Ellen Cooper, the chief investment officer hired by Lincoln National Corp. from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. last year, is shifting the insurer’s hedge-fund bets in her first months on the job.
Cooper, who ran Goldman Sachs’s insurance asset-management unit, said she is moving about $125 million from so-called multistrategy funds to managers that employ individual approaches with low correlation to stocks and bonds. The insurer is invested in a customized pool of funds, and Cooper declined to name the specific investments.
Cooper, 48, is working to boost yields on Lincoln’s portfolio of $99.1 billion amid low interest rates spurred by Federal Reserve stimulus policies. While bonds make up more than 80 percent of the Radnor, Pennsylvania-based insurer’s investments, Cooper said that using hedge funds and other alternatives to increase yields is among her most important tasks.
“I’m looking for better performance and less volatility,” she said in a March 8 interview in New York. “I’m not looking to shoot for the moon here and pray.”
Hedge funds have underperformed the MSCI All-Country World Index in five of the past seven years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Multistrategy funds fell 5.7 percent last year on average, while the MSCI index gained. Individual strategies with low correlation to stock and bond markets can include funds that bet on corporate events such mergers, spinoffs and bankruptcies.
Life insurers are seeking new sources of investment income as bond yields drop. Sun Life Financial Inc. is issuing private loans on toll roads and bridges, Chief Executive Officer Dean Connor said last week. American International Group Inc. had $18.9 billion in alternative investments at the end of 2012, or about 5 percent of its portfolio.
Lincoln fell 2 cents to $32.98 at 9:46 a.m. in New York. The shares have advanced 27 percent this year.
Lincoln had $869 million, or 0.9 percent of its portfolio, in alternative investments -- a category that includes private equity and hedge funds -- as of Dec. 31. That’s up from $807 million a year earlier and $696 million in 2009. The funds added $125 million to profit in 2012, compared with $90 million the prior year.
The insurer said it is seeking to have 1.4 percent of assets in alternatives over time, with the majority in private equity.