generations.

As we all brace for lift-off in the key US Federal funds rate, a robust, top-down macro perspective will be even more critical to the success of portfolios than ever.

Jonathan Pain | 0.50 CE

Our Symposium 2015 debated their high conviction ideas on the drivers of, and medium-term outlook for, the New Zealand economy.

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Our Symposium 2015 Faculty debated their high conviction ideas on the drivers of, and medium-term (two to three year) outlook for the markets.

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Despite a genuine desire to invest in New Zealand on behalf of a substantial Australian superannuation fund, after several years of trying, no money has been invested.

For investors, one of the most important events of 2014 was the dramatic collapse in the oil price. The long-term equilibrium price is now likely to be lower. Overall, portfolios must be repositioned for increased volatility.

Nick Langley | 0.50 CE

Returns in defensive equity yield and income sectors have been outsized as bond yields have fallen. Growth sectors have underperformed. But globally, technology shares are cheap on a relative basis.

World-wide low interest rates are not a temporary phenomenon. The world has changed and it is highly likely that the current low rate environment will be with us for decades. Getting used to low rates will be a critical adjustment for all investors to make in the coming years.

Tim Farrelly | 0.50 CE

Slow growth is an old story. The new story is that world is finally beginning to re-balance - a process that unfortunately will take another 20 years. Well-intended policies are causing bubbles and distortions to asset prices.

Robert Gay | 2 comments | 0.50 CE

The outlook for the global economy is unambiguously positive. At long last, all regional economic cylinders are firing in unison and secular stagnation is yesterday's story.

Jonathan Pain | 1 comment | 0.50 CE

PortfolioConstruction Forum Publisher and Symposium NZ 2015 Moderator, Graham Rich, opened Symposium NZ 2015 in his usual thought-provoking (and entertaining) way, highlighting key issues to consider over the jam-packed, marathon program.

With NZ fixed interest portfolios arguably harder to build than ever before, this paper introduces a framework for practitioners to build fixed interest portfolios for to meet the needs of individual clients.

I think we have seen the low in European bond yields and that we have commenced on the path - at long last - of secular reflation.

Have you ever wondered about why some people plan for retirement and other people don’t? Whether people focus on the past, the present or the future - their Time Perspective - influences their retirement planning behaviour.

Joanne Earl | 1.00 CE

Lower oil prices and a wave of monetary policy accommodation are a net positive for the global economy, but there are losers as well as winners, especially in some emerging market economies.

I have a sense of a secular bull market ending with a whimper, not a bang. Only the timing is in doubt. Because of this, I have increasingly a great unrest. You should too.

In recent years, academics have been at war over whether the small cap premium exists. This recent paper finds it does - if you control for quality - and that it is significant, and not time or market specific.

To maintain "no taxation, no representation" deal with its people, China's leadership seems to be going down a path that'd see index funds as forced buyers of Chinese equities.

Is it time to start thinking more about E/P ratios than P/E ratios? After all, predicting that returns may be higher or lower with a low (or high) earnings yield (and a corresponding P/E ratio) really isn't so controversial.

Investors often face unknown and even unknowable states of the world. How should we make investment decisions under ignorance?

Low GDP growth, very low real rates, higher PEs and valuation multiples - it's a new world. We all need to get used to it. In particular, we should review client spending plans.

While it has offered a very bumpy and challenging ride in recent years, I suspect those prepared to buy and hold some gold exposure today will be well rewarded.

Now the Fed has opened the door to normalising interest, what constitutes "normal"? Take care in stretching for yield now the Fed is no longer making promises.

PortfolioConstruction Forum Academy Autumn Seminar 2015 featured four sessions. This Resources Kit contains the materials for preparing for the Seminar, as well as the presentation slides.

This paper by Rob Arnott and Denis Chaves looks the effects of different age cohorts on GDP and asset class returns.

Vimal Gor | 1.75 CE

When faced with a huge majority of experts expecting international equities to outperform Australian equities, I blurted this out. I was wrong, and on a few counts.

The US dollar is hitting new 12-year highs almost daily and the euro seems to be plunging to below parity. But there are at least four factors pressuring it the other way.

This paper offers a surprising amount of info and interesting ways of framing investment issues in retirement, and some good analysis of longevity risk.

Macroeconomic outlooks may differ from where you can receive market returns. The outlook can be summarised in three words - improvement, divergence and decoupling.

Currency risk is a significant issue for Australian investors. This paper summarises the research on optimal hedge ratios for international equities exposures.

Since the 1980s, oil prices have fallen 50% or more over six months just twice - including last year. Was oil a bubble which has now imploded? Or is oil set to bounce back?

Despite forecasts of continued superior US economic growth, we are selling down our beloved US quality stocks in favor of the problem children of the investing world.

Markets Summit 2015 - Cyclical? Structural? Secular? - featured 19 international and local investment experts debating their best ideas on the key cyclical, structural and secular issues driving the medium-term outlook for markets - and, of course, the implications for portfolios. This Resources Kit is a deluge of videos, podcasts, and papers for all sessions of the jam-packed program so you can "attend" even if you weren't there.

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In this seminal paper, Ibbotson confirms that after the decision to actually invest is made, asset allocation and manager selection are equally important.

In this not-to-be-missed session of a not-to-be-missed program few prisoners were taken in debating the moot "overweight int'l equities, underweight Au equities.

Investing globally is increasingly popular with the expectation of a continued weak AUD being a big driver. But easy currency gains may have been had.

New research suggests that the best things to do to improve our happiness may lie in NOT trying to maximise our wealth.

Pippa picked up where she left off in her opening keynote, tying the Markets Summit 2015 proceedings together, summarising her key takeouts, and their implications for portfolios.

In this simulated investment board meeting, our day's 17 international and local Faculty members debated and voted on whether to overweight international equities and underweight Australian equities in portfolios on a two- to three-year view.

In 2014, we witnessed the return of market volatility. With potentially significant market return and volatility, investors should consider portfolio positioning before the fact.

The fourth D confronting investors - the disruptions wrought by technological change. Cash cows, thoroughbred stocks and roll-ups are best placed in a world challenged by the four Ds.

Kate Howitt | 0.50 CE

While demographics will still dominate into the future, energy and automation are quickly rising to be just as important with significant implications for portfolios.

Vimal Gor | 0.50 CE

A currency union absent of full political union is inherently unstable. After the first country exits the eurozone, markets will attack the next most vulnerable. The dominos will fall.

Few opportunities are available today where discounts to intrinsic value outweigh downside risks. Japanese corporations are increasingly embracing ROE and shareholder value.

As its capital markets develop, the macro picture improves, inflation comes under control, and the economy grows, India's credit and rates markets present a compelling opportunity.

Since Q4 2014, oil prices have plunged, currency markets are at war and intraday volatility of stock indices is disturbing. A crisis mode has started. Asset allocators must mitigate risks before this next crisis inevitably hits.

One of the most important events of 2014 for investors was the dramatic collapse in the oil price. Overall, investment portfolios must be repositioned for increased volatility.

Nick Langley | 0.50 CE

The US equity market will disappoint going forward. Global equity investors need to be far less US-centric to capture better returns.

Navigating the lower limbo stick will require more unconstrained investing, greater consideration of the chosen benchmark, and a greater focus on downside risk management.

Lower 'neutral' monetary policy rates across the developed world will continue to serve as an important anchor for the secular valuation of all asset classes.

Robert Mead, PIMCO | 0.50 CE

Emerging markets will face a more challenging economic and financial outlook over the next few years - but systemic risk across the emerging world is lower than before the Asian crisis.

De-leveraging, widening inequality and structural reforms limit growth in developed markets. The US is the most advanced in addressing these challenges.

Ronald Temple | 0.50 CE

2015 will be a year of huge uncertainty about the future of the Euro. These uncertainties are likely to pose a fundamental challenge to investing in the Eurozone.

Differentiation is key for emerging markets. Secularly, countries enjoying the rise of consumerism are expected to drive local company earnings above the global norm.

Economic signals are everywhere. By being alert to signals, anyone can start to navigate through the turbulence of the world economy.

That the global economy didn’t kick on in 2014 may instill some scepticism among investors about 2015’s prospects. There are five important themes to consider through 2015.

EM equities and fixed income enjoyed a boom in the 2000s. Now after several years of relative underperformance, EMs appear to be on the cusp of stronger growth.

The US secondary corporate bond market is in a time of significant upheaval. Changes to regulations has caused a new, insidious liquidity risk.

The most important issue for investors is the risk of a US recession in 2016. It would play out to a global recession. There are cyclical, structural and secular forces at work.

After a run of historically rapid improvement in living standards in the first decade of the millennium, emerging markets will face a more challenging outlook - not a crisis - over the next few years.

As the US potentially enters its sixth year of expansion, we are optimistic its economy can continue on a steady trajectory throughout 2015. Elsewhere in the world, the outlook is murkier.

An emphasis on tactical asset allocation, careful bottom-up security selection and prudent relative value decisions are going to be critical in 2015.

2015 has got off to an eventful start - we've seen dramatic changes only five weeks into the year. Here's where I see markets going in 2015. A couple of things really stand out.

PortfolioConstruction Forum Academy Summer Seminar 2015 featured four sessions. This Resources Kit contains the materials for preparing for the Seminar, as well as the presentation slides.

The world economy today is defined by the unwinding, the reversal of several very long-term economic trends - and they have economic and investment implications.

Does geopolitics have investment implications? In short - yes - and this paper provides a clear understanding of both geopolitics and its clear link to investment markets.

Japan has a history of changing dramatically, often when least expected. As Abe's economic policies and structural reforms spark growth, Japan is well-positioned to reemerge as a global investment force.

Australia still looks like one of the holdout anomalies in global markets where the adjustment from a decade of mispriced assets has yet to fully play out.

The real distinction in retirement income philosophies is not about which are "safe" and which are not. It is whether risk is transferred or retained (and if retained, managed).

As long as policymakers can stay on course and avoid the policy mistakes of the late 1990s, the oil price collapse could prove more therapeutic than destructive.