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Investors hope structural products will help sail through volatility

Investors hope structural products will help sail through volatility

Lombard Odier has more than 60% in discretionary mandates regionally, compared to an average of 20-30% with other private banks. Source : / 17/02/2018

Dubai: Short-term structural strategies have found favour among investors battered by a two-fold rise in volatility after a stable one-way rally not seen since the last decade, a senior executive at Lombard Odier told Gulf News.

Global markets had been indifferent towards any negative news like surging global debt, the reversal of quantitative easing from central banks and also rate hikes from the Federal Reserve since last year, triggering a defensive stance from fund managers and thereby reducing their exposure to over-valued equities at least in some geographies.

But in the last week of January, markets started dreading a faster rise in inflation which could result in faster increase in rates, given that most of the recession in the US was caused by faster than expected rise in interest rates.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 1,600 points on February 5, its sharpest one day fall in history. The index entered into a correction phase after losing 10 per cent from its top. The index has been in a trendless state amid high volatility.

“If you are directly exposed to equities, today there is consensus that some of the markets like the US are expensive. How do you get exposed to the stock markets without having to enter the highest level. So you need to diversify your portfolio, say you have fixed income, but you also don’t want to put [all your] eggs in the same basket, so you need equities, which are at a roaring high, but you may want to consider is it the right time for me to directly exposed. So you want to be exposed but with a level of protection,” Arnaud Leclercq, the company’s Group Managing Director and Head of the New Markets said.

“In the region, people are keen to have structural products, in order to be exposed to equities, and with a level of protection. It was very successful last year and so far this year because markets are perceived as expensive, essentially the US, but not exclusively,” Leclercq said.

Structured products are similar to those offered by hedge funds but are more transparent. The fund manager selects say three stocks from certain sectors, which are considered positive from a time frame of 12-18 months. The fund manager will use option strategies to make sure the downside is protected in case of any weakness. The investors get paid 6-9 per cent for a duration.

“A hedge fund is more complicated in terms of operations with high fees, where the investor does not know where his money is going.

In the region, some of the investors had been burnt by some of these funds, so they want to get back to basics with a solid rationale about their investments,” he said.


Lombard Odier said that the current bout of weakness in the market may be a over-reaction.

“This volatility we have today may be an overreaction. The real economy and fundamentals are not always immediately connected as markets generally price in the news early. So the good news about the economy was priced in last year when we had good growth,” Leclercq said.

“The worry is about higher inflation may trigger higher rates, but I say so what. Inflation is not bad for any economy, but hyperinflation is bad. But to have inflation peaking up a bit, and interest rates as long as they are raised very gradually, so this is not bad news fundamentally. That is why markets have been over-reacting,” he said.

Lombard Odier feels there is some value left in European and Japanese equities, and said that the US stocks are expensive. The private bank is also positive on shorter term bonds, there is more emerging market bonds and also in local currencies.

In all the investment message is simple.

“Our clients take high risk in their business, so they are more conservative in their investments so they want to preserve their money and grow and then transmit to the next generation. So we need to be tactical in our approach,” he added.