Insight post

Aug. 6, 2018

How Much DRS is Enough?

How Different Increments of the DRS Affect Various Portfolios

How Much Is Enough?

Once one understands and accepts the Defined Risk Strategy, the next questions that are frequently asked are, “How much DRS should I add to my portfolio? How much is enough? How much is too much?”

There is no blanket, one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Like most things in life, the answer will be “It depends.”

But what will it depend on?

  • What are the goals and objectives of the investor?
  • What other investments exist in the portfolio currently?
  • Does the investor have a particular view of the market’s direction?
  • What is the risk tolerance of the investor?

These are just some of the factors that one should consider before investing in anything. Still, to help guide the discussion, it is worth exploring what impact adding the DRS has to an existing portfolio.

The DRS and the Traditional 60/40

We will start out by adding the DRS to a basic, plain vanilla portfolio that is 60% S&P 500 and 40% Barclays US Aggregate bond index. The 60/40 ratio is kept constant, and we will add 10% increments of the DRS.

60-40 plus Portfolio Increments of DRS - How Much DRS Is Enough - Swan Insights

The historical return of the DRS is higher than that of the 60/40 portfolio and the S&P 500, so obviously, any increase in DRS exposure will increase the overall return.

DRS Improves the Risk/Return Tradeoff

The focus of this exercise is on risk reduction or maximizing the return-risk trade-off. Risk, when measured by standard deviation, is minimized with a 50% allocation to the DRS. The Sharpe ratio, which is the most commonly used measure of risk/return trade-off, is maximized at around a 70% allocation to the DRS.

Both standard deviation and Sharpe ratio define risk in terms of volatility. There is another school of thought that suggests a better way to measure risk is in terms of capital preservation. Maximum drawdown, the pain index, and the pain ratio are all ways to quantify risk in terms of losses. With the DRS’s emphasis on preventing large losses, it should come as no surprise that the best results for the capital preservation metrics have a DRS allocation in the 70%-80% range.

The DRS and Asset Allocation

Although the 60/40 is often used as shorthand for a balanced portfolio, few investors have portfolios consisting of just large cap U.S. stocks and investment-grade bonds. What if we had a portfolio that was better diversified across multiple asset classes and styles? In the next simulation, we add 10% increments to the following portfolio:

Asset Allocation Breakdown - How Much DRS is Enough - Swan Insights

This portfolio is still 60% equity and 40% fixed income, but it is much more diversified. As before, the relative weights within the “asset allocation portfolio” are kept constant as an additional 10% increments of DRS are added.

How does that change the results?

AA Portfolio with DRS Increments - How Much DRS Is Enough - Swan Insights

Source: Zephyr StyleADVISOR. All S&P 500 data based on historical performance of the S&P Total Return Index. All historical performance of the Swan DRS Select Composite is net of fees. Prior performance is not a guarantee of future results.

The results are largely similar. Adding increments of DRS continues to reduce risk and improve the risk/return trade-off across the spectrum. By most of the measures above, the “optimal” allocation to the DRS is between 70% and 90%.

60/40 and Asset Allocation Not All That Different

There is a second, subtler point to be made from this analysis.

If we compare the simple 60/40 portfolio against the more broadly diversified “asset allocation” portfolio, we see very little difference in end results. To the equity portion, we added small cap stocks, foreign developed, emerging markets, and real estate. To the bond portion, we diversified into high yield bonds and cash. We went from two asset classes to eight, and yet at the end of the day there was little change in return or risk. If anything, the results from the better-diversified portfolio are slightly worse.

Portfolio Comparison - How Much DRS is Enough - Swan Insights

Source: Zephyr StyleADVISOR. All S&P 500 data based on historical performance of the S&P Total Return Index. All historical performance of the Swan DRS Select Composite is net of fees. Prior performance is not a guarantee of future results.

This table perfectly illustrates the shortcomings of traditional asset allocation. Simply adding more asset classes does not remove systematic, market risk from the equation. The DRS was built on the premise that market risk must be hedged away since it cannot be diversified away.

Rational and Proven Strategy

We realize most investors are not going to scrap their existing portfolios and move 75% of their assets into the DRS, no matter how good the historical numbers look. However, I am reminded of the annual conversation I have with my physician.

At every check-up, she encourages me to eat more vegetables. She says every little bit helps: the more vegetables I eat, the better. If she had her way, she would probably have me on a 100% vegetarian diet. It’s highly unlikely that I will ever get to that point, but compared to where I was ten years ago, I have worked an ever-increasing level of green stuff into my diet. The risk of a catastrophic event like a heart attack was simply too high if I did not make a “reallocation” to a healthier diet.

The analogy to investing is pretty straight-forward. There is a tremendous amount of downside risk in a standard stock-bond portfolio. With markets near all-time highs and yields near all-time lows, a major sell-off on either side of the stock-bond equation could be catastrophic. We believe that incorporating a “healthier” option like the Defined Risk Strategy into the plan is a rational, proven way to decrease the downside risk in a portfolio.

(Updated 8/6/2018, Orginal post 5/11/2017)

About the Author

Marc Odo, CFA®, CAIA®, CIPM®, CFP®, Client Portfolio Manager, is responsible for helping clients and prospects gain a detailed understanding of Swan’s Defined Risk Strategy, including how it fits into an overall investment strategy. Formerly Marc was the Director of Research for 11 years at Zephyr Associates.

Important Disclosures:

Swan Global Investments, LLC is a SEC registered Investment Advisor that specializes in managing money using the proprietary Defined Risk Strategy (“DRS”). SEC registration does not denote any special training or qualification conferred by the SEC. Swan offers and manages the DRS for investors including individuals, institutions and other investment advisor firms. Any historical numbers, awards and recognitions presented are based on the performance of a (GIPS®) composite, Swan’s DRS Select Composite, which includes non-qualified discretionary accounts invested in since inception, July 1997, and are net of fees and expenses. Swan claims compliance with the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS®).

All Swan products utilize the Defined Risk Strategy (“DRS”), but may vary by asset class, regulatory offering type, etc. Accordingly, all Swan DRS product offerings will have different performance results due to offering differences and comparing results among the Swan products and composites may be of limited use. All data used herein; including the statistical information, verification and performance reports are available upon request.
The MSCI (Morgan Stanley Capital International) EAFE index comprises the MSCI country indexes capturing large and mid-cap equities across developed markets, excluding the U.S. and Canada. The MSCI(Morgan Stanley Capital International) Emerging Markets Index is designed to measure equity market performance in global emerging markets. Indexes are unmanaged and have no fees or expenses. An investment cannot be made directly in an index. Swan’s investments may consist of securities which vary significantly from those in the benchmark indexes listed above and performance calculation methods may not be entirely comparable. Accordingly, comparing results shown to those of such indexes may be of limited use. The adviser’s dependence on its DRS process and judgments about the attractiveness, value and potential appreciation of particular ETFs and options in which the adviser invests or writes may prove to be incorrect and may not produce the desired results. There is no guarantee any investment or the DRS will meet its objectives. All investments involve the risk of potential investment losses as well as the potential for investment gains. Prior performance is not a guarantee of future results and there can be no assurance, and investors should not assume, that future performance will be comparable to past performance. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Further information is available upon request by contacting the company directly at 970–382-8901 or 325-SGI-080618