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Schwab, BNY Mellon Stress Diversification

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The need for diversification in one’s investment portfolio was stressed by Charles Schwab and BNY Mellon executives at last week’s Schwab Impact conference in San Diego.

Diversification is “critically important,” according to Gautam Khanna, senior portfolio manager at BNY Mellon’s Insight Investment specialist global asset management division. And “it’s not enough to have a handful of guys … run a broad market fixed income [strategy] because each area requires specialization,” he told ThinkAdvisor in an interview. That’s “part of how we deliver steady, stable returns through time,” he said.

“Diversification is always important because we live in an uncertain world,” he said, adding: “If we didn’t, we all would be sitting on the beach and enjoying the virtues of having a crystal ball. But that’s obviously not the case.”

Diversification is particularly important with a fixed income offering, which Insight Investment specializes in, because the “last thing that an investor wants is to be surprised by their fixed income asset allocation,” he said.

“There are arguably, at the moment, fewer shock absorbers in the economy so you want to be very careful about your asset allocation,” he went on to note. Therefore, it’s crucial to have the right balance in one’s portfolio between income generation and “interest rate-sensitive assets that will rally if risks flare up,” he said. It’s also why there’s so much reaction to “every little tweet” these days, he added.

Reminding everyone about the “value of diversification,” meanwhile, was one of the main themes that Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab, told ThinkAdvisor he was out to communicate in his comments during an earlier presentation at the conference.

“When you’ve only had one part of the market – U.S. growth stocks/tech stocks lead the way for so long, it’s easy for a whole generation of investors to forget that there are other parts of the market too, and I think those are starting to come back,” Kleintop said in an interview.

One main opportunity now is for “advisors to rebalance their portfolios back to strategic allocation targets,” he said. That is, however, a “tough thing to do,” he conceded, adding: “I think the individual investors often left to their own devices tend not to do that. They chase what’s going on and this is an opportunity to, I think, rebalance portfolios and take advantage of some of these neglected opportunities.”

One specific opportunity that “stands out” for investors is financial firms in Europe now, he said. “It’s an unloved area. Really unloved. But, you know, in the last month or so, they’re up over 10 percent,” he pointed out, explaining: “As the European Central Bank has decided to tier their negative interest rates to be less of a burden on their income statements and use their new [quantitative easing] program to buy assets off of their balance sheet, [that’s] really turned around the picture for some of these troubled financial institutions that really suffered for quite a long time.”

It may require more work to change the perceptions of U.S. investors. Despite a perception that the U.S. is faring better now economically than most other countries, the U.S. is “right there” with many other countries in terms of what indicators show, Kleintop said, pointing to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development indicators that showed the U.S. was recently “right at the threshold of recession.”

Regardless, “when you think about investing internationally versus the U.S., it’s not so much about economics, it’s really about the company” you’re investing in, Kleintop said. “Nestle has the exact same geographic distribution of revenues as Coca-Cola does,” with the same customers and demographics — but Nestle is headquartered in Europe and Coca-Cola in the U.S., he noted.

Investors sometimes seem to “think they’re buying shares in the country rather than the company,” he said, noting how important it is to point out to them that’s not the case.


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