Sharekhan Blog

Portfolio Diversification and Its Benefits

  • Apr 18, 2024

What is Portfolio Diversification?

Portfolio diversification refers to the practice of spreading capital and investments across a variety of assets and securities that have different risk/return profiles. The idea is that when you diversify your holdings across multiple asset classes, sectors, countries, etc., you reduce the risk of overexposure to any single investment.

Advantages of Portfolio Diversification

There are numerous advantages gained by those who diversify their investment portfolios:

1. Mitigates Risk: Diversification allows investors to spread and minimize risk instead of being overly exposed to one asset. Market or economic conditions affecting one asset class may not necessarily affect another in the same way.

2. Enhances Returns: Portfolios applying proper diversification principles have historically delivered attractive long run returns along with lower volatility. Different assets often perform well at different times.

3. Reduces Volatility: Adding low or negatively correlated assets balances out portfolio performance over time. When some assets underperform, others generating positive returns offset those losses.

4. Greater Asset Participation: Diversification provides exposure across varied assets, allowing participation in multiple opportunities as opposed to limiting oneself to a single investment option.

5. Achieves Investment Goals: Customized portfolios aligned with an investor’s specific risk tolerance and financial objectives are enabled via diversification.

How to Diversify an Investment Portfolio?

When creating a properly diversified portfolio, there are some key principles to follow:

1. Asset Allocation

A strategic approach to allocating capital across various asset classes forms the basis of diversification. Major asset classes include stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, etc. Determining appropriate asset class weighting is dependent upon your risk tolerance, investment timeframe and financial goals. Generally, a balanced portfolio holds about 40-60% in stocks, 30-50% in bonds, and the rest in other assets.

2. Variety of Asset Classes

Simply dividing money between stocks and bonds alone is insufficient diversification. Investing across a wide spectrum of asset types reduces correlated exposures. Other assets like commodities, precious metals, currencies, private equity, and alternatives should be considered to balance risk and return tradeoffs.

3. Variety of Securities

It isn’t enough to diversify across asset classes. You also need variety within each asset class. For stocks, this means investing across market caps, sectors, and industries and avoiding concentrating too heavily on any single company. The same principle applies to adding variety across bond issuers, rental property types for real estate, etc.

4. Geographic Exposure

Having global investment exposure helps diversify away country-specific risks. Invest internationally via mutual funds/ETFs focused on regions like emerging markets, developed foreign markets, and specific countries across Europe, Asia and beyond. Geographic diversification is now easily accessible to every investor.

5. Long-term Time Horizon

Time diversification involves staying invested over longer periods instead of attempting to time short-term market swings. It allows compounding to work in your favour and mitigates performance vulnerability due to volatility.

6. Active vs. Passive Investing

Employ both active and passive investing strategies by blending low-cost index funds and ETFs along with actively managed funds where managers aim to outperform benchmarks through security selection skills.

7. Continuously Rebalance

Revisit your portfolio asset allocation at least annually. Rebalance back to original allocation targets if deviations occur over time, skewing the risk profile outside predetermined ranges.

8. Avoid Overlap

Scan underlying fund holdings across all investments to ensure you aren’t overly exposed to the same securities through overlap across multiple holdings. Layers of overlap can unintentionally concentrate positions.

The Ideal Diversified Portfolio Structure

An effectively diversified portfolio contains investments spanning across:

1.Stocks across market caps, sectors, industries, geographies

2. Government and corporate bonds of varying maturity, credit quality

3. Commodities like precious metals, oil, grains, softs, and livestock

4.Real estate across residential, commercial, and speciality segments

5.Alternatives such as private equity, venture capital, hedge funds

6. Cash equivalents like money markets, CDs, short-term paper.

Additionally, a diversify investment portfolio should be diversified across factors like value vs. growth and domestic vs. international. Avoid concentration among correlated assets or uneven risk factor exposure. The result should balance return enhancement and volatility smoothing objectives.

Diversifying – What Not to Do

Some common diversification mistakes should be avoided:

1. Failure to Rebalance: Allowing original asset allocation to drift with market movements skews the risk profile.

2. Over diversification: Portfolios overly diversified tend to have mediocre returns due to high costs and smaller position sizes, diluting performance.

3. Emotions-Based Investing Behavior: Panic selling assets after declines or manic buying at market peaks ignores diversification’s stabilizing principles.

4. Lack of Correlation Awareness: Merely dividing money across many assets neglects the need for low-correlated return streams to minimize volatility.

5. Attempting to Time Markets: Jumping in and out of assets based on stock market timing calls as opposed to staying diversified at all times often proves detrimental.

Conclusion

Portfolio diversification allows for varied participation opportunities in assets exhibiting returns that are not closely correlated. This enables investors to balance and stabilize overall portfolio risk-and-return dynamics. Diversification yields superior risk-adjusted returns, ultimately better achieving the dual objectives of performance optimization and volatility dampening over full market cycles.


Team Sharekhan
by Team Sharekhan

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