Real Assets Adviser

April 1, 2024: Vol. 11, Number 4

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From the Current Issue

Treat alternatives like cuisines, not distinct assets

Investments in alternative assets have grown tremendously over the past decade. Drawn to their professed portfolio benefits, investors have reallocated capital from more traditional assets, such as public equities and bonds, into various alternative investments. Some can hardly get enough. Yet, for all the affection, there’s nothing truly alternative about alternatives. They’re simply different flavors of the same investment options.

The case for microgrids: Why localized power systems may become critical to energy-resilience strategies

The energy transition that the world must go through to meet climate goals and limit the effects of rising temperatures demands carbon-free reliable and cost-effective power. The pathway to get there requires electrification of the built environment, adding intermittent renewables such as wind and solar to the grid, and optimizing power generation and distribution. Many power grids are already struggling to meet the demands placed on them today, and this will only be intensified by greater levels of electrification.

Why the real estate industry needs a coordinated approach to valuation

Valuation concerns have been top of mind for most property investors for nearly two years. Property appraisals typically are based on a blend of three different valuation methodologies — discounted cash flow analysis, comparable sales and replacement value. Inflation of materials and labor costs drove up replacement values as occupancy and rental rates were falling, and while carrying costs, particularly interest rates, were rising. Meanwhile, a corresponding decline in transaction volume undermined the ability of valuers to obtain sufficient data to derive meaningful comparable values.

The bitcoin/gold dynamic: Surge in bitcoin ETFs and its potential impact on gold

Bitcoin and gold were both top of mind at the February 2024 Investment U Conference in Ojai, Calif., at which I had the privilege of presenting. There was a rumor circulating that the bitcoin price rally was sparked by a large financial institution recommending a 2 percent to 3 percent weighting to some of its high-net-worth clients. It’s being reported that Bank of America and Wells Fargo are now offering the bitcoin ETFs to certain wealth management clients, joining Charles Schwab, Robinhood and others.

Rethinking the instruments of private wealth — including the RIA operating model

Fundamental change in the macroeconomic environment requires a shift from a reliance on public markets for income and growth to including both public and private investments in client portfolios. Given the traditional focus on public markets, RIAs have to deal with new challenges. Consistent with their fiduciary obligations, RIAs will need to strengthen their portfolio analysis techniques and ramp up their due diligence and training for advisers, while at the same time restructuring their operating models for continued growth and creating better outcomes for investors by advocating in front of sponsors and regulators.

Research Roundup: April 2024

Osaic reports this will be the year of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Not only have AI and ML driven the soaring valuations of stocks such as Nvdia, they have also demonstrated the potential to increase the efficiency of advisory practices. Listen to the firm’s podcast on the subject, titled The future of AI in the advisory profession, here.

Regulation Update: SEC approves first U.S. climate disclosure rules

After two years of intense public debate, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved the nation’s first national climate disclosure rules on March 6, 2024, setting out requirements for publicly listed companies to report their climate-related risks and in some cases their greenhouse gas emissions.

Record sales: China’s clean-truck surprise defies the EV slowdown narrative

For all the headlines about automakers dialing back their plans for electric vehicles, there have been some pockets of surprisingly positive news on EV adoption the past few months. On the passenger vehicle side, EVs are estimated to have reached 20 percent of global vehicle sales in the final quarter of 2023. China and Europe are way out ahead, but it was a record quarter in other markets, as well.

Q&A: Investing in the music business

Many investors have shelled out big in recent years to buy the music catalogs belonging to some of the biggest names in the music business. Think in terms of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and many others who have sold their catalogs for huge paydays.

Healthcare’s small- and mid-cap opportunities amid aging

With populations in large economies quickly aging, demand for healthcare is set to rise rapidly over the coming decades. By 2050, one in six people worldwide will be 65 or older — an age cohort that typically spends three times as much on medical services than younger generations and a pattern that stands in contrast to other consumption categories that tend to decline as people age.

Profile: Casey Whalen, head and CIO of Lazard Family Office Partners

During her senior year as an economics major at Yale, Casey Whalen enrolled in a senior seminar, one of only about 15 students in the class. The instructor was David Swensen, author of the landmark book Pioneering Portfolio Management: An Unconventional Approach to Institutional Investment, which enumerated the principles that became known as both the “Yale model” and the “endowment model” of investing, a portfolio theory heavy on alternatives and illiquid assets. He used that investing philosophy to grow the Yale endowment from $1.3 billion when he became CIO in his early 30s, to more than $30 billion during his 35 years in the post, earning international renown along the way for his performance.

How to talk to clients about alternative assets

Crypto, private equity, REITs, sneakers. Alternative asset classes are nothing new, and investors have long treated them as trends (tulip mania, anyone?). But the number of alternative asset classes available to investors is ever-expanding. Thanks to advances in technology and social media, trendy assets can grow hotter and faster than ever before.

Learning to love higher interest rates

Real estate investors commonly think lower interest rates will boost the values of their properties. They may describe real estate as “like a bond” simply because real estate returns include strong, steady net operating income. And, yes, lower interest rates do boost the values of most bonds. But that’s because bonds are fixed-income assets. Short of default, bonds return a stream of payments based on a fixed interest rate.

Ares/RXR JV believes NYC office market isn’t dead, plans to invest $500m in the sector

RXR and Ares Management have partnered to create a $500 million joint venture to buy distressed office properties in New York City. “Ares and RXR believe the office market isn’t dead — it is evolving, and we believe the joint venture will be able to provide flexible capital and resources to the market,” says David Roth, partner and co-head of Ares U.S. Real Estate.

EVs suddenly hot, but the industry has traveled a long road to relevance

In 2023, more than 7 percent of cars sold in the United States were electric vehicles. In some parts of the world, such as Norway, EVs make up a whopping 20 percent of cars on the road. In California, where I live, almost 60 percent of people looking for a car in 2021 said they would at least consider getting an EV.

Talking Points: Quotations from people in the news

David Morehead, CIO of the Baylor University endowment, which has averaged 10.9 percent annualized returns over the past five years: “The only thing I'm doing is what the market tells me to do: If the market goes up, we take some money back. If the market goes down, we give it money. It is finance 101.”

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