Specifically, the Fund seeks to provide risk-adjusted returnsiii with long-run performance similar to the MSCI World Indexiv but with less volatility. What this means is that over a complete market cycle, we seek to match the performance of the global market but without hitting the highest highs and the lowest lows.
While performance may vary widely from the index over a three- to five-year period, the Fund is designed to perform fairly closely to the market average over a longer period of 10 years or more.
We expect the portfolio to outperform the market index in a down market and underperform the index in an up market. While this is the expectation, like all equity investing, the results may vary depending on market circumstances.
When working towards a less volatile experience, returns for this fund are likely to lag the global market over shorter bull market time periods. In a full market cycle, which includes both the bull and bear markets, the fund seeks comparable returns to the global market with substantially less volatility, which may produce better risk-adjusted returns.
The path to lower volatility
The Fund seeks to reduce portfolio volatility in two ways: stock selection and portfolio construction. The Fund invests in a diverse portfolio of large- and mid-capitalization stocks from the U.S. and developed markets around the world with an emphasis on low volatility stocks.
The Fund’s portfolio is typically constructed with about 60% U.S. stocks and 40% stocks from international markets, including Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.
Although the Fund has investments in all 11 primary industrial sectors,v the emphasis on lower volatility stocks leads us to overweight lower volatility sectors, such as utilities and consumer staples, and underweight sectors that tend to have higher volatility, such as information technology and real estate.
We expect the Fund to typically provide a dividend yield above its peer group median because of the tendency for dividend-paying companies to have lower volatility than their non-dividend-paying peers.
In addition to emphasizing low volatility stocks, we use a quantitative alpha model to select individual stocks that we believe have the potential to outperform other similar stocks. The model scores stocks based on characteristics that our research has shown to predict outperformance historically, including valuation, momentum, growth, and quality.
Finally, besides selecting low volatility stocks, we seek to reduce the portfolio’s volatility by selecting stocks with low correlation to each other. In other words, selecting stocks that don’t all move up or down in the market at the same time.
We utilize a portfolio optimizer tool that balances the potential return from our quantitative model with the stocks’ risks and the correlations among the stocks. The optimized portfolio maximizes the diversification among the holdings, with the goal of a lower rate of volatility than we could achieve through stock selection alone. While this process will not prevent losses in the event of a market downturn, it can help to reduce the downside risk.
Like all equity investments, the Fund does face a variety of risks, including market and individual security risk. The value of the Fund is influenced by factors impacting the overall market, certain asset classes, certain investment styles, and specific issuers, and may also incur losses due to incorrect assessments of investments.
While the Fund’s portfolio has always remained fully invested, under certain circumstances we may change its construction, or allocation, from that described above. For instance, in a market trough, we might use equity index futures to try to increase the Fund’s rate of recovery relative to the market. In other words, if the market rebounds off a trough, historically the most volatile stocks have moved back up more quickly than the market, and this strategy is designed to take advantage of that trend.
For long-term focused equity investors looking for a less volatile ride through a market cycle without sacrificing the opportunity for stock market growth, the Thrivent Low Volatility Equity Fund may be an appropriate addition to a diversified portfolio.