Systematic, evidence-based investing often results in very little activity in a portfolio. It is wrong to think that this is the result of a ‘set-and-forget’ strategy. The Firm’s Investment Committee would be aggrieved at such a suggestion! Considerable effort goes on behind the scenes to allow this state of calm consistency to exist. The fortitude and discipline to deliver ‘not much needs to be done to your portfolio except for rebalancing’ advice, comes from a rigorous process of ongoing challenge to the status quo.
The broad terms of reference of the Investment Committee are set out below:
Manage risks over time
- The Investment Committee is responsible for the oversight of the risk in portfolios and the wider investment process. Meetings are regular and minutes are taken, which include all action points to be followed up on. Third-party inputs and guest members – such as Albion – provide independent insight and challenge.
Challenge the process
- The investment process at the Firm is driven by the latest empirical evidence and theory available. It is always open to challenge. If new evidence suggests that doing things differently would be in our clients’ best interests, then we will revise our approach. The investment process is evolutionary, but change is most likely to be slow and incremental.
Review the portfolio structure
- The underlying characteristics of the Firm’s client portfolios are reviewed, including performance and risk level attributes. Risks (asset class exposures) and their allocations within a portfolio are evaluated. Any issues are raised and resolved. Existing asset classes are reviewed alongside asset classes and risk factors that currently sit outside the portfolios. Areas of interest are placed on a longer-term ‘watch’ list.
Review the incumbent ‘best-in-class’ investment products
- The incumbent products are ‘best-in-class’ choices seeking to deliver the returns due to investors for taking specific market risks. Each product has a role to play in a portfolio and its ability to deliver against this objective is regularly reviewed. Any product-related issues are raised and resolved.
Screen for new products and undertake appropriate due diligence
- Although the incumbent products were recommended as ‘best-in-class’, new products are regularly being launched. Tough screening criteria are in place against which new funds are judged. New, potential ‘best-in-class’ products face detailed due diligence and approval. They are included only when they make the grade. Given the quality of the products already in portfolios, the threshold for replacement is high, but not insurmountable for newer products.
Reaffirm or revise the investment process
- The Investment Committee is accountable for reaffirming or revising the structure of client portfolios. Risk (asset) allocations and product changes are approved by the Investment Committee. Any actions arising from portfolio revisions will be undertaken, after discussion with and agreement by clients.
The next time you open you latest valuation report, remember that despite the lack of activity on the surface, the Investment Committee continues to paddle furiously behind the scenes to allow this be the case. In the immortal words of the investment legend and author Charles Ellis:
‘In investing, activity is almost always in surplus.’
Perhaps we should amend this slightly to:
‘In investing, activity is – except for the Investment Committee –almost always in surplus.’