Private Wealth

Beyond 60/40: Allocating to Private Markets

July 16, 2021
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For decades, individual investment portfolios have been governed by a single ratio: 60/40. Conventional wisdom was that a portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% bonds represented the optimal mix, providing a decent return without assuming too much risk. But that standard allocation model may be due for a rethink.

Most institutional investors – pension funds, endowments and foundations – already have abandoned the 60/40 principle. It may no longer apply to individual portfolios either. The change is timely.

Lower return expectations, particularly for bonds, mean the standard 60/40 portfolio is less likely to produce the returns it has historically. At the same time, alternative asset classes such as private equity and private debt are becoming more accessible to individual investors, expanding the universe of potential investment options within their portfolios.

This investment brief considers what those possibilities mean for individual investors, specifically examining how an allocation to private markets may optimize the risk/return characteristics of their portfolios, much as it has for institutional investors.

Many institutional investors are anticipating a low return environment and continue to diversify away from stocks and bonds alone.

The Potential Shortcomings of 60/40

Many financial professionals expect diminished returns from a 60/40 portfolio over the next decade. This perspective is driven by two reasons. First, equity valuations are at or near historical highs, which could potentially limit stocks’ return potential going forward. Second, low yields offer a poor starting point for future bond returns.

To be fair, fixed income’s primary role in a broad portfolio is to serve as a diversifier to stocks. While the asset class has never been counted on to provide returns as much as equities, bonds still must provide some level of return if they are going to comprise a sizeable allocation within a portfolio. Today’s yield levels make that increasingly difficult.

Future fixed income returns are highly correlated to current yields. The chart below puts this relationship in perspective, tracking the starting yield and five-year annualized returns for bonds from that point. If history is any guide, this doesn’t bode well for bonds’ future return potential.

Starting Yield vs. 5-Yr Forward Annualized Return

U.S. Aggregate Bond Index

U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is represented by the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index.

Source: Bloomberg. Data from 1/31/78-3/31/21

Institutional Allocations: The Way Forward for Individual Portfolios?

Many institutional investors are anticipating a low return environment and continue to diversify away from stocks and bonds alone. Already, private market allocations for pensions, endowments and foundations generally range from 10% to 20%.1

Individual investors may soon follow in institutions’ footsteps thanks to improved access to the private markets. Large minimums, complex tax reporting and liquidity constraints have historically been barriers to high net worth and mass affluent investment. But new investment structures, called evergreen funds, are democratizing private investments by removing some of those obstacles. Evergreen funds typically come with a lower minimum, periodic redemption opportunities and other features associated with ’40 act mutual funds, to which individual investors are more accustomed.

Allocating to Private Markets: Potential for Higher Returns, Lower Volatility

There are a number of reasons individuals may want to consider allocating to private markets. The first – and generally most compelling – is the return potential. Private equity and private credit have outperformed global public equity and credit markets, respectively, in 19 of the last 20 years. That historical return profile could prove beneficial in an environment where many expect lower returns from public equity and fixed income.

Less appreciated, however, is private investments’ role as a portfolio diversifier that dampens volatility. The table below puts both the historical return and risk benefits into perspective. With each incremental allocation increase toward private markets, the total portfolio return increases, while the volatility of the portfolio (as measured by standard deviation) decreases.

Source: Hamilton Lane Data via Cobalt LP and Morningstar. Data based on averaged quarterly returns which were then annualized. Equity date range from 1995 to 2020 and credit date range from 2000 to 2020. Performance shown for illustrative purposes only. Past performance is not an indicator of future results.

A Natural Extension of 60/40?

For investors seeking to expand beyond a 60/40 portfolio for the first time, private markets can potentially be a natural first extension into alternatives. This is because, conceptually, private investments are not that different from public equity and fixed income. A private equity manager is still buying an ownership stake in a company. A private debt manager is still providing capital to a company through a loan. The similarities make private markets easier to grasp than other alternative strategies that may utilize exotic financial instruments or employ more complex strategies such as shorting.

That said, there are some real distinctions between private and public markets. One major difference between the asset classes is that the private markets are much more expansive. There are more than 17,000 U.S. private companies with annual revenues above $100 million, compared with just 2,600 public companies with the same revenue levels.2

This depth has a few implications. First, it means there is a wider hunting ground for portfolio managers to find innovative companies. That hunting ground is also less efficient than public markets, where a larger universe of buyers researches and follows the same, small subset of companies. That size and inefficiency can potentially translate into more opportunity for investors.

Private markets’ breadth also provides diversification benefits. Public markets have become increasingly concentrated in the last two decades, with the number of publicly listed companies dropping by a third since 2000.3 Venturing into private markets means owning a wider, and potentially more diverse, swath of the corporate universe.

Another key difference between private and public markets is that private investments are less liquid. As we explore in the next section, an investor’s ability to withstand illiquidity is a major factor in determining how much they can allocate to private markets.

How Much to Allocate to Private Markets?

When allocating to private assets, investors must decide how much of their portfolio they can dedicate to an illiquid investment. This is an important consideration, even for evergreen funds that offer periodic redemptions. While such funds may improve the liquidity profile of private investments on the margins, it still takes considerable time for private investments to realize their value. As such, an investor’s time horizon is a major factor determining the appropriate allocation to private markets. An investor with a longer time horizon who comfortable not accessing a portion of their portfolio for several years may be best suited for a larger allocation.

Another important consideration when allocating to private markets is where that allocation should come from. Given similarities between the two, investors often allocate to private equity by proportionally trimming their public equity exposure. Similarly, private debt is often viewed a substitute for a portion of the traditional fixed income allocation. While the precise amount to allocate is a case-by-case decision, institutional investors – many of which have perpetual investment horizons – often carve out substantial allocations to private markets. The average university endowment, for example, allocates 23% of its portfolio to private equity and venture capital.4 Leading university endowments invest upwards of 30%.

Conclusion: Beyond 60/40

Given low return assumptions for both public equities and fixed income, investors may want to consider expanding beyond the traditional 60/40 portfolio to meet long-term return goals. Private markets could play an important role. Private equity and private debt have each outperformed their public market counterparts for 19 of the last 20 years. Adding private investments has also historically reduced the volatility of a broader portfolio.

Sophisticated institutional investors have realized these benefits for decades and abandoned the 60/40 structure in favor of an allocation that includes private markets. As new fund structures make these markets more accessible to high net worth and mass affluent investors, individuals may want to learn more about the opportunity, and decide whether an allocation makes sense for their own investment objectives.

1 Source: McKinsey Global Private Markets Review 2021.

2 Source: Capital IQ (February 2021).

3 Source: Research by Professor Jay R. Ritter, University of Florida

4 2020 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments®


Definitions

Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is a broad bond index covering most U.S. traded bonds and some foreign bonds traded in the U.S.


Disclosures

This presentation has been prepared solely for informational purposes and contains confidential and proprietary information, the disclosure of which could be harmful to Hamilton Lane. Accordingly, the recipients of this presentation are requested to maintain the confidentiality of the information contained herein. This presentation may not be copied or distributed, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of Hamilton Lane.

The information contained in this presentation may include forward-looking statements regarding returns, performance, opinions, the fund presented or its portfolio companies, or other events contained herein. Forward-looking statements include a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors beyond our control, or the control of the fund or the portfolio companies, which may result in material differences in actual results, performance or other expectations. The opinions, estimates and analyses reflect our current judgment, which may change in the future.

All opinions, estimates and forecasts of future performance or other events contained herein are based on information available to Hamilton Lane as of the date of this presentation and are subject to change. Past performance of the investments described herein is not indicative of future results. In addition, nothing contained herein shall be deemed to be a prediction of future performance. The information included in this presentation has not been reviewed or audited by independent public accountants. Certain information included herein has been obtained from sources that Hamilton Lane believes to be reliable, but the accuracy of such information cannot be guaranteed.

This presentation is not an offer to sell, or a solicitation of any offer to buy, any security or to enter into any agreement with Hamilton Lane or any of its affiliates. Any such offering will be made only at your request. We do not intend that any public offering will be made by us at any time with respect to any potential transaction discussed in this presentation. Any offering or potential transaction will be made pursuant to separate documentation negotiated between us, which will supersede entirely the information contained herein. Certain of the performance results included herein do not reflect the deduction of any applicable advisory or management fees, since it is not possible to allocate such fees accurately in a vintage year presentation or in a composite measured at different points in time. A client’s rate of return will be reduced by any applicable advisory or management fees, carried interest and any expenses incurred. Hamilton Lane’s fees are described in Part 2 of our Form ADV, a copy of which is available upon request.

The following hypothetical example illustrates the effect of fees on earned returns for both separate accounts and fund-of-funds investment vehicles. The example is solely for illustration purposes and is not intended as a guarantee or prediction of the actual returns that would be earned by similar investment vehicles having comparable features. The example is as follows: The hypothetical separate account or fund-of-funds consisted of $100 million in commitments with a fee structure of 1.0% on committed capital during the first four years of the term of the investment and then declining by 10% per year thereafter for the 12-year life of the account. The commitments were made during the first three years in relatively equal increments and the assumption of returns was based on cash flow assumptions derived from a historical database of actual private equity cash flows. Hamilton Lane modeled the impact of fees on four different return streams over a 12- year time period. In these examples, the effect of the fees reduced returns by approximately 2%. This does not include performance fees, since the performance of the account would determine the effect such fees would have on returns. Expenses also vary based on the particular investment vehicle and, therefore, were not included in this hypothetical example. Both performance fees and expenses would further decrease the return.

Hamilton Lane (UK) Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hamilton Lane Advisors, L.L.C. Hamilton Lane (UK) Limited is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conducts Authority. In the UK this communication is directed solely at persons who would be classified as a professional client or eligible counterparty under the FCA Handbook of Rules and Guidance. Its contents are not directed at, may not be suitable for and should not be relied upon by retail clients.

Hamilton Lane Advisors, L.L.C. is exempt from the requirement to hold an Australian financial services license under the Corporations Act 2001 in respect of the financial services by operation of ASIC Class Order 03/1100: U.S. SEC regulated financial service providers. Hamilton Lane Advisors, L.L.C. is regulated by the SEC under U.S. laws, which differ from Australian laws.

Any tables, graphs or charts relating to past performance included in this presentation are intended only to illustrate the performance of the indices, composites, specific accounts or funds referred to for the historical periods shown. Such tables, graphs and charts are not intended to predict future performance and should not be used as the basis for an investment decision.

The information herein is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, accounting, legal or tax advice, or investment recommendations. You should consult your accounting, legal, tax or other advisors about the matters discussed herein.

The calculations contained in this document are made by Hamilton Lane based on information provided by the general partner (e.g., cash flows and valuations), and have not been prepared, reviewed or approved by the general partners.

As of July 7, 2021

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