What is a Private Investment?
A private investment, also commonly referred to as an alternative investment, is a financial asset outside public market assets such as stocks, bonds, and cash. Qualified investors often access private investments through an investment fund. Examples of private investment fund sectors include private credit, real estate, natural resources, private equity, infrastructure, and hedge funds.
Although relatively small compared to the overall capitalization of the public market, private investment assets under management grew from $4.1 trillion in 2010 to $10.8 trillion in 2019, and is expected to grow to $17.2 trillion by 2025. Institutions have also greatly increased their portfolios’ allocation to private investments from 27.7% in 2003 to 54% in 2020 on a dollar-weighted average basis. While high-net-worth investors increased their allocation to private investments from 22% in 2017 to 26% in 2020, according to KKR surveys.
With popularity rising among qualified investors, what role do private investments play in investor portfolios?
How can private investments improve an investment portfolio?
Investing in private investments can be an attractive option for qualified investors to increase diversification, reduce portfolio volatility, produce high risk-adjusted returns, and high absolute returns. However, one of the main reasons institutional investors seem to invest in private investments is for the associated diversification benefits.
Modern Portfolio Theory suggests an investor can improve the overall risk-return profile of an investment portfolio by making investments in individual assets and/or specific sectors that have a low correlation to each other. Assets with low correlations have returns that move differently in relation to each other.
Following this line of reasoning, private investments that specifically have a low correlation to the public market, offer an investor the opportunity to further diversify a portfolio, which can be perceived as reducing overall risk exposure across individual investments and specific sectors (idiosyncratic risk) and portfolio volatility, while maintaining overall performance expectations.
Private investments can also offer the possibility of enhanced returns compared to the public market due to minimal investment constraints imposed on fund managers and a wider investment universe available to investors.
For example, hedge funds invest primarily in public market assets but can utilize less common, more sophisticated strategies like short-selling, derivatives, and leverage. Additionally, venture equity gives an investor the ability to make equity investments at the earliest stages of a private company, which would otherwise be unavailable to investors that invest only in the public market.
Naturally, these potential benefits are counterbalanced by the increased risk generally associated with private investment funds as described below.
What are the risk characteristics of private investments?
Private investments come with different risks characteristics than the public market. Private investments are typically less regulated and less transparent, illiquid, and require funding commitments that are called over time.
Compared to the public market, private investments are less regulated.
For example, private investment funds are not required to publicly report their investment positions or returns. This can result in very little information being publicly available to potential investors, making it critical that investors undertake an extensive due diligence process.
The lack of regulation also allows investment managers to employ riskier strategies, utilize more complex legal structures, and keep returns and investment strategies private. The lack of regulation and transparency has resulted in private investments being limited to higher-net-worth investors such as institutions, “qualified purchasers,” and “accredited investors.”
Illiquidity is another risk to investors both at the fund level and limited partner level. The term of a private investment fund can commonly range from 3-10 years, depending on the strategy, with hedge funds being the exception and typically offering full or partial liquidity after one year at monthly or quarterly intervals (for example). The markets for private investment assets are therefore often small or nonexistent during the term of the investment fund, making it difficult for a fund manager to liquidate in times of economic stress.
As a result, a limited partner’s capital is generally made illiquid by the private investment. Investors should actively manage their overall liquidity because issues could arise if the investor has a liquidity need and all their capital is tied-up in illiquid private investments.
The illiquid nature of private investments also creates rebalancing risk. If an investor’s portfolio becomes too concentrated in a specific sector or strategy, it is generally not possible to pare back a position in an illiquid private investment.
Generally, capital committed to a private investment fund is not called all at once. A fund manager will request capital as investment opportunities present themselves, which can often be sporadic and lead to lost opportunity cost as capital waits to be called. Therefore, it is important to actively manage capital inflow and outflows, so enough capital is available when a fund manager requests it.
Funding risks can also arise in market downturns when liquidity dries up and portfolio investments may need more capital in excess of an investor’s original capital commitment.
These risk characteristics are a major driver behind private investments being limited to institutions, qualified purchasers, and accredited investors. However, it is important to keep in mind that some of these risk characteristics can be partially mitigated.
How can these risks be mitigated?
A risk can also present a concurrent advantage.
For example, the lack of publicly available information and small asset markets tend to result in greater pricing inefficiencies than those available in the public market. This creates an opportunity for active management to exploit these market inefficiencies. Therefore, it is important to determine an investment manager’s experience and ability to successfully implement a given investment strategy.
Illiquidity may be mitigated by investing in private investment strategies designed to make regular distributions, often quarterly, over the term of the fund’s life.
Additionally, some strategies utilize an evergreen fund structure that generally allows for partial or complete withdrawals of capital after 1-3 years. The disadvantage of an evergreen fund is that commitments are fully funded upfront, whether or not the investment manager has investment opportunities to invest in at that time.
What are the factors in determining suitability?
When using private funds to pursue an improved risk-return profile for a qualified investor’s portfolio, we believe the biggest factors to consider are the investor’s risk tolerance, liquidity needs, time horizon, and investment objectives. If suitable, extensive due diligence should be conducted to target the best managers with whom to invest, and cashflows should be meticulously monitored to help ensure the investor maintains sufficient liquidity.
- The Past, Present, and Future of the Alternative Assets Industry| Preqin
- Public NTSE Tables(nacubo.org)
- The Ultra High Net Worth Investor: Coming of Age| KKR
- The Wisdom of Compounding Capital| KKR
- Why Invest in Alternative Assets?| Preqin
- Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT)– Overview, Diversification (corporatefinanceinstitute.com)
This article is presented by Schultz Financial Group, Inc. (“SFG”) which is a registered investment adviser. Registration as an investment adviser is not an endorsement by securities regulators and does not imply that SFG has attained a certain level of skill, training, or ability. While SFG believes the content is factual and up to date, it is based on information obtained from a variety of sources that has not necessarily been independently verified, and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of SFG as of the date of publication and are subject to change. This does not constitute personalized advice from SFG or its affiliated investment professionals, or a solicitation to execute specific securities transactions. SFG is not a law firm and does not intend for any content to be construed as legal advice. Readers should not use any of this content as the sole basis for any investment, financial planning, tax, legal or other decisions. Rather, SFG recommends that readers consult professional advisers (including their financial professionals, lawyers, and accountants) and consider independent due diligence before implementing any of the options directly or indirectly referenced. Past performance does not guarantee future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss, and different investments and types of investments involve varying degrees of risk. There can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy, including those undertaken or recommended by SFG, will be profitable or equal any historical performance level. The index performance data directly or indirectly referenced is based on data from the respective copyright holders, trademark holders, or publication/distribution right owners of each index. The index performance does not reflect the deduction of transaction fees, custodial charges, or management fees, which would decrease historical performance results. Indexes are unmanaged, and investors cannot invest directly in an index. Not all SFG’s services will be appropriate or necessary for all clients, and the potential value and benefit of SFG’s services will vary based upon the client’s individual investment, financial, and tax circumstances. The effectiveness and potential success of a tax strategy, investment strategy, and financial plan depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the manner and timing of implementation, coordination with the client and the client’s other engaged professionals, and market conditions. Additional information about SFG, including its Form ADV Part 2A describing its services, fees, and applicable conflicts of interest and Form CRS is available upon request and at https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/summary/108724.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.