Tag Archives: financial risk management

Milliman FRM market commentary: March 2017

S&P 500 dividends have increased at more than two times the rate of inflation over the last 30 years.

The S&P 500 CAPE ratio sits above its pre-crisis peak. Year-over-year PCE, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, climbed above 2% for the first time since 2012. An ocean of excess reserves diminishes the Fed’s ability to respond to inflation. Risk management, like insurance, is only a benefit when implemented ahead of a risk event.

To learn more, read Joe Becker‘s full commentary at MRIC.com.

Goal tolerance: When goals meet risk tolerance

There are clear reasons why risk tolerance drives the financial advice process. It produces a simple number, which makes it relatively easy to recommend investment products while maintaining a compliant paper trail. But such a heavy reliance on risk tolerance can also produce significant problems.

Risk tolerance is too often thought of as an unchangeable number even though there is little academic guidance on the most effective way to measure it, leading to widely varying estimates (and subsequently portfolios) between advisers.

Placing a greater emphasis on clients’ objectives and wrapping this around their risk tolerance can produce higher levels of engagement and offers a more accurate pointer to investor behaviour. Milliman’s Wade Matterson and Craig McCulloch offer some perspective in this article.

Super funds need a balanced view of investment returns and risk

Lower investment return targets on top of higher investment risk can create disengaged investors in Australia’s superannuation industry. In this article, Milliman’s Michael Armitage offers perspective on how super funds can “pursue more innovative strategies to match risk and return to suit different groups” to meet the needs of individual investors.

Here’s an excerpt:

Older members and those with larger balances, who are more sensitive to risk (both volatility and maximum drawdown), need special attention.

Rather than automatically reduce investment return targets or increase investment risk, some funds are exploring alternative options beyond 70:30 style default funds. No single approach is perfect, but whatever strategies are chosen, they should ultimately increase the probability that members meet real (not assumed) goals.

The Future Fund may be a unique example (no members and no inflows), but it has taken a far more absolute return approach than typical super funds–even with the knowledge that government could start drawing down funds from 2020. Similarly, some super funds are taking a greater risk parity approach (that goes deeper than simply gearing up bonds) by focusing on the amount of risk in each portfolio allocation rather than the specific dollar amounts invested.

Maritime Super has also recognised the role of risk–last year, it applied a futures-based risk overlay (managed by Milliman) aimed at controlling extreme volatility and limiting capital losses to its default MySuper option. Its membership is older and has higher value balances than many other industry funds.

Other funds are now using futures to tilt their portfolio allocations based on relative valuations over the short term. This type of implementation management can potentially better manage risk and marginally improve returns.

These are just some of the innovations currently taking place as funds differentiate themselves and leave herding behaviour behind.

Is a comfortable retirement possible in the superannuation world?

The ASFA Retirement Standard states that an average Australian couple requires about A$640,000 in their superannuation fund at retirement (or AUD 545,000 for a single person) to live comfortably. According to Milliman’s Jeff Gebler and Wade Matterson, “The personalised nature of each superannuation member’s retirement journey means a one-size-fits-all approach simply cannot deliver the necessary information, products, and risk management strategies required to achieve everyone’s desired outcomes.”

In the article “Why the industry’s ‘comfortable retirement’ measures are wrong,” Gebler and Matterson discuss the need for enhanced benchmarks based on available data and communication strategies to deliver better financial outcomes that individuals can live with comfortably.

How did financial markets respond to Brexit?

Throughout the month of June leading up to the Brexit vote, the markets appeared to have trouble deciding which way the vote would go. Equity markets began to sell off during the second week of June as Brexit appeared to be increasingly likely. On June 14, as sentiment changed and the likelihood of Brexit seemed to be waning, equity markets started to climb back to early June levels. Markets were firmly higher on the day of the vote, exhibiting confidence that Britons would choose to stay in the European Union. As vote counts came in, currency and futures markets grew increasingly volatile with the rising prospect that Brexit would prevail. The next morning, equity markets opened sharply lower, displaying the characteristics of a classic gap event. Milliman consultants Adam Schenck,  Jeff Greco, and Joe Becker provide more perspective in this article.

Managed risk equities can reduce retiree loss aversion

Many individuals entering or nearing retirement encounter the risk tolerance paradox. They seek asset growth with an aversion to losses. This conflicting mindset prompts some investors to acquire low-risk assets when markets become volatile, essentially locking in losses while trading market risk for longevity risk.

According to Milliman’s Wade Matterson, “introducing managed risk equities into the portfolio of clients close to (or in) retirement can provide exposure to higher returns while managing the inherent higher risk.” He provides perspective on what investors should consider when using managed risk equities in his article “Solving the risk tolerance paradox for retirees.”