Please note , this post is not a solution, it is mere a discussion on the available  options  and risks

After reading a lot of literature on  risk and hedging  , I can distill the whole essence of  risk management into  a single sentence for Individual portfolios.

Holy Grail  of hedging :

Find a strategy that performs strongly during crises yet doesn’t lose too much over a market cycle . This strategy/asset can have a material impact on portfolio performance over the long term

Objectives of  a good Hedging Strategy for a Retail Portfolio :
1. Easy to Implement
2. Not based on forecasting / timing markets
3. Adding the strategy should not materially impact future returns or underperform a benchmark

Most active investing strategies are short volatility in one way or another. Whether you buy equities, take long positions in risky bonds or engage in spread trades, you will tend to perform better in flat to rising markets than highly volatile ones. So the first question to ask for any active strategy is to check whether it is short volatility or long volatility. For most traditional investor portfolios adding a shorty volatility strategy should be carefully measured against it’s expected risk adjusted return

Assets which can be combined in an equity heavy portfolios for Risk Management

Here I am listing various assets which can be combined with an equity portfolio to reduce portfolio risk  . However on a deeper analysis none of them meet the holy grail criteria and are prone to various idiosyncratic risks  which are listed here

Option 1:**Long term treasury bonds**
* Increase in Interest Rates
* Black Swan Event where USD looses it’s monopoly as Global Reserve Currency
* Global Defacto Strategy can result in rather unintended results when it matters with rebalances occurring in all portfolios in a similar timeframe

Option 2:  VIXM or VIXY
* Looses a lot during regular market cycle with drawdowns up to 90%
* Timing is important and difficult to implement as a holding strategy 
* Explosive returns do not compensate of the losses during the regular market cycle which result on timing luck

Option 3:  Gold
* Does loose during raising interest rates
* Experiences material drawdowns if not timed with a Trend . 
*  Does not provide explosive returns in crisis

Option 4: Low Hanging Fruit: Combination of above 3 assets
A combination of above assets , does help to certain extent which I am implementing in my portfolio , but the costs of benchmark underperformance loom large and drawdowns are not truly contained across various simulations . It is similar in philosophy to Ray Dalios All Weather , but I am not happy with the returns without  leverage and unhappy with the risk induced by leverage

Option 5 :  Timing Volatility through Option Strategies [Holy Grail?] 
This seems to be the sour grapes . I assume this is where the true skill  reflects and helps funds to generate material alpha with leverage by protecting the downside. 

Some known strategies on literature  which are difficult to backtest

 a. Rolling down OTM options

b. Timing Options based on volatility 

c. VIX Calls [Similar to VXTH]

What are your views and strategies used in personal portfolios?


New Comment
3 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:09 AM

VIX futures are probably cheaper than VIX ETFs / options.

Hedge funds as an asset class are meant to have the returns profile you're talking about, and they're supposed to achieve this via the sorts of active trades that are generally slightly profitable and become much more profitable in high volatility times. However, it might be the case that the only reasonable HF opportunities are available to high net worth (say >10m usd) -- I'm not very familiar with the space.

I agree with the notion that your option 5 requires real skill. I think if you're willing to spend the time to be good at that, you should do some simpler trades that are more consistent instead.

I agree, Option 5 requires real skill .

Any insight how VIX futures are a better option compared to VIX ETFs?

On the mention of VIX futures , i am actually wary of  VIX futures suffering from Contango and  getting timing right is crucial.  I am not sure how actual volatility practitioners deal with it 

"VIX futures in contango" is roughly same problem you mentioned about e.g. VIXY going down 90% "over a market cycle". My claim is that you'll lose less to the contango than to the drift in VIXY. If I understand correctly, (I don't have easy access to the data right now) the VIX ETFs actually hold (dynamic) baskets of options, which means they lose a lot of money to slippage / transactions costs as they trade in and out of those positions.