Factor use is growing among financial advisors and institutional investors

Our new global study examines trends in factor investing around the world

Factor investing is growing rapidly — not only are more investors adopting factor strategies, but as investors gain experience, they increase their use of them. This is one of the key findings from our recent Global Factor Investing Study, which is based on face-to-face interviews and discussions with more than 300 institutional and wholesale factor investors around the world — including financial advisors, pension funds, private banks and insurance companies.

Investors are adopting more factor strategies, but still in small doses

Factors are measurable characteristics of a security that help explain its performance. Our study found that once asset owners have developed internal capabilities and knowledge about factor investing, they tend to adopt multiple strategies. The institutional and wholesale investors surveyed in the study have gone on to implement from two to four factor strategies on average.

However, factor allocations generally represent a small proportion of the asset classes they are being applied to, especially in relation to fixed income, which only about 10% to 15% of factor investors currently use.

How much do factor investors allocate to this category? According to survey, the allocation represents between 8% and 20%, depending on the types of investors. This remains smaller than market-cap passive approaches, which represent 24% to 28%, or than traditional active strategies, which account for 52% to 68%.

For those institutional investors who described themselves as “sophisticated” factor users, this segment reported nearly double the average allocation to factor strategies than the less sophisticated segment, at nearly 20%. This trend also applies to wholesale investors, where the more sophisticated users reported average factor allocations of 15%.

Which factor is the most used?

Our study found that Value continues to be the most commonly utilized style factor in portfolios and is particularly ubiquitous in institutional portfolios — which is notable given the extended underperformance of equity value strategies in recent years. Other key style factors include Low Volatility, Momentum, Size and Quality.

Respondents noted that they tend to start their factor journey with equities, and look to extend into fixed income and multi-asset applications.

Single or multi-factor?

When it comes to applying a single or multi-factor approach, our study found that equity single factors are the most common approach, closely followed by equity multi-factor. Some distance behind are multi-asset approaches, followed by single- and multi-factor fixed income.

The reasons behind these choices are relatively clear.

  • For institutions, single factor approaches are driven by the desire to reduce or minimize complexity and to keep costs low. This is particularly relevant for newer factor investors and smaller institutions with limited internal resources.
  • Institutions favoring multi-factor approaches have different motivations — control of risk, factor tilting and enhancement of performance were cited by respondents as much more important than costs. Multi-factor strategies tend to be deployed by larger investors that have significant scale and lower cost ratios.
  • For wholesale investors, the drivers are very similar, with lower costs cited as an even stronger driver for single factor usage.

Learn more about how institutions and wholesale investors are using factor strategies.


Important information

Blog header image: Invesco/Shutterstock.com

Factor investing is an investment strategy in which securities are chosen based on certain characteristics and attributes that may explain differences in returns. There can be no assurance that performance will be enhanced or risk will be reduced for funds that seek to provide exposure to certain quantitative investment characteristics (“factors”).  Exposure to such investment factors may detract from performance in some market environments, perhaps for extended periods. Factor investing may underperform cap-weighted benchmarks and increase portfolio risk.

Low volatility describes investments that consistently demonstrated lower volatility than securities in the same asset class.

Momentum identifies investments with positive momentum (recent strong returns) or negative momentum (recent weak returns) to calibrate portfolio exposure to either.

Size represents the potential higher-than-benchmark returns associated with relatively smaller stocks within the universe being considered.

Quality characterizes companies with strong measures of financial health, including a strong balance sheet and stable earnings growth.

Vincent de Martel
Solutions Strategist

Vincent de Martel serves as a Solutions Strategist with Invesco’s Global Solutions team. In this role, he and his team provide differentiated and outcome-oriented solutions designed to help clients meet their financial goals.

Prior to joining Invesco, Mr. de Martel was a managing director and head of product strategy for BlackRock’s multi-asset risk parity/factor suite. Previously, he created and led the liability-driven investment (LDI) business at AXA in Europe and served as head of European LDI strategy at Barclays Global Investors.

Mr. de Martel earned an MA degree in accounting and financial economics from the University of Essex, as well as an MBA from EDHEC with a concentration in market finance. He is also a Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) charterholder and a member of the CFA Society of San Francisco.

More in Investing Essentials
Your retirement portfolio balance
Hitting ‘the number’ in retirement

I’m going to hit the number this year — the one that people often associate with retirement. To be clear, I am not retiring this...