Why do investments perform the way they do? This is a question many investment experts have been attempting to answer for years. Luckily, factor investing can provide investors with a data-driven understanding.
In this infographic from MSCI, we use scenarios from everyday life to explain how factor investing works.
What is Factor Investing?
Simply put, investors choose stocks based on the “factors”, or characteristics, that help explain investment performance. They are typically aiming for:
- Higher returns
- Lower risk
- More diversification
While you may not have actively incorporated factor investing in your current portfolio, almost everyone will be familiar with the underlying concepts in real life. Here are five common factors and scenarios where you likely experience their principles.
1. Low Volatility Factor
The low volatility factor attempts to capture excess returns to stocks with lower than average risk. This factor has generally performed best during economic slowdowns or contractions.
How you may experience it: If you want a writing career with relatively reliable income, you’ll likely choose to be a marketer at a large company rather than a self-employed author.
2. Quality Factor
The quality factor attempts to capture excess returns in shares of companies that are characterized by low debt, stable earnings growth, and other “quality” metrics. This factor has generally performed best during economic contractions.
How you may experience it: When you’re purchasing new tires for your car, you might consider characteristics like tread longevity, traction, and fuel economy.
3. Value Factor
The value factor attempts to capture excess returns to stocks that have low prices relative to their fundamental value. This factor has generally performed best during economic recoveries.
How you may experience it: If you want a good deal, you may look for items that are on sale.
4. Momentum Factor
The momentum factor attempts to capture excess returns to stocks with stronger past performance. It has generally performed best during economic expansions.
How you may experience it: When you’re deciding what to watch, you may choose a TV show that has high audience ratings. You’ll likely also recommend it to your friends, which further boosts viewer numbers.
5. Low Size Factor
The low size factor attempts to capture excess returns of smaller firms (by market capitalization) relative to their larger counterparts. It has generally performed best during economic recoveries.
How you may experience it: When you’re learning a new sport, you’ll see larger increases in your skill level than a professional athlete will.
Understanding Your Investments With Factor Investing
These simple concepts are at work in your everyday life and in your investments. Targeting these factors can help you meet your investing goals, including maximizing return potential and managing risk.
From 2000 to 2020, here’s how the risk and return of the above factors compared to the benchmark MSCI World Index.
|MSCI World Index||6.6%||15.6%|
Annualized risk and gross returns in USD from December 29 2000 to December 31 2020 for MSCI World Factor Indexes.
All five of the factors have had greater historical returns than the benchmark index, and some have also had lower risk.
With factor investing, you can better understand what drives your portfolio’s performance.