Institutional investors have turned to factor strategies to help them outperform the markets and decrease portfolio risk, according to a study sponsored by BlackRock.
In “Factors: Finding a Place in Institutional Investors’Arsenal,” The Economist intelligence Unit found that factor use is widespread: more than 85% of respondents use factors in some part of their investment practice.
Factor investing holds that risk and return can be attributed to a set of underlying factors related to macro conditions like market growth, inflation and interest rates, or style factors like value, quality, momentum and volatility.
Equity factor strategies like smart beta investing were used by 68 percent of the investors, the most widespread use of factors, while 57 percent used long/short multi-asset straetgies. Respondents were most likely to use value as a style factor and inflation as a macro factor in their strategies
“As is often the case, adversity has given rise to innovation,” said Mark McCombe, global head of BlackRock’s Institutional Client business, in a statement. “The unexpected correlations of asset performance during the financial crisis spurred investors to better understand underlying risks. This has resulted in a growing interest in factor strategies.”
Nearly two-thirds of the survey’s respondents say they increased their use of factor-based investing over the past three years, and 60 percent said that they planned to increase their use of factors over the next three years.
Respondents said that factor investing could help them increase transparency and better understand drivers of return. More than three-quarters of the factor-users in the survey said that they adopted the methods because they wanted a better understanding of risk and return.
Factor-based investing has granted institutional other benefits: 59 percent of the respondents said that they had achieved greater diversification through the use of factors, 56 percent say they have lowered risk and 55 percent say they have increased returns.
For the study, The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 200 investors representing $5.5 trillion in AUM across 20 countries in January 2016.