Bao Doan, Jonathan J. Reeves and Michael Sherris
Abstract: Insurers and pension funds face the challenges of historically low interest rates and volatility in equity markets, that have been accentuated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent advances in equity portfolio management with a target volatility have been shown to deliver improved on average risk adjusted return, after transaction costs. This paper studies these targeted volatility portfolios in applications to equity, balanced and target-date funds with varying constraints on leverage. Conservative leverage constraints are particularly relevant to pension funds and insurance companies, with more aggressive leverage levels appropriate for alternative investments. We show substantial improvements in fund performance for differing leverage levels and that the return per unit of risk is not significantly impacted by the leverage constraint. Of most interest to insurers and pensions funds, we show that the highest return per unit of risk is in targeted volatility balanced portfolios with equity and bond allocations. Furthermore, we demonstrate the outperformance of targeted volatility portfolios during major stock market crashes, including the crash from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, Equity investment, Portfolio management, Target-date funds, Volatility management JEL classification: C53, G17.