(Dow Jones) Genworth Financial Inc.'s plan to acquire alternative investment-management firm Altegris Investments signals the interest among advisors of all stripes in exploring how to go beyond traditional "style-box" investing.

Half of the advisors with which Genworth works either use various alternatives to stocks and bonds now or have an interest in doing so, as part of a diversified client portfolio, said Gurinder Ahluwalia, president and chief executive of Genworth Financial Wealth Management. Many clients started with funds of funds in both hedge funds and private equity, he said, but interest is increasing among clients to add single-strategy funds, and a majority of client assets are now in such funds.

The various third-party firms that do investment management for Genworth may shift in or out of alternatives, Ahluwalia said. The acquisition of Altegris will give advisors the ability to deliberately choose, say, a 5% or 10% allocation to alternatives, he said.

Many advisors believe alternatives will permit them to maintain the same target returns while lowering risk, said industry analyst Bing Waldert of Cerulli Associates.

"We are seeing across the industry more broadly advisors ask, 'How do I construct a better portfolio? Did modern portfolio theory really work well in the latter part of 2008 and early 2009?'," he said.

Richmond, Va.-based Genworth said Tuesday that it will pay $35 million, with additional performance-based payments, for La Jolla, Calif.-based Altegris, which provides a platform of hedge fund and managed futures products, representing about $2 billion in client assets. Altegris also provides clearing services to accounts, representing about $800 million in institutional assets.

Genworth hopes to close the deal by the end of the year. When combined, Genworth Financial Wealth Management and Altegris will have about $23 billion in assets under management.

New capabilities and technologies are propelling the shift to alternatives, Ahluwalia said, noting that Altegris last month launched a managed futures mutual fund.

"On one hand, you can talk about the experience of 2008 being a catalyst, but also this industry is just in its infancy and its development is continuing at a rapid pace," he said. "Is it 2008 or is it just people realizing that the delivery vehicle is also important, and that not just private placements are a way to deliver these investments?"

Waldert said Genworth's message to advisors is essentially to "turn the asset management over to us." While most won't outsource asset management completely, he said, many are likely willing to let more complex investments be handled by others.

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