James Montier: Did He Miss the Trend Followers?

James Montier writes (PDF):

Tail risk protection appears to be one of many investment fads du jour. All too often those seeking tail risk protection appear to be motivated by the fear of missing out (not fear at all, but greed). However, the surge of tail risk products may well not be the hoped-for panacea. Indeed, they may even contain the seeds of their own destruction (something we often encounter in finance – witness portfolio insurance, etc). If the price of tail risk insurance is driven up too high, it simply won’t benefit its purchasers. When considering tail risk protection, investors must start by defining the tail risk they are seeking to protect themselves against. This sounds obvious, but often seems to get scant attention in the tail risk discussion. Once you have identified the risk, you can start to think about how you would like to protect yourself against that risk. In many situations, cash is a severely underappreciated tail risk hedge. The hardest element of tail risk protection is likely to be timing. It is clear that a permanent allocation is likely to do more harm than good in many situations. When it comes to timing tail risk protection, a long-term value-based approach and an emphasis on absolute standards of value, coupled with a broad mandate (a wide opportunity set, or, investment flexibility, if you prefer) seems to offer the best hope.

A paper seemingly written without knowledge of trend following’s success. Preparing for tail risk, which means successfully executing as a trend following trader, is not predicated on “timing” for success. It is but one element of the game, but surely not the core focus.

Note: Shout to Jason Rolf for PDF tip.