The 60/40 portfolio: a year in review

The traditional ‘balanced’ portfolio consisting of 60% equities and 40% bonds has made headlines recently, as investors question if there is still life in the investment strategy. The BlackRock 60/40 Target Allocation Fund fell just under 16% in dollar terms in 2022; this was the second worst on record behind the 2008 financial crisis. This allocation has been incredibly popular over the decades, and even adopted by several wealth funds such as in Norway, due to a number of supposed benefits:

  1. Diversification: This split provides ballast due to the historical negative correlation between equities and bonds.
  2. Stability: Bonds tend to be less volatile than equities and can provide stability to the portfolio during market downturns.
  3. Potential for growth: The 60% allocation to equities allows for potential capital appreciation, which can help the portfolio grow over time.
  4. Regular income: Equity dividends and bond coupons provide a regular stream of income which can help to meet current cash flow requirements

However, 2022 saw bonds and equities move in lockstep as the historical negative correlation between the two broke down and became increasingly positive. This led to the deterioration of the diversification benefits that investors once expected from this strategy (Figure 1).

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The underperformance of the 60/40 portfolio was propelled by the Fed’s first pivot from close-to-zero interest rates to a regime of rate hikes. This saw equities plummet from their highs in 2022. Government bond prices also fell, and due to their low yields for much of this time, they failed to provide sufficient interest payments to cushion investors from capital losses.

Figure 1: Bonds and equities moving in lockstep through much of 2022

Our approach in the ACUMEN Portfolios helped shield investors through the use of Titan’s commodity overlay & active currency management strategy. We felt that by deviating from the 60/40 portfolio we could provide greater diversification to investors via exposure to sources of uncorrelated alpha.

For example, throughout most of 2022 the ACUMEN Portfolios had an allocation to the iShares Bloomberg Enhanced Roll Yield Commodity Swap ETF, which provides indirect exposure to a broad-basket of commodities (with a mechanism to control inherent futures pricing volatility).

This position benefitted from structural demand and supply-side drivers that saw commodities outperform on a relative basis. Figure 2 highlights the benefits that accrued from a revised allocation which outperformed the 60/40 portfolio by approximately 3% that year.

Figure 2: Structural tailwinds benefitted portfolios with an allocation to commodities.

Towards the end of 2022, Titan’s CIO John Leiper made the case, in the linked ETF Stream article, for a potential rotation back to the 60/40 portfolio, predicated on higher bond yields and correlation reversion. That’s exactly what has played out so far this year, with equities and bonds rallying across the board on declining inflation. We benefited from this by taking profit on the aforementioned position at the end of 2022, locking in approximately 35% outperformance relative to the MSCI World equities index.

That said, we haven’t pivoted fully back to 60/40 and we currently retain a meaningful allocation to gold across the ACUMEN Portfolio range. Titan’s Physicals portfolio manager Jonah Levy, CFA recently authored an article on our positive sentiment towards gold in the current economic climate which can be read here. 

This is consistent with our market outlook, which is focused on the clear disconnect between central bank communication and current market pricing, and begs the question – are investors overestimating the ability of the Fed, and other central banks, to deliver meaningful disinflation whilst also achieving a soft economic landing?

Given the highly uncertain economic outlook, at least some exposure to alternative assets, like gold, may prove prudent by providing investors with alternative sources of risk-adjusted returns.

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David is responsible for providing operational support to the fund managers.

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Paul Hunt

CEO

Paul Hunt is a proven business leader and entrepreneur with over 30 years’ experience and track record of scaling businesses across multiple sectors. Hunt is highly experienced in business turnarounds, strategic planning and creating a positive people culture geared for success.

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David Chandler

Portfolio Assistant

David is responsible for providing operational support to the fund managers. David has passed the CFA UK IMC and graduated in 2018 with a degree in Economics and Business Management from the University of Sheffield.

James Peel, CFA

Portfolio Manager – ESG

James is a Portfolio Manager at Titan Asset Management and is responsible for Titan’s approach to sustainable investing. He previously worked as a researcher at the British Chamber of Commerce in Taipei. James graduated in 2018 from the University of St Andrews, where he studied economics. He is a CFA charter holder and has passed the CFA UK Investment Management Certificate (IMC), the CFA UK Certificate in ESG Investing, and the CFA UK Certificate in Climate and Investing (CCI).

Jonah Levy, CFA

Portfolio Manager – Physicals

When not collecting various minerals and mining memorabilia, Jonah can be found managing the physical allocations at Titan Asset Management. Prior to Titan he worked at Tavistock Wealth for 3 years, having previously gained experience in Holland at an oil brokerage, and in London at an energy trading house. Jonah is a CFA charter holder, having graduated from St. Andrews University with an MA in Management and Economics.

Alex Livingstone, CFA

Head of Trading – FX & ETFs

Alex is responsible for the ETF trading and FX strategy at Titan Asset Management and has executed over £5 billion of trades during his prior 4 years at Tavistock Wealth. Alex also assists in the wider portfolio management of the CIP specialising in technical analysis and risk management. He is a CFA charter holder and holds an BSc in Retailing, Marketing and Management from Loughborough University.

Sekar Indran, CFA

Senior Portfolio Manager – Equities

Sekar is responsible for managing the team’s equity investments. He helped expand the investment proposition over five years at Tavistock Wealth and continues this role at Titan Asset Management. Sekar has prior financial services experience at Barclays and Allianz. He is a CFA charter holder and holds a BSc degree in Industrial Economics from the University of Nottingham.

John Leiper, MSc, CFA, FDP, CFTe

Chief Investment Officer

John Leiper is the Chief Investment Officer of Titan Asset Management and carries direct responsibility for all investments in the Centralised Investment Proposition (CIP) at the firm. John has 15 years’ experience in financial markets having previously worked in a variety of roles at RBS, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Tavistock Wealth. John Leiper is a CFA and FDP charter holder and a member of the Society of Technical Analysts. He holds a BSc degree in Economics from Warwick University and an MSc degree in Economic History from the London School of Economics.

Matthew Cureton

Co-Founder

Matthew has been an intrinsic part of Haibun (now Titan Alternatives) since its formation. As a Co-Founder, he has focused on developing relationships with clients, providers, and companies seeking funding.

Matthew’s personal involvement with the fund-raising activities at Titan Alternatives starts at the very beginning of each journey.

Incorporating the due diligence process, meeting with the various management teams, and visiting companies on site, to then being involved with the marketing documents, hosting presentations, and facilitating the investments for clients. Matthew also continues to monitor and report on the investment throughout its life, which has included him taking on Non-Executive Directorships or observer roles on various company boards.