Ben Warwick took so long to begin to answer our first question about the benefits of managed futures, we wondered if he was multitasking.
“No, I’m not, I’m just trying to come up with a very easy to understand version of a not so easy to understand story,” Warwick said when he finally got started.
So many of the supposedly “non-correlated” asset classes sure were correlated during the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, leading to investor disappointment and a re-evaluation of their role in the portfolio. However, the managed futures class wasn’t one, performing to expectations and fueling a boom in their use as a hedge against Europe, a possible double-dip and wild market swings that increasingly put the norm in “new normal.”
But they’re a complicated product, which makes Warwick’s thoughtfulness before responding understood (and appreciated).
Warwick is CEO of Quantitative Equity Strategies, a six-person firm based in Highlands Ranch, Colo. It’s a quantitative shop (obviously) specializing in “creating solutions to the vexing problem of access to alternative investments.”
In other words, they’re alternative investment experts. It’s what they know and it’s why people seek them out (although Warwick is quick to note they know traditional investments, as well).
“In terms of hedging a portfolio, there are obviously a number of ways to do it; for example, portfolio insurance,” he begins professorially. “But managed futures have a number of positive attributes. The main one is a long volatility strategy, meaning it benefits when volatility increases. Market volatility tends to increase when equities don’t do well, which is the reason it can be such an effective hedge.”
Although they don’t perform as well in good markets, a “little bit of return” can be had. The combination of those two attributes, Warwick says, means that managed futures are “a very, very effective diversifier in a portfolio.”
“It’s like having insurance for a portfolio, but you don’t pay for the insurance if you own it over a long period of time. That’s why people are getting the story. And now that we’re making it easier to purchase, it just makes a lot of sense.”
What he means by “making it easier to purchase” is the Aspen Managed Futures Fund, a managed futures mutual fund launched last August, along with Aspen Partners Ltd., an Atlanta-based money management firm that is the advisor to the fund (hence the name).
“We wanted to come up with a way to give people access to managed futures in a very cost effective manner,” Warwick explains, “one that takes advantage of the liquidity within the futures markets. Previously, managed futures were accessed through limited partnerships; you had the K-1 and it was not convenient. So not only is it a mutual fund, but it’s an indexed mutual fund, based on the Managed Futures Beta Index (MFBI) that we developed.”