Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel speaks with Vineer Bhansali. It is Vineer’s second appearance on the show. He brings a world of experience to the subjects of behavioral finance and tail investing strategies. He believes strongly that sustained portfolio performance comes from expecting the unexpected and hedging both left and right sides of tail risks. Vineer’s firm, Long Tail Alpha, is based on exploiting values from the tails of the probability distribution and also exploiting how human behavior distorts the markets.
Michael starts the podcast off breaking apart Vineer’s white paper, “A Behavioral Perspective on Tail Risk Hedging.” Vineer says the way markets actually trade have very little to do with the idealized models that have been presented in the academic community. Those models are presented because they are easy to solve. All interesting things that go on in the markets are beyond the idealized scenarios. Vineer talks Michael through the idea of the “Three Investors.” His study is based on how people account for gains and losses. The study concluded that people are more adverse to losses than they are to gains, also people like security. Next, Vineer speaks to work done by Kahneman and Tversky that dovetails into his own studies. This work allows him to rationally explain the existence of tails in terms of very persistent behavioral biases.
Michael and Vineer comment on oil and how significant the price of oil has been in the last few years. Where does the behavioral aspects come into play? He says that both kinds of investors, rational and irrational, create market dynamics. He gives an example of a gambler that leaves the casino while he is up a lot, as opposed to the gambler that is down and keeps gambling trying to get it back. “You have people in this commodity market casino who are going in with a certain plan, but they can not execute on that plan.” He goes on to say that people who have a trend following plan are going to do very well. They can go short or long. Their portfolio’s tend to be more dynamic, and unless you know a whole portfolio you cannot make a rational decision. Michael says aggregation is the key word. You can’t look at a price for a hedge in isolation. That doesn’t do anything for anyone.
Michael then asks “What about the timing in Tail Risk?” Vineer says you have to be very open minded in how you construct a portfolio, and the timing relates back to the valuation. These concepts are well known in the finance world, they are just not widely practiced. Tail risk, hedging or insurance is what investing is all about. Michael ends with asking, “We all know everything we know about Oil, China and Rates could go in another direction. What will happen if your thesis doesn’t materialize? If things bounce back to the way they were?” Vineer says that at some point markets overshoot and his firm is set up for when that happens. He is always asking himself, “Where is the valuation? What signals are you getting? What objective framework and model can you build?”
In this episode of Trend Following Radio:
- Is trend following mean reverting?
- Tail risks
- Tail hedges
- Human behavior and biases
- Importance of a dynamic portfolio
“[Trading] really very much depends on people’s behavior and your extraction of what is driving that behavior.” – Vineer Bhansali
Mentions & Resources:
- Vineer Bhansali
- “A Behavioral Perspective on Tail Risk Hedging”
- Daniel Kahneman
- Amos Tversky
- Black–Scholes model
- Michael Burry
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