“Our survey found that both institutions and advisors want alternative investments that are liquid, transparent, and regulated like traditional investments,” said Steve Deutsch, director of separate accounts and collective investment trusts at Morningstar. "We conducted this survey during one of the worst market downturns in history, where traditional U.S. and international investments plummeted and almost no alternative investments provided safe haven."
"One particularly interesting survey result was that against this backdrop, the majority of both advisors and institutions still reported that they expected to increase usage of alternative investments in the future, and they believed alternative investments will continue to grow in importance versus traditional investments," Deutsch added. "Recent poor performance of alternatives has not caused advisors or institutions to question their usage."
Among the survey findings are that for institutions limited partnerships, including hedge funds, direct real estate, and private equity, are the most popular alternative vehicles for institutions.
Almost half of institutions surveyed allocate more than 10 percent of their portfolios to alternative investments, and nearly 20 percent allocate more than 25 percent of their portfolios to alternatives. Institutions generally expect their portfolio allocations to alternative investments, particularly hedge funds and private equity, to increase over the next five years. Close to a quarter (23 percent) of institutions expect to invest more than 25 percent of their portfolios into alternatives.
The survey shows that advisors are predominantly investing in alternative investments through liquid, regulated, and transparent vehicles like mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), but they’re also employing other non-traditional investments with their clients, like oil and gas limited partnerships, non-traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), church bonds, and equipment leasing.
Among advisors who work with average individual investors, almost 80 percent use alternative investments with some clients. About 40 percent of advisors had more than half of their higher-net-worth clients in some alternative investments.
Morningstar and Barron’s conducted the Internet-based survey in October 2008; 252 institutions and 1,180 financial advisors participated. The complete survey results appear in the Nov. 10 issue of Barron’s.