A Primer on Alternative Credit

Alternative credit, also referred to as private credit or private debt, has emerged as an area of significant interest for investors in recent time, offering attractive returns and distinct advantages compared to liquid credit markets across an array of strategy offerings. Over the last decade, alternative credit managers have stepped in to play a critical role within lending markets as traditional lenders (i.e., banks) have retreated in the face of liquidity constraints, more stringent regulatory requirements, and higher borrowing costs. As bank retrenchment has intensified, non-traditional credit providers have gained further prominence by offering stable, efficient, and long-term sources of funding for borrowers while also generating attractive returns for investors. Indeed, the leveraged credit market has grown rapidly since the Global Financial Crisis, evolving into a return-enhancing asset class with diversification benefits relative to public fixed income. Given current trends related to supply and demand for capital, as well as the efficiency with which providers can supply favorable loans within corporate capital structures, we expect alternative credit strategies will continue to offer attractive opportunities for investors going forward. However, while the broad opportunity set is particularly attractive, it is important to note that there are many types of strategies that fall into the alternative credit category, and each of these strategies offers varied risk, return, and liquidity characteristics. As it relates to risk broadly, investors should understand how the economic cycle, illiquidity risks, default rates, and increasing competition for deal flow can impact the asset class.

While Marquette has been an active participant in alternative credit markets for many years, the proliferation of the asset class and the expansion of offerings available to investors of different profiles serve as an impetus to examine the space in further detail. The aim of this whitepaper is to provide a background on the alternative credit space, highlight some of the key drivers of return and risk across various alternative credit strategies, and outline the prospects of the asset class going forward.

The 60/40 Portfolio Revisited: Back from the Dead?

In response to an inquiry concerning rumors of his demise in 1897, American writer and satirist Mark Twain quipped, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” This quote may also apply in the case of the 60/40 portfolio and a white paper published by Marquette Associates in late 2021. The piece, entitled, “Is the 60/40 Portfolio Dead Forever?” examined the challenges faced by the popular model consisting of a 60% allocation to diversified equities and a 40% allocation to a broad basket of fixed income securities. These challenges included elevated equity valuations and the prospects of rising interest rates and slowing economic growth. Indeed, both stocks and bonds struggled mightily last year due to these and other headwinds, with 2022 one of the worst on record for the 60/40 portfolio. That said, and amid a strong start to 2023, there are reasons for optimism when it comes to the viability of the model to again generate attractive risk-adjusted performance.

This white paper provides historical context for the 60/40 portfolio, details its current outlook, and outlines ways in which investors can augment the model to achieve desired return targets.

Read > The 60/40 Portfolio Revisited: Back from the Dead?

 

The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

The Four Virtues of Private Equity

In classical philosophy we are taught that there are four virtues of mind and character. Given the uncertainty that lies ahead in 2023, it is prudent (pun intended) to revert back to these virtues — as they relate to private equity — to outline a framework that may help investors effectively navigate the market.

  • Prudence: The ability to discern the appropriate course of action
  • Temperance: The practice of discretion, restraint, and moderation
  • Fortitude: strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear
  • Justice: fairness

Read > The Four Virtues of Private Equity

 

The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

Is the 60/40 Portfolio Dead Forever?

Model portfolios — or those which adhere to a specific set of guidelines surrounding asset allocation and rebalancing — are often utilized by investors because of their rules-based nature, which eliminates the need for constant monitoring. One such model is the “60/40 portfolio,” which consists of a 60% allocation to diversified equities and a 40% allocation to a broad basket of fixed income securities. Due to the imperfect correlation between stock and bond returns, the 60/40 model has enjoyed decades of success at both providing its users with strong absolute returns and suitable protection during market drawdowns. Additionally, there is an intuitive attraction of the 60/40 portfolio due to its relative simplicity of holding just stocks and bonds as its underlying investments. That said, skepticism abounds regarding the model’s viability going forward in light of the current interest rate environment and low forecasted equity returns, particularly for those investors like endowments and foundations with specified spending requirements.

The aim of this paper is to assess the effectiveness of the 60/40 model going forward and provide guidance to investors whose spending targets require an expected return that is consistent with the historical performance of 60/40 portfolios, which has typically hovered around 8%.

Read > Is the 60/40 Portfolio Dead Forever?

 

The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

The Future of Investing: Sustainability and ESG Integration

With 2020 underway, sustainable investing continues to be a trending topic, although the concept of incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics into an investment thesis is not new. ESG integration is returns-focused and incorporates long-term sustainability factors into the investment research process to identify companies with higher return potential.

In this white paper, we examine the current ESG landscape, including the various movements that have preceded ESG integration, recent strides by American corporations, fiduciary guidance, and the growing response by investment managers to meet investor demand, especially in reporting and performance measurement. We also present our approach to incorporating ESG into our manager evaluation process and the best practices our team looks for when performing due diligence for ESG-mandated strategies.

Read > The Future of Investing: Sustainability and ESG Integration

 

The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

Private Equity Position Paper – 2019 Update

This position paper explores the fundamentals of private equity as an asset class. Particularly, we examine the subcategories of venture capital, growth equity, buyout, direct lending/ mezzanine debt, and distressed, and the investment styles within them; mechanics of investing in private equity including fund structure, commitment period, cash flow, and the J-curve; investor fees and performance; and recent trends. Recommendations and guidance towards the investment manager search process and making an allocation to the asset class are also included.

Download PDF > Private Equity Position Paper

 

The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

Catastrophe Bonds

Institutional investors are constantly searching for additional asset classes that may help diversify a portfolio and enhance returns. Catastrophe (“cat”) bonds may be such an asset class that could help diversify a portfolio’s interest rate, credit/equity and currency risk by providing non-correlating natural event risk. Cat bonds are typically issued by insurance companies that pool property and casualty policies. They pay coupons to the bondholder using the policy premiums received. When a natural event occurs — such as a hurricane or an earthquake — part of the principal of a cat bond may be used to pay the insurance claims on the pool of policies. In other words, the investor is paid to assume a part of the risk associated with natural events. Historically, cat bonds average 5% to 10% return annually.

This paper discusses the benefits of cat bonds and the mechanics of how they work, along with their market size. The characteristics of cat bonds and the types of cat bond strategies will also be examined. The paper will provide details about cat bonds’ merits and risks to help investors make informed decisions about whether to consider this asset class. It will conclude with a discussion of recent and long-term performance.

Read > Catastrophe Bonds White Paper

The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

 

Bank Loans Position Paper

Bank loans represent a key strategic asset class for most institutional investors’ fixed income portfolios. Some of the critical benefits of bank loans include yield that is typically greater than that of core bonds, a floating rate and therefore very little interest rate risk, and a senior secured level in the debt capital structure of issuers such that default risk is minimized and recovery rates are maximized. This position paper covers the history of the asset class as well as some unique characteristics that make it a vital part of many institutional investors’ portfolios. We will also examine its historical returns and correlations with other asset classes, as well as its risks ranging from credit to liquidity risk and interest risk to reinvestment risk. We will conclude with an assessment of its recent valuations as well as how to access this asset class.

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The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

 

Target Date Funds: Preparing Participants for Retirement

A pitfall for a majority of plan participants surrounding retirement planning is a lack of familiarity with investing. Participants with little to no investment experience are expected to make allocation decisions that will greatly impact their retirement. Target date funds serve as a one-stop shop for a diversified and risk-appropriate portfolio which automatically de-risks as the participant ages. These funds are managed to a specific target retirement date; when an investor chooses his or her retirement year, the portfolio is put on “autopilot” as the fund is managed and rebalanced with risk and return characteristics appropriate for that defined investment horizon. While these funds fulfill a need for simplicity in the marketplace, there are many nuances with which plan sponsors should be educated in order to make a decision that is best for their participant pools.

This paper serves as an educational tool for plan sponsors to aid in the selection and continuing evaluation of target date funds. Topics including purpose, construction, goals, and benchmarking will be discussed.

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The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

Rebalancing Position Paper

Regularly rebalancing portfolios is one of the key duties of trustees and other fiduciaries responsible for managing an institutional portfolio. Asset allocations are set to provide a predetermined risk/reward profile that fits a fund’s objectives and constraints. Portfolios are rebalanced when they drift away from policy target in order to maintain the risk/reward profiles implicit in the original asset allocations. But how often should clients rebalance their portfolios? What guidelines should clients use to determine when to rebalance? And what are the costs and benefits associated with rebalancing? This paper takes a rigorous look at rebalancing and provides some guidelines for implementing a rebalancing policy.

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The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.