Last updated: 14:45 / Monday, 21 April 2014
White Paper by MFS

Asset Growth vs Alpha Generation: the Capacity Management Conundrum

Imagen
Asset Growth vs Alpha Generation: the Capacity Management Conundrum

Success in asset management leads to a well-known conundrum: how to best manage increases in assets under management (AUM) while continuing to generate value-added alpha for clients.

A growth in AUM may make it more difficult to implement a strategy by imposing certain costs and impediments, such as liquidity constraints, potentially higher transaction costs and client-servicing requirements, as well as the need to ensure adherence to the strategy. Business diversification across multiple strategies and investment teams is another important consideration when evaluating the capacity of individual investment strategies. According to a new research published by MFS, this is key to ensuring a sustainable business model, which in turn impacts individual product performance.

Capacity can be managed in various ways, including with the implementation of product closures, which are designed to protect the interests of existing clients by limiting further inflows. In this case, MFS refers to both clients in the strategy of interest as well as clients more broadly in strategies that may overlap with the product in question. Preserving alpha-generating capability for existing clients is paramount in their view, and is at the heart of capacity management. It is in this context that capacity management is viewed as an integral component of risk management at MFS.

While there is general agreement among asset managers and their clients that products need to be closed for capacity reasons, there is little consensus on how capacity should be measured. Various academic and industry studies have offered a number of quantitative tools to help determine product capacity; however, these approaches are sensitive to the underlying assumptions made and none is definitive. Not only is capacity hard to measure, it is also a function of current market conditions and the characteristics of a given strategy.

Certain asset classes are inherently more capacity constrained than others. Portfolios invested in large-cap US equities have significantly more capacity than portfolios invested in either small-cap or emerging market equities. Highly concentrated portfolios (e.g., 20-stock portfolios) generally have less capacity than more diversified portfolios, depending on the liquidity of stocks included in the portfolio. Portfolios with high turnover require greater market liquidity and therefore have less capacity than portfolios with lower turnover that can patiently trade over longer holding periods. According to the whitepaper, one should bear in mind that all these parameters interact with one another and market conditions change over time, so portfolio characteristics must be fully examined before applying generalizations about capacity.

In this white paper, MFS outlines its approach to managing capacity in equity portfolios in some detail to illustrate the firm’s philosophy and considered methodology. They also provide information on the product restriction decisions made with regards to the Global Equity strategy as a case study. The way capacity is considered from a fixed-income portfolio perspective is also addressed.

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