Institutional Investors Doing More to Manage Risk

March 29, 2013 ( – Institutional investors have taken concrete steps in the last five years to address investment risks.

According to results of Callan Associates’ 2013 Risk Management Survey, more than half of fund sponsors (55%) say their risk management tools are effective at mitigating investment risk, but 14% see them as simply a means to improve risk identification and monitoring. One-third of respondents indicated they do not know yet the effectiveness of their risk management tools because they are new and untested in a true market crisis.  

The survey found formal risk management processes are most prevalent at large funds. Half of the medium and small funds have adopted a risk management process or are doing so in 2013. Forty-two percent of respondents employ proprietary and/or third-party risk measurement tools, such as software or data services. Usage of third-party tools is most prevalent at public funds, while endowments and foundations more often use in-house (proprietary) tools.  

Corporate and public funds are embracing policy-level approaches to risk management more so than endowments and foundations. Public funds have implemented economic regime asset allocations, risk parity, and risk factor-based asset allocations, while corporate funds favor liability-driven investing and funded status-based glide path de-risking.   

Strategy-level approaches to mitigate risk are easier to implement than those that alter the fund’s overall investment policy, and Callan observed higher levels of adoption of strategy changes across fund types. Public funds and foundations and endowments are most heavily implementing or considering real assets, opportunistic fixed income, absolute return and long/short equity. Corporate funds are also embracing absolute return, but long duration is the most favored strategy-level approach used to address risk.

Many fund sponsors wrestle with whether or not to tactically manage plan risk. Only 30% of sponsors have made rebalancing decisions based on risk management findings. Of those that have not done so, 82% do not plan to in the future.Public (31%) and large (25%) funds are the most likely to use tactical implementations going forward.  

According to the survey, most funds (94%) do not have a formal risk budget, but explicitly address risk management in their plan governance via asset allocation, investment objectives and disciplined rebalancing.  

The investment committee is the body most regularly tasked with deciding when to take action based on the findings of risk management tools. The most common actions taken were asset allocation changes (64% of respondents), manager due diligence/search (56%) and increased manager monitoring (52%). Twenty percent of respondents had not yet taken any actions based on risk management findings.  

The survey was conducted in November 2012 and includes responses from 53 fund sponsors representing $576 billion in assets.   

For information about obtaining of a copy of the survey results, go to