How to maintain income and manage risk in a low-rate world


Perpetual Private Insights

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As cash rates continue to fall, many clients have seen their income from term deposits more than halve as they’ve been rolling into new issues.


This has led retirees to question whether they’ll have enough income generated from their portfolios to meet their living expenses. In this low-rate world, Kyle Lidbury, Head of Investments Research at Perpetual Private recognises that many income-sensitive investors are feeling pressure to invest in riskier assets in order to maintain income levels. In the chase for yield, rather than just blindly moving up the risk curve, seeking alternative income opportunities can help maintain diversification in portfolios and produce better outcomes for investors.

Expect rates to remain lower for longer

Markets have been volatile over the past year. Economies broadly speaking (perhaps with the exception of the US), have seen peak growth and are now entering the later stage of the business cycle, characterised by slowing economic growth, decreasing rates as central banks try to stimulate demand, and higher volatility in markets as corporates become more leveraged. This is also a period where strong returns can be generated in risky assets. 

Long-term government bond yields are now at record lows in many countries, including Australia. In October 2019, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) decided to lower the cash rate by 25 basis points to 0.75% to try and boost consumption and stimulate economic growth. The governor of the RBA has stated that this low rate environment should be expected to persist for the longer term.


The chase for yield has many investors taking on more risk

Assuming portfolios are generally efficient, generating higher returns can only be achieved by taking on more risk. As a result, many investors seeking a higher yield are taking on more credit risk in cash and fixed income asset classes. For example, instead of investing in government bonds (backed by sovereign governments and considered to be the most secure type of security), investors may turn to corporate bonds, which are riskier than government bonds but, in turn, pay a higher rate of interest. They may also look at different parts of the capital structure of those corporates, moving out of the senior secured part of the capital stack and investing in more subordinated tiers, such as hybrids or even the equity itself – all in an effort to maintain the income part of the portfolio.

This can be problematic because increasing the level of risk in the defensive part of the portfolio can lead to increased correlation with growth assets. Fixed income and cash is also supposed to provide a defensive characteristic – without this balancing factor the portfolio will be more exposed to market corrections, and thus experience greater drawdowns.


Diversification is key to maintaining income

In a low-yield world, just increasing credit risk in fixed income assets is not the safest way to maintain portfolio income. At Perpetual Private, we seek to maintain income by accessing different types of ‘alternative’ assets that can generate returns in a more diversified way. For example, in our Income Opportunities Fund, we look beyond just traded markets and delve deeper into markets such as private credit and private mortgages.

We also explore assets like infrastructure debt and other alternative sources of income which can be hard for many investors to access. While these opportunities can present other risks to investors, such as illiquidity or inefficiency, they can be managed by sizing the allocations to these assets and managers appropriately across a broadly diversified portfolio.


Diversification is key to maintaining income

Alternative assets can play an important role in client portfolios as they provide an opportunity to maintain returns, but also enhance portfolio diversification as opposed to concentrating the risks in portfolios. The award-winning* Income Opportunities Fund is our income alternatives asset program for clients.

The Fund was designed specifically for a large part of our client-base that are heavily reliant on income, such as retirees, philanthropists or charitable trusts. It aims to deliver a higher return than cash (cash plus 1% net of all fees) but do it in a way that’s much more diversified than a traditional approach.


* In 2019, the Perpetual Income Opportunities won the category for Best Multi Strategy Fund for the second year running at the Hedge Funds Rock Australian Alternative Investments Awards.


If you’re an investor who wants to improve the risk-return balance in your portfolio, without sacrificing returns, it may be worth talking to your Financial Adviser about the Perpetual Income Opportunities Fund – or calling Perpetual Private on 1800 631 381 to find out more.

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Perpetual Private advice and services are provided by Perpetual Trustee Company Limited (PTCo) ABN 42 000 001 007, AFSL 236643. This information was prepared by PTCo and Perpetual Investment Management Limited (PIML) ABN 1800 866 535, AFSL 234426 and is used by PTCo. It contains general information only and is not intended to provide you with financial advice or take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider, with a financial adviser, whether the information is suitable for your circumstances. To view the Perpetual Group's Financial Services Guide, please click here. To the extent permitted by law, no liability is accepted for any loss or damage as a result of any reliance on this information. The information is believed to be accurate at the time of compilation and is provided in good faith. The PDS, issued by PIML should be considered before deciding whether to acquire or hold units in the fund. The PDS and Target Market Determination are available on our website at PTCo do not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information contributed by a third party. Any views expressed in this article are opinions of the author at the time of writing and do not constitute a recommendation to act. This information, including any assumptions and conclusions is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of relevant practise or law that is often complex and can change. No company in the Perpetual Group (Perpetual Limited ABN 86 000 431 827 and its subsidiaries) guarantees the performance of any fund or the return of an investor’s capital. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.