Tired of seeing clients buy high and sell low? Or do you even have problems yourself in buying at the right time? Well, if you or your clients like to go against the grain, you now have one more investment option at your disposal.
Morningstar Investment Services, a subsidiary of the research outfit Morningstar, launched an interesting ETF strategy on May 5 that is based on the idea of not following the herd. It’s a “hit ‘em where they ain’t strategy,” said Jeff Ptak, President and Chief Investment Officer of the division. The contrarian strategy is actually a suite of three new funds—Contrarian, Contrarian and Income, and Contrarian and Growth. They buy the least popular fund categories in Morningstar’s database, as measured by the biggest cash outflows.
To be sure, contrarian investing isn’t a new concept. (Ptak describes the new fund very generally as fitting into a value investing strategy.) But the interesting part of Morningstar’s approach, and a nod to its usual longer-term outlook, is the fact that it considers fund flows from the previous five years as a basis for its investments. So it uses the zigging-when-others-zag concept in a longer-term and more thoughtful framework than the herky-jerky tendency of someone simply trying to step in the opposite direction from others.
The way its strategy is structured, it buys the five least popular categories from each of the past five years. So in theory, it could own up to 25 categories. But since some investment areas linger in unpopularity for years on end, there is more realistically about 15 categories, Ptak says.
As for the biggest positions in the current portfolio, bank loans are one of the leaders because of problems in 2007 and 20008. Real estate is another, he said, because of problems in 2007.
Ptak says this started as a model about a year ago, and had been back-tested with “very good” results. And that, in turn, was based on Morningstar’s long-standing annual “Buy The Unloved” study.
He suggests that most investors use this type of strategy as a “supporting player” within a portfolio. However, the theory and structure are sound enough, he says, that an investor who is inclined to be a risk-taker could even use it as a major anchor in a portfolio.
However your clients view this type of contrarian investment strategy, at the very least it could prove to be an interesting way to delve into a deeper discussion about their portfolios and allocations. Moreover, it offers a chance to open a dialogue with a topic that is inherently appealing to a lot of people—the road less traveled—as a way to segue into investor sentiment and risk tolerance.