Alternative Investments

The surprising Truth about Alternative Investments

Do I need to invest in Alternative Investments?

Are alternative investments for me?

In the world of sports, the weightlifter will assess the weight to be lifted vis-à-vis his capacity and strength; a diver will measure the depth and nature of water before taking the plunge. This analogy can be extended to the field of investment also. Every investor has to make an assessment as to the risks he will shoulder while making an investment. The individual’s propensity to take risks will define the class of investment which he would prefer to invest in.

What are alternative investments?

Other than the conventional forms of investment like bonds and shares, investors may often explore non-conventional areas for investment, like structured investment product, venture capital, equity crowd funding, rare coins, stamps, forestry and art. All these options are generically termed as ‘alternative investments’.

Structured Investment Products

Among the different alternative investments, structured investment products are more popular in India.

Structured products are mostly market linked. These products are pre-packaged with well defined investment strategies. They pre-package and structure the product based on derivatives, index, foreign currencies, debt instruments and the like.

Structured investment products are launched with or without capital protection theme.

Why do investors consider alternative investments?

  • Investors may find that the returns from conventional modes not yielding the expected returns and could hence venture into the world of alternative investments. Investors expect that the alternative investments will give better return than the conventional risky asset class like equity.
  • Some investors consider alternative investments because they get bored with regular equity investments. They need variety.
  • Some other investors consider alternative investments because they enjoy the thrill it gives.

Do you think the above reasons sound reasonable?

Risk involved in Alternative Investments

It is alright to take a detour, and test the water of alternative investment; however, the investor has to get a measure of the depth of the water in the pool. It is important to make an objective assessment as to the risks associated with the particular investment type and what could be the expected prospect of returns from the investment type.

Here we analyze the various risk forms of alternative so that investors can make a knowledgeable judgment on the same.

Let us look into the specific nature of risks associated with alternative investments:

1. Alternative investments are less researched

Alternative investments are less researched in comparison to conventional investments and this makes it difficult for an investor to make informed judgements. Lack of adequate information and knowledge can be a road block in the proper assessment of the associated risks.

Operational and organizational risk analyses are a pre-condition to risk management, however lack of knowledgeimpedes such an analysis. It is possible that while investing in a tree within a plantation, the investor might be unaware of the soil characteristics and the environmental issues around the plantation. This would make it difficult to make an objective assessment of the risks involved in such an investment.

2. Alternative investments are illiquid

More often than not it is difficult to sell alternative investments when liquid funds are needed. For example it would be difficult to find a buyer overnight for alternative investments like rare coins or stamps.

Where ever possible, alternative investment options should be examined for initial due diligence and monitoring so that the liquidity position can be assessed.

3. No proper price discovery mechanism for alternative investments

Since the options for alternative investment are unconventional, the methodology of their valuation is not easy and transparent. While bonds and shares follow a clear valuation norm there is ambiguity in valuation of alternative investments like a piece of art or property in a foreign country.

However, market linked alternative investments are comparatively not difficult to value.

Gold investment

4. Alternative investments and volatility

Alternative investments with the aim of capital protection are less volatile. Similarly alternative investments based on debt instruments are also less volatile.

However, aggressive alternative investments are more volatile and could behave in an unpredictable manner. This could lead investors to lose money without hope for recovery in the long run. The investor is unaware as to how the market could evolve in the future. Being unconventional in nature, the alternative investment option could turn out to be erratic and could lead the liquidity aspect of investment to be affected.

5. Alternative investments and scams

Gullible investors may be conned by people involved in scams by projecting quick and high returns through the alternative investments route. As there is no regulatory body to regulate these alternative investments, the probability of scams in alternative investments goes up.

Final Verdict on Alternative investments

Just because, you want more returns, alternative investments are not likely to give better returns than well managed equity funds. Successful investment needs discipline and patience. If you want variety and thrill you can go to movies or casinos. Avoid investing in alternative investments by taking blind risk. Encourage investing in well managed equity funds by taking calculated risk.

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