By Jaisal Pastakia, Investment Manager at Heartwood Investment Management
Investors need to think more creatively and cast their nets wider if they are to deliver effective income solutions. Many areas of the market are priced at a premium relative to their long-term averages. Global government bond yields remain historically low, despite their recent rise, and equity valuations are near historic highs in various parts of the market, reinforcing the importance of managing potential downside risk.
The search for income is being further complicated by an environment of low growth, low interest rates and low volatility. Aside from investing in traditional higher yielding corporate bonds and emerging market debt, investors are looking towards niche sectors and more esoteric instruments as another approach to help deliver a steady income stream, without necessarily compromising on total return.
Within our own income portfolios, we have been investing in the following areas:
Equity overwriting strategies involve one investor selling to another the optionality to buy a stock at a fixed price above the current market price. As equity markets have pushed higher, we have subsequently increased our exposure to this area of the marketplace for its ability to keep us invested (and not be forced into holding cash, which yields zero), deliver a steady income stream and lower portfolio volatility in times of market stress.
UK mid- and small-cap equities: Historically, these companies have shown appreciably more dividend cover than their large-cap counterparts, and have also been able to grow those dividends at a faster rate. However, acknowledging that this is a more difficult climate for domestically exposed smaller companies against the backdrop of ‘hard Brexit’ political noise, we have re-orientated our exposure within this segment of the market to focus on US dollar earners and sectors that we consider oversold. UK homebuilders, for example, have meaningfully underperformed the broader UK equity market over the last year, but the fundamentals remain sound. The UK continues to have a chronic shortage of housing and we expect demand to outstrip supply.
Niche lending strategies: The pickup in bond yields and focus on inflation have created a weaker backdrop for traditional areas of the fixed income market, such as government bonds and investment grade corporate bonds. Over the last year, we have broadened our search by capturing the theme of bank retrenchment: investing in those areas of the market where lending would historically have been supplied by commercial banks.
Specialist private investors are now finding opportunities in niche lending strategies. In our portfolios, we have direct exposure to funding infrastructure projects and supplying loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises secured against assets. These strategies offer a yield premium over higher yielding corporate bonds, often have lower default and recovery rates, and typically have a low correlation to equities and bonds. Indeed, as bond yields have risen over the past few weeks, the performance of direct lending strategies has been resilient. In addition, some of the underlying investments of these vehicles are floating rate notes, which provide a more defensive approach in an interest rate rising environment as coupons are reset periodically.
Targeted commercial property exposures: UK commercial property has been beset by a number of headwinds this year, as a maturing investment cycle has endured the uncertainty created by the UK referendum result. While recognising these risks, we are maintaining a reasonable weighting in property but targeting exposures in specific areas: regions outside of London less affected by ‘Brexit’; industrial sites and warehouses; and smaller ‘lot sizes’. These markets have not experienced significant yield compression and investment activity remains resilient, despite the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
Diversifying into niche areas provides more levers
In our view, the key to a successful income strategy is to generate consistent and stable pay-outs over the long term without taking unnecessary risks. Diversifying exposure into niche areas of the market provides income investors with more levers, helping to deliver and fulfil the investment mandate without over-promising.
What is the procedure for proving a missing or lost Will?
By Alexa Payet, Partner at Bolt Burdon and listed specialist in the Certainty
Contentious Probate Hub & Area
When an individual dies it is necessary to search their paperwork to establish whether they made a Will and gather information regarding their estate. This is important because the personal representatives of the estate have a legal duty to distribute the estate correctly and could be held financially responsible for any mistakes made through any breach of duty.
Where a Will cannot be found but is believed to exist there are a number of steps that can be taken to help confirm its existence, including (but not limited to) the following:
- making enquiries of the deceased’s family and friends;
- making enquiries with the deceased’s professional advisors;
- instructing The National Will Register to undertake a Certainty Will Search.
Presumption of revocation
Where the original Will is known to have been in the testator’s possession before their death and cannot be located afterwards, there is a rebuttable presumption that the Will was destroyed by the testator with the intention of revoking it. If an order for the proof of a copy is to be obtained then this presumption must be rebutted.
Procedure for proving a copy Will
The procedure for proving a copy Will is set out in Rule 54 of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 (‘NCPR’).
The application is made to the Probate Registry at which the application for the grant will be made and the order can be made by a district judge or registrar.
The application must be supported by evidence in the form of an affidavit (although during the global pandemic the rules have been amended by the Non-Contentious Probate (Amendment) Rules 2020, SI 2020/1059, to provide for the use of witness statements as an alternative to affidavits).
The evidence must set out the grounds of the application and any available evidence that the applicant can adduce as to the Will’s existence after the death of the testator or, where there is no such evidence, the facts on which the applicant relies to rebut the presumption that the Will was destroyed by the testator during his/her life.
The applicant must ensure that the Court has the best available evidence of what happened to the testator’s Will in order that effect may be given to his/her testamentary wishes.
It is important to understand that the applicant does not need to demonstrate that the Will has been lost (it is the fact of its loss which gives rise to the presumption of revocation). Instead, the applicant must establish, by evidence, that the Will was not in fact revoked.
What is a Certainty Will Search and why is it necessary?
A Certainty Will Search searches for Wills that have been registered on The National Will Register (circa 8.7 million Will registrations in the system) and for Wills that have not yet been registered in geographically targeted areas where the deceased used to live and/or work. A Certainty Will Search is extremely important as it will be necessary to notify the probate registry of any persons who would be prejudiced by the grant if the copy Will is proved. If no such person exists then the registrar is more likely to grant the application. Alternatively, if such a person does exist then you should seek to obtain their written consent to the application. The written consents can then be lodged with (or following) your application.
Oil prices rise as investors look to higher demand seen in second half
By Shadia Nasralla
LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices climbed on Tuesday as optimism that government stimulus will eventually lift global economic growth and oil demand trumped concerns that renewed COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns globally are cooling fuel consumption.
Brent crude futures for March rose 72 cents to $55.47 a barrel by 1152 GMT after slipping 35 cents in the previous session.
“The perception that any retracement will be quick as confidence in economic and oil demand recovery is unlikely to fade away,” said PVM analysts in a note.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was at $52.65 a barrel, up 29 cents. There was no settlement on Monday as U.S. markets were closed for a public holiday. Front-month February WTI futures expire on Wednesday.
Investors are upbeat about demand in China, the world’s top crude oil importer, after data released on Monday showed its refinery output rose 3% to a new record in 2020.
China also avoided an economic contraction last year.
Investors are watching out for U.S. oil inventory data from the industry association API, due on Wednesday, the same day U.S. President-elect Biden’s inauguration speech will likely give details on the country’s $1.9 trillion aid package.
The International Energy Agency cut its outlook for oil demand in 2021, but pointed to a recovery in demand in the second half of the year to an annual average of 96.6 million barrels per day.
“Border closures, social distancing measures and shutdowns…will continue to constrain fuel demand until vaccines are more widely distributed, most likely only by the second half of the year,” it said in its monthly report.
(Additional reporting by Florence Tan, editing by Louise Heavens)
Can Thematic Investing provide investors with growth opportunities in uncertain times?
New whitepaper from CAMRADATA explores
CAMRADATA’s latest whitepaper on Thematic Investing, considers the role this type of investing can play in asset management and explores trends that can permeate society and traverse sectors. The whitepaper includes insights from guests who attended a virtual roundtable on Thematic Investing hosted by CAMRADATA in November, including representatives from CPR Asset Management, Sarasin & Partners, Impact Investing Institute, PwC, Quilter Cheviot, Scottish Widows and Stonehage Fleming.
Sean Thompson, Managing Director, CAMRADATA said, “In these seminal times, thematic investing has the potential to shape how the future unfolds. Yet running a successful thematic fund is no easy feat – it is a bit like navigating unchartered waters trying to identify the trends and the long-term opportunities.
“Trends such as AI and biotechnology are still in their relative early days, for example, and global economies are undergoing dramatic changes. But mapping out certain trends, identifying potential sustainable returns through a unifying thread that spans multiple sectors, could help future-proof investments. “Our roundtable guests considered current key themes, which themes worked well, and which have not and how thematic investors could identify trends with the potential to offer future growth.”
The guests named themes they currently like which included artificial intelligence, China, climate change, clean energy, automation, evolving consumption, ageing, digitalisation, water, waste management, biodiversity, and board diversity.
After discussing themes that have worked or not, the guests looked at total allocation to themed funds, and whether clients might be blinded by themes to the overall risk exposure in their portfolios.
Key takeaway points were:
- Themes have a habit of coming and going. One guest recognised that automation and robotics, for example, were cyclical, which means that investors will have to think carefully about entry-points.
- It was agreed that the commodities ‘super cycle’ of the 2000s came about with the economic development of China. Many commodities-based products found their way into mainstream investing, but this is unlikely to happen again.
- One guest was surprised by some of the themes that interested their customers; with their research showing that Board Diversity was almost the lowest-ranking concern among the ESG choices they listed.
- There was correlation between environmental impact and social benefits to investing. The theme that concerns the Impact Investing Institute, which is less than two years old, is improved measurement of such relationships.
- In terms of successful themes, one clear winner due to COVID had been digitalisation.
- One theme that has not done so well is the Ageing theme focused on older people travelling and enjoying experiences abroad later in life.
- One guest said their firm used themes for ideas generation, not as a shortcut for portfolio construction. They said themes lead to good ideas, but they then spend at least three months researching a stock, so that the best themes are represented by the best investments.
- The final point was that there are sensitivities for any global investor in allocating to themes, even the biggest one of all, Climate Change.
- But on a positive note, one guest added if all stakeholders can resolve their differences on definitions such as impact and ethical investing, then more capital will be readily transferred into opportunities.
The whitepaper also features two articles from the sponsors offering valuable additional insight. These are:
- CPR Asset Management: ‘Central Banks: leading the path towards Impact Investing’
- Sarasin & Partners: ‘Theme or fad? How to invest for the long term’
To download the Thematic Investing whitepaper, click here
For more information on CAMRADATA visit www.camradata.com
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