Christopher Zook, chairman and CIO of Houston-based CAZ Investments, argues that private credit funds are a good way to generate yield without the same degree of risk as private equity funds. With private credit, you lend money to a company in exchange for interest payments, and you can secure that debt with collateral, whereas private equity involves owning all or part of a company. Private credit is also comparatively short-duration, said Zook, and therefore somewhat more liquid.

Ramin Kamfar, the founder and CEO of New York-based Bluerock, said his firm offers several alternative funds designed to provide “new sources of tax-efficient income while combating volatility and rising inflation.” They include Bluerock’s Residential Growth REIT, a real estate investment trust focused on developing and acquiring high-end residential properties; Bluerock’s Total Income+ Real Estate Fund, a diverse portfolio of private equity real estate securities; and Bluerock’s High Income Institutional Credit Fund, a collection of collateralized loan obligations—securities backed by diversified pools of debt.

Other Options
Steve Brennan, head of private wealth solutions at Hamilton Lane in Conshohocken, Pa., favors private equity. “Our data shows there are over 95,000 private companies around the world with revenues over $100 million, compared to only 10,000 public companies with similar revenues,” he said. “That disparity creates a target-rich environment for private equity.”

But traditional private equity opportunities could require a minimum initial investment of $5 million or more, he said, and a commitment of at least 10 years. In contrast, his firm created a private equity fund with initial investments of $50,000 and up, and the withdrawals “can be requested on a monthly or quarterly basis,” Brennan said.

At FS Investments, an alternative asset manager in Philadelphia, chief market strategist Troy Gayeski said a “credit REIT strategy,” as opposed to an equity REIT strategy, can produce “higher income [with] less downside risk. … Everyone who embraced the right alternatives as a substitute for fixed income the past six years has a big smile of their face.”

A Variety Of Shapes, Colors And Sizes
Clearly, alternative investments “come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes,” said Ashton Lawrence, a partner at Goldfinch Wealth Management in Greenville, S.C. “It’s best to evaluate each individually … to know what exactly you are investing in and in what environment it can work well.” He compares it to choosing the right tool for a specific job. “If I take a hammer and try to flip pancakes in the kitchen, I’m going to have a bad experience,” he said.

Because of the wide range of choices, though, alt investments “can be suitable for a wide range of investor types and risk tolerances,” said Rob Young, senior investment analyst at Telemus Capital in Chicago.

Still, the need to exercise caution cannot be overstated. Most alternative investments aren’t regulated, and they can be confusing. “In most cases, there is limited transparency [in] the underlying financials,” said Robert Davis, partner and chief investment officer at Round Table Wealth Management in New York.

For the uninitiated, the management fee may come as a shock, too. “It can range from a higher flat fee to a management fee plus profit percentage, called ‘carry,’” said Jennifer DeSisto, chief investment officer at Boston-based Anchor Capital Advisors.

Thais Gruenwald Gaspar, global alternative investment strategist at Brainvest Wealth Management in Miami, is similarly cautious. “Unless an investor is willing to hold the asset for years, he or she should not invest in alternatives,” she stressed.

With Greater Diversity Comes Greater Costs
Some take a more philosophical approach. Alternative assets “can help improve the diversification of a portfolio, [but] a long-short fund that mimics hedge fund strategies is not an asset class but a trading strategy,” said Michael Finke, professor of wealth management at the American College of Financial Services in King of Prussia, Pa.

Thus, he said, it’s a strategy whose time may have passed. “Even institutional investors have had a hard time earning excess returns from hedge funds in recent years,” said Finke, adding, “This is good news for most investors, since they don’t need to feel like they’re missing out.”

Dan Ziznewski, a director at Homrich Berg in Atlanta, suggested clients and their advisors consult an expert who “has experience investing in alternatives, dedicated resources focused on sourcing and performing due diligence, and the ability to provide clients compelling opportunities across alternative asset classes without charging any additional fees.”

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