BWFA’s Approach to Risk Management

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines risk as, “the chance that an investment will lose value”. This “chance of loss” is what the professional portfolio managers at BWFA strive to manage on an ongoing basis.

Before delving into the intricacies of BWFA’s risk management techniques and procedures, let me first provide the foundation of what risk really means for our investment management clients.

All investors are averse to risk. Most investors are able to tolerate the potential for loss if their accounts are professionally managed according to their individual risk profile and asset allocation model. If an asset allocation is riskier than the client’s tolerance for that risk, she may not be able to handle the volatility and inevitable market downturns. On the other hand, if an asset allocation is less risky than a client’s tolerance, this may force her to spend less and save more to reach her desired future goals.

Just as there is never a safe time to be in the markets, there also is never a safe time to be sitting on the sidelines. Market risk premiums are only rewarded to those investors willing to remain in the markets through the most trying of times. Playing it totally safe, more often than not, leads to a loss of future purchasing power-courtesy of higher inflation relative to total return.

The professionals at BWFA approach risk management in a calculated and meaningful manner. We use several measurement processes so that we are better able to attain a broad understanding of underlying risk factors.

In our quest to uncover quality investments, we analyze financial data and research many aspects of the companies we buy for clients. The analysis of corporate balance sheets, projected earnings, and cash flow data are staples of sound investment due diligence, and they are critical evaluation components employed at BWFA. However, the above analyses alone would not paint a true picture of accurate portfolio risk, unless they are performed in conjunction with other important statistical measurements.

The statistical measurements defined below are the core of the investment and portfolio risk analysis process undertaken at BWFA. The terms and calculations may seem complex and convoluted, but more important than our clients’ complete comprehension of the terms is the acknowledgement that we are committed to maintaining a healthy risk environment for our clients.

 

BWFA Performance and Risk Statistics
StatisticDefinitionCalculationInterpretation
Standard
Deviation
The variance around the mean (average) return of a portfolio over timeStandard DeviationDetermines the portfolio’s volatility compared to the volatility of the S&P 500 Index. Higher Standard Deviation indicates a higher level of risk.
BetaA measure of the volatility, or systematic risk, of a portfolio in comparison to the S&P 500 Index.BetaA beta < 1 means the portfolio was less volatile than the market. A beta > 1 means the portfolio was more volatile than the market
AlphaMeasure of the difference between a portfolio’s actual return and its expected return, given its level of risk (as measured by beta)AlphaThe value that a portfolio manager adds to or subtracts from a portfolio’s return. A positive alpha implies that the portfolio had a higher return than predicted by its beta.
R SquaredMeasures the correlation between the returns of the portfolio and the returns of the S&P 500 Index.R SquaredDefines the usefulness of the beta calculation. The closer R-squared is to 1, the more accurate beta is. If beta is not an accurate statistic, the portfolio moves independent to the S&P 500 Index. If R-squared is less than 0.85, beta is a less useful statistic
Sharpe RatioA measure of risk-adjusted return. It is the excess return per unit of total risk.Sharpe RatioImplies whether a portfolio’s returns are due to smart investment decisions or a result of excess risk. The greater a portfolio’s Sharpe ratio, the better its risk-adjusted performance has been. A negative Sharpe ratio indicates that a risk-less asset would perform better than the portfolio being analyzed.
Treynor RatioA measure of risk-adjusted return. The excess return per unit of market risk. Similar to the Sharpe ratio, whti the difference being that the Treynor ratio uses beta as the measurement of risk.Treynor RatioImplies whether a portfolio’s returns are due to smart investment decisions or a result of excess risk. The greater a portfolio’s Treynor ratio, the better its risk-adjusted performance has been. A negative Treynor ratio indicates that a risk-less asset would perform better than the portfolio being analyzed

 

Helping each client choose an investment model that fits her specific risk tolerance is an important part of our job. Equally important is our follow-through with regard to risk analysis, and investment selection and application-so as to maintain portfolio balance that is in line with our clients’ risk expectations.

We would be happy to review the risk statistics of your investments at any time.