Hear about the strategy of an innovative income fund that could help advisors navigate a rising rate environment. View the Thrivent Diversified Income Plus Fund.
Coming up, we take a tour of Thrivent Diversified Income Plus Fund.
From Thrivent Asset Management, welcome to episode 28 of Advisor’s Market360™. A podcast for you, the driven financial advisor.
Because of its relevance to the current rising rate environment, it seems like the perfect time to learn about Thrivent Diversified Income Plus Fund. We’re lucky to have with us two portfolio managers who can answer our questions and give us some insight into the management and strategy of this Fund along the way. Senior Portfolio Manager Grant Whitehorn, CFA, is going to be our tour guide. Also along for the tour is Steve Lowe, Chief Investment Strategist and a co-manager of the Fund.
Host: Thank you both for taking time to talk with us. Let’s get to it. Grant, let’s start with the basics. What’s the goal of the Fund?
Whitehorn: The goal of the Thrivent Diversified Income Plus Fund is to provide a stable, dependable stream of income through a fixed-income portfolio, as well as the potential for modest capital appreciation through a conservative allocation to equities.
Host: I also understand that this Fund is one of three “Income Plus” funds that Thrivent offers. I hear “Plus” and I think streaming services. That’s not exactly what we’re talking about here, but perhaps you could make a connection in that “Plus” intends to convey “an expanded offering.” So, in this context, the Fund’s aim is to provide something more than just income, in contrast to traditional income-focused funds. Is that right?
Whitehorn: The Diversified Income Plus Fund differs from other income-focused funds by providing a more diverse mix of asset class exposures within fixed income, as well as by providing an exposure to equities to provide a modest amount of capital appreciation.
Host: I see here that the Fund invests in a broad range of traditional income-oriented assets, like corporate bonds, Treasuries, and mortgages. But it also mixes in other securities that tend to do better in a rising rate environment. So, that portion of the portfolio includes floating rate debt, collateralized loan obligations – which are packages of loans. Including these kinds of securities in the portfolio is intended to reduce the interest rate sensitivity of the Fund during periods of rising rates.
And there’s other income-oriented avenues that you use to broaden the diversification of the portfolio, such as real estate investment trusts or REITs, convertible bonds, and preferred securities. What’s the thinking here, Steve?
Lowe: So, fixed income generally provides a yield in this Fund. The equity portion provides opportunity for capital appreciation, and so does some of the alternative segments within the fixed income bucket, such as convertibles and we use a little bit of closed-end funds and MLPs also.
Host: For those who didn’t catch that, MLPs is short for master limited partnerships. So, to sum up, the fixed-income asset exposure remains the core of the Fund and may provide a high level of income while serving as an offset to the equity exposure. In this way, it maintains an overall moderately conservative risk profile for the Fund.
Host: Now let’s look at the micro and macro management of the Fund. We’ve brought this up in past episodes – Thrivent takes a lot of pride in its active management philosophy. The portfolio managers have the ability to make moves, say, during transitional periods of the economy, in order to emphasize areas of the market that might perform better given the environment. So, Steve, it sounds like you can buy more into sectors that you believe are undervalued, while avoiding or underweighting sectors that appear to be riskier.
Lowe: The other thing that active management does is it lets you to take advantage of opportunities. Like if you look back at 2020, certain asset classes got completely out of sync with underlying fundamentals and value. And if you invest passively, you're just going to get the whole index. What active management does is it allows us to underweight areas that we think are rich, and then pivot to areas that are attractively placed or cheap, such as in the aftermath of March 2020, and as the Fed came in and risk rallied sharply.
Host: And you also adhere to a long-term strategy to guide you through varying macro-economic environments. Through the lens of this past year or two, perhaps you can talk to that?
Lowe: The macro environment has a significant impact on us and how much risk we take, what our interest rate positioning is, and particularly what sectors we invest in. For example, over the past year or so, markets have done very well. The economy is strong, but we felt that the economy and earnings were probably at peak last year, and markets got particularly rich. If you look at credit markets – in particular, high yield bonds, and investment-grade bonds, especially investment corporate bonds – got quite rich. So, we dialed back on our allocation into those areas and still kept kind of overweight and shifted a little bit more into more conservative areas. And that has worked to our benefit so far this year. So, we're always adjusting the portfolio depending on the macro environment.
Host: How does the Thrivent Diversified Income Plus Fund mitigate risk? The Federal Reserve, or Fed, is expected to continue to raise rates to combat inflation in the coming months. I suppose the Fund must face the risk of declining bond prices, and the risk of the possibility of a more volatile equity market if economic growth slows. How do you see it, Grant?
Whitehorn: Most likely, it will lead to some continued volatility as the Fed tries to engineer a soft landing. One of the ways to manage risk during a period of increasing short-term interest rates is to limit duration exposure and maintain diversification amongst asset classes within fixed income that are less sensitive to rate increases.
Host: Let’s go back to active management for a moment. It’s during volatile periods like this that you could see the potential advantage of having smart people such as yourselves at the helm, actively working to steer the ship. As opposed to a passive strategy.
Steve: When you're passive and the Fed’s raising rates, the duration of an index-oriented portfolio stays the same. And we manage duration both in how we invest, but importantly, we do what we would call an overlay of treasury futures so that we can get the interest rate exposure that we want.
Host: Grant, do you have any specific examples of assets that have performed well in the current volatile environment?
Whitehorn: One specific asset allocation within our fund that has performed well recently is our exposure to leveraged loans. The Fund owns approximately 10% leveraged loan exposure. These are limited duration assets that have a floating rate coupon, so you can still capture higher levels of income by taking credit risk, but you limit your duration risk as compared to other fixed income assets such as investment grade corporates and other longer duration assets.
Host: Looking ahead, there seems to be some potential for market challenges. How will the Fund address these challenges?
Whitehorn: Higher interest rates have certainly been a headwind in 2022 for most fixed income-focused products. In the Fund, we try to maintain a disciplined approach to the asset allocation mix and try to focus on long-term income potential.
Host: Steve, what’s your take on the market’s current situation?
Lowe: Markets have struggled early in 2022. Most assets are off, whether it be fixed income from higher rates or wider credit spreads. Equities are down significantly. And really what's driving that are higher rates and higher inflation, which goes into concerns about the economy slowing, despite a really strong job market and generally strong consumer.
Host: One other issue currently facing the markets is the inversion of the yield curve – with longer Treasury rates falling below the short-term Treasury rates.
Lowe: Historically, the yield curve inverts, on average, about 18 months before recession and asset classes continue to do well for at least a year or so. It varies over time. But just because you see an inversion does not mean that market returns are going to be negative. You want to watch it very closely. We do think that recession probabilities are increasing, but that's still more of a year-out or two-year-out scenario most likely.
Host: We’ve got these external forces – inflation and the war in Ukraine – impacting the economy and the markets. Steve and Grant, I’d imagine that it’s particularly important to be nimble in how you manage the Fund during times like these.
Lowe: When you're dealing with multiple assets, some part of the Fund might be very rich and some part might be particularly cheap and you want to be able to toggle between those, while at the same time keeping to your long-term strategy.
Host: Grant, your thoughts?
Whitehorn: One of the lessons I've learned while managing the Fund is to always maintain a healthy skepticism of your own data and analysis and investment process. Markets are dynamic; you should stay disciplined, but you should always be questioning your inputs and your investment decision making process.
Host: You know, as I think about it, it’s like there’s a tug of war between these two priorities: long-term discipline on one side – that is to say, holding a diverse set of asset classes through periods of volatility – and on the other side, you have this responsibility to tweak that asset mix when you do face changing market dynamics. Perhaps not the best analogy, since long-term discipline and adherence to the Fund’s objective and targets actually means making tweaks.
Lowe: Having that discipline is a very powerful tool, and it's easy sometimes for portfolio management teams to talk themselves into, “well, this time is different, the market is rich, but the situation is different.” And that might hold, and that might be true for a prolonged period of time, but ultimately it doesn't hold. So, discipline really works.
Host: That’s a great note to end on. Grant, Steve, thank you for joining us today. It’s always so interesting – and so valuable – to be able to hear the thoughts and insights of the folks who work so hard at managing these funds. All the best to the both of you.
Listeners, we hope this has been an educational, if not interesting, tour of the Thrivent Diversified Income Plus Fund. If you are interested in learning more about this Fund or Thrivent’s range of mixed-asset solutions, there’s lots of additional information available at thriventfunds.com.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Advisor’s Market360™. All episodes are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’d like to hear from you! If you’ve got questions or comments about this episode or anything else about the podcast, or if you an idea for a topic, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more about us at thriventfunds.com and find other items of interest to you, the driven financial advisor. Bye for now.
All information and representations herein are as of May 3, 2022, unless otherwise noted.
Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.
Investing involves risks, including the possible loss of principal. The prospectus and summary prospectus contain more complete information on the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the fund, and other information, which investors should read and consider carefully before investing. Prospectuses and summary prospectuses are available at ThriventFunds.com.
Actual investment decisions made by Thrivent Asset Management, LLC will not necessarily reflect the views expressed. This information should not be considered investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or product. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor's specific financial needs, objectives, goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.
While diversification can help reduce market risk, it does not eliminate it. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.
Debt securities are subject to risks such as declining prices during periods of rising interest rates and credit risk, or the risk that an issuer may not pay its debt. Leveraged loans, preferred securities, sovereign debt, and mortgage-related and other asset-backed securities are subject to additional risks. High yield securities are subject to increased credit risk as well as liquidity risk. When interest rates fall, certain obligations will be paid off more quickly and proceeds may have to be invested in securities with lower yields. The Adviser’s assessment of investments and ESG considerations may prove incorrect, resulting in losses or poor performance. When bond inventories are low in relation to the market size, there is the potential for decreased liquidity and increased price volatility. These and other risks are described in the prospectus.