Risk Management: Asset Allocation and Diversification

2 August 2023

9m read


There is risk involved whenever money is involved. Any investment has the potential to lose money, whereas holding merely cash will see its value gradually depreciate due to inflation. While risk cannot be completely eliminated, it can be changed to better suit a person's unique investment objectives.
The concepts of asset allocation and diversification are crucial in establishing these risk criteria. Even if you're new to investing, you're probably already familiar with the underlying ideas because they've been around for a very long time.
An overview of them and how they relate to contemporary money management techniques will be provided in this article.
Visit Financial Risk Explained to learn more about a related topic.

What are asset diversification and asset allocation?

Diversification and asset allocation are phrases that are frequently used interchangeably. They might, however, allude to a few minor variations in risk management.
A money management technique that specifies how capital should be allocated across different asset classes in an investment portfolio is known as asset allocation. On the other hand, the distribution of capital among those asset classes may be referred to as diversification.
These techniques' primary goal is to maximize projected profits while lowering potential risk. This often entails figuring out the investor's investing time horizon, and risk tolerance, and occasionally taking into account broader economic factors.
The fundamental principle of asset allocation and diversification strategies is to avoid placing all of your financial eggs in one basket. The most efficient strategy to create a balanced portfolio is to combine asset classes and non-correlated assets.
The fact that risk is dispersed not just throughout various asset classes but also within those asset classes is what gives these two strategies their combined strength.
Some financial gurus even contend that selecting an asset allocation plan may be more crucial than selecting certain products.


A framework called Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) uses a mathematical model to codify these ideas. Harry Markowitz introduced it in a 1952 paper that was published, and later that year, he was awarded the Economics Nobel Prize.
Major asset classes typically move in different ways. A certain asset class may do well due to market conditions, whereas another asset class may perform poorly. The fundamental premise is that if one asset class underperforms, losses can be offset by gains in another asset class.
MPT assumes that the volatility of the portfolio can be decreased by merging assets from uncorrelated asset classes. As a result, a portfolio with the same level of risk should perform better in terms of risk-adjusted performance. It also presupposes that any sensible investor will choose the portfolio with lower risk if two portfolios offer the same returns.
Simply said, according to MPT, it is more effective to integrate non-correlated assets in a portfolio.

Asset class types and allocation techniques

Asset classes in a standard asset allocation framework can be divided into the following groups:

  • Conventional assets, such as cash, stocks, and bonds. Real estate, commodities, derivatives, insurance, private equity, and of course, crypto assets are examples of alternative assets.
    Traditional assets include cash, stocks, and bonds.
    Real estate, commodities, derivatives, insurance, private equity, and of course, crypto assets are examples of alternative assets.
    Strategic asset allocation and Tactical asset allocation are the two main categories of asset allocation methods, both of which rely on the premises established in MPT.
    Strategic Asset Allocation is seen as a conventional strategy that works well with a passive investment technique. This strategy's portfolios tend to be rebalanced only when the investor's time horizon or risk tolerance causes the targeted allocations to alter.
    More aggressive investment styles are better suited to tactical asset allocation. Investors are able to focus their portfolios on assets that outperform the market. It is predicated on the idea that if a sector outperforms the market, it might do so for an extended period of time. It permits some degree of diversification because it is equally founded on the MPT principles.
    It is important to remember that diversification can be advantageous even if assets are not totally uncorrelated or inversely linked. It only needs that they aren't perfectly connected.

Portfolio diversification for crypto assets

Theoretically, these approaches should work for a portfolio of crypto assets, but caution should be exercised when using them. The price changes of the first cryptocurrency have a strong correlation with the cryptocurrency market. This makes diversification impossible because it is impossible to turn a basket of highly correlated assets into a basket of uncorrelated assets.
Conscious traders can profit when some cryptocurrencies exhibit a diminished association at certain moments. These, however, frequently do not hold up as consistently as comparable methods in traditional markets.
However, it may be assumed that as the market develops, it might be possible to diversify a portfolio of crypto assets more systematically. There is no doubt that the market has a long way to go before then.

Issues with the distribution of assets

Even while they are unquestionably effective, some asset allocation methods might not be appropriate for all investors or portfolios.
Making a strategy might be very simple, but putting it into practice is the key to a successful asset allocation plan. The effectiveness of the portfolio may be compromised if the investor is unwilling to set aside their prejudices.
The difficulty of determining an investor's risk tolerance beforehand is another possible issue. The investor can come to the realization that they desired less (or perhaps greater) risk once the returns started to come in after a specific period.

Concluding remarks

The essential principles of risk management, asset allocation, and diversification, have been around for thousands of years. They are also one of the fundamental ideas underlying contemporary portfolio management techniques.
Maximizing predicted returns while lowering risk is the basic goal of creating an asset allocation strategy. Risk distribution across asset classes may boost the portfolio's effectiveness.

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