Diversification: Definition, Types, Strategies

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Diversification is a risk-management technique for investors. Investors diversify their portfolios through a variety of businesses, industries, sectors, and asset classes rather than concentrating their capital in a single business, industry, sector, or asset class.

You eliminate the risk of putting all of your eggs in one basket by diversifying your investments through large and small businesses, (domestic and international), including stocks and bonds.

Why Is Diversification Necessary?

To reduce investment risk, diversification is needed. Everyone could simply select one investment that would work flawlessly for as long as required if we had perfect knowledge of the future. In other words, we diversify our investments among different companies and assets that do not have the same risk exposure. This is because the future is highly unpredictable and markets are always changing.

Diversification isn’t a concept or strategy for increasing profits. Investors who concentrate their capital in a small number of investments can outperform a diversified investor at any given time. However, a diversified portfolio outperforms the majority of more concentrated portfolios over time. This fact emphasizes the difficulty of selecting only a few winning investments.

For the most part, owning investments that perform differently in similar markets is one way to diversify. Bond rates tend to decline while stock prices are increasing, for example. Stocks and bonds, according to experts, correlate negatively. Although when stock prices and bond yields move in the same direction (both rising or falling), stocks usually have much higher volatility than bonds, which means they gain or lose much more. And while
 not every investment in a well-diversified portfolio would be negatively correlated, diversification’s aim is to purchase assets that do not move in lockstep with one another.

Unsystematic Risk and Diversification

Diversification is highly effective when it comes to reducing or removing unsystematic risk. Unsystematic risk is a firm-specific risk that only affects one or a small number of businesses. As a result, when you diversify your portfolio, high-performing investments offset the negative effects of low-performing investments.

Diversification, on the other hand, typically has little effect on the intrinsic or systemic risk that exists in the financial markets as a whole.

The two basic forms of risk can be thought of as one referring to the particular risks of a business or individual company, and the other referring to risk factors in the overall economy. Unsystematic risks may normally be regulated or mitigated, while systemic risks include fundamental economic factors that are essentially outside the control of any single organization.

Diversification of your portfolio

Portfolio diversification refers to the use of a number of investment instruments with different characteristics. Diversification involves juggling different assets that have only a marginal positive correlation – or, better still, a negative correlation – with one another. Low correlation indicates that the investment prices are unlikely to shift in the same direction.

Either way, there is no universal agreement on the ideal level of diversification. In principle, an investor can diversify his or her portfolio indefinitely as long as there are investments available in the market that are uncorrelated with the other investments in the portfolio.

So an investor should diversify his or her portfolio according to the following criteria:

Types of investments:

This includes various asset classes, such as assets, securities, bonds, ETFs, options, and so on.

Risk levels:

Investing in different risk levels allows profits and losses to be smoothed out.

Invest in businesses from a variety of sectors:

Stocks from firms in particular sectors have a smaller correlation than those from other industries.

Foreign markets:

An investor does not limit his or her investments to the domestic market. There’s a good chance that financial products exchanged on international exchanges are less correlated than those traded on domestic exchanges.

In recent times, individual investors can now build a diversified investment portfolio with the help of index and mutual funds, as well as exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Diversification Strategy

There are several different diversification strategies to choose from. But they all have one thing in common: they invest directly in a variety of asset groups. A category of assets with identical risk and return characteristics is referred to as an asset class.

Stocks and bonds, for example, are asset classes. Stocks are further categorized into asset groups such as large-cap stocks and small-cap stocks, whereas bonds are classified as investment-grade bonds or junk bonds.

#1. Bonds and Stocks

Stocks and bonds are two of the most common asset groups. One of the most important choices investors make when it comes to diversification is how much money to put into stocks and bonds. As a portfolio is rebalanced to favor stocks over bonds, it increases growth at the expense of increased volatility. Bonds are less volatile than stocks, but their growth is usually slower.

Since stocks outperform bonds over time, a greater allocation of capital in stocks is commonly recommended for younger retirement investors. As a result, stocks often account for 70 percent to 100 percent of a typical retirement portfolio’s assets.

However, when an investor approaches retirement, it’s normal to move the portfolio toward bonds. Although this move lowers the anticipated return, it also lowers the portfolio’s volatility when a retiree starts to convert their savings into a retirement check.

#2. Sectors and Industries

Stocks are grouped by industry or market, and diversifying your portfolio by purchasing stocks or bonds from companies in various sectors is a good idea. The S&P 500, for example, is made up of stocks from firms in 11 different industries.

Companies in the real estate and financial sectors suffered major losses during the Great Recession of 2007–2009. The utilities and health-care industries, on the other hand, did not suffer as much disruption. Another important way to manage investment risks is to diversify through sector.

#3. Large Corporations and Small Corporations

The size of the business, as calculated by market capitalization, has proven to be another source of diversification in the past. Small-cap stocks, on average, have higher risks and higher returns than larger, more stable firms. Small-cap stocks, for example, have outperformed large-cap stocks by a little over 1% each year since 1926, according to a new report by AXA Investment Managers.

#4. Geographical details

A company’s location could also be a source of diversification. Companies in the United States, companies in developing countries, and companies in emerging markets have all been grouped into three groups. As the world becomes more globalized, the advantages of diversification based on location are being questioned.

The S&P 500 comprises companies with headquarters in the United States but global operations. Nonetheless, there are some diversification advantages, as companies based in other countries, especially emerging markets, can perform differently than those based in the United States.

#5. Growth and Value

Buying the stocks or bonds of companies at various stages of their corporate lifecycle may also provide growth and value diversification. Risk and return characteristics of newer, fast-growing businesses vary from those of older, more mature businesses.

Growth companies are those that are rapidly increasing their sales, earnings, and cash flow. These businesses have higher valuations than the overall market in terms of estimated earnings or book value. Their rapid expansion is used to justify their exorbitant stock prices.

Value companies are those that have a slower rate of growth. They are usually larger firms or businesses in specific sectors, such as utilities or financials. Although their growth is slower, their valuations are lower than the market as a whole. Some conclude that in the long run, value companies outperform growth companies. At the same time, as is the case in the current market, growth companies will outperform over time.

#6. Asset Classes for Bonds

There are several bond asset classes, but they all fall into one of two categories. They are first graded according to credit risk, or the likelihood that the borrower will default. Bonds issued by developed market governments or companies with below investment grade credit are considered to have the lowest risk of default, while bonds issued by emerging market governments or companies with below investment grade credit are considered to have a far higher risk of default.

Second, bond ratings are according to their interest rate risk, or the amount of time before they mature. Longer-term bonds, such as 30-year bonds, are thought to have the greatest interest rate risk. Short-term bonds with maturities of a few years or less, on the other hand, are thought to have the lowest interest rate risk.

#7. Asset Classes Other Than Stocks

There are other asset classes that do not easily fit into the stock and bond groups. Real estate, commodities, and cryptocurrencies are among them. Although alternative investments aren’t needed for a diversified portfolio, many investors assume that one or more alternative asset classes will help diversify the portfolio while also growing the portfolio’s potential return.

Diversification with Mutual Funds

Using mutual funds to construct a diversified portfolio is an easy procedure. With a single target-date retirement fund, an investor may build a well-diversified portfolio. Furthermore, with only three index funds in a 3-fund portfolio, one can achieve impressive diversification.

Either way, diversifying a portfolio, in any form, is an effective risk management technique. You can reduce portfolio volatility without losing major market performance by not placing all of your eggs in one basket.

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