Tactical Asset Allocation

Article byNanditha Saravanakumar
Edited byShreya Bansal
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Tactical Asset Allocation (TAA)?

Tactical Asset Allocation (TAA) is an investment strategy that capitalizes on market anomalies, fluctuations, and trends. Typically employed within active portfolio management, TAA allows investors to leverage short-term market conditions to enhance returns and create additional value.

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Within TAA, the initial strategic asset mix in a portfolio is temporarily adjusted. This adjustment may involve increasing the allocation to assets that are currently outperforming before reverting to the original mix. Additionally, the strategy entails making modifications to the composition within each asset class.

Key Takeaways

  • Tactical asset allocation definition refers to an active portfolio management approach in which investors harness minor market fluctuations and variations to optimize returns. 
  • The strategic asset mix is temporarily adjusted to take advantage of outperforming investments, with the intent of eventually returning to the original allocation. 
  • TAA also encompasses fine-tuning the composition of investments within each asset class. Therefore, any temporary deviation from the strategic asset allocation aimed at enhancing returns can be considered a TAA strategy.

Tactical Asset Allocation Explained

Tactical asset allocation strategy is one of the many investment techniques followed by experienced investors and professional asset managers. The market is subject to constant fluctuations. Some are stronger in that they displace the market situation for some time. The COVID pandemic is one recent example.

Tactical Asset Allocation 2

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Apart from this, many more minor anomalies occur within a day or a week. All these variations benefit those who know how to turn it in their favor. But before understanding how to do this, let us concentrate on asset allocation.

When an investor appoints a manager on their behalf, there is an agreed-upon mix of assets. This asset allocation depends on the investor’s risk tolerance, investment amount, return expectations, etc. But when investors seek to benefit from market movements, they temporarily adjust this mix.

At its core, investing is all about achieving returns. Investors willingly accept risk in the hope of generating favorable returns on their investments. An optimal investment strategy should actively seek out opportunities, whether they are significant or minor, to enhance an investor’s return on investment (ROI). Additionally, diversification is a fundamental risk management technique, and TAA enables dynamic adjustments to portfolio diversification.

One notable variant of TAA is global tactical asset allocation (GTAA), which is a global macro strategy that focuses on broader market movements rather than individual asset performance. It encompasses international investments, including stocks, commodities, currencies, and more. GTAA relies on data-driven and discretionary decision-making and is commonly practiced by prominent firms like Morgan Stanley and BlackRock.

In summary, there are two primary TAA categories: discretionary, emphasizing qualitative analysis and judgment, and systematic, rooted in rigorous quantitative data analysis. Both avenues enable investors and asset managers to navigate dynamic financial markets effectively.

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Examples

Let us study a few examples to understand the concept.

Example #1

Suppose Connor is a retiree and an active investor whose fund manager is Ashley.

This is how Connor’s asset allocation mix looked like pre-COVID:

Treasury bills: 15%

Corporate bonds (Amazon): 20%

Stocks (Netflix): 20%

Stocks (General Motors): 15%

Mutual funds: 10%

Commodities (Brent Crude): 20%

But when the pandemic struck, Ashley suggested some changes to the asset mix as follows:

Treasury bills: 15%

Corporate bonds (Amazon): 25%

Stocks (Netflix): 30%

Stocks (General Motors): 5%

Stocks (Zoom Communications): 10%

Mutual funds: 10%

Commodities (Brent Crude): 5%

In conclusion, the adjustments made to Connor’s asset allocation during the COVID-19 pandemic reflect a strategic response to the changing economic landscape, favoring sectors that demonstrated resilience and growth while reducing exposure to industries facing significant challenges.

Example #2

According to Forbes, TAA is gaining prominence among family offices and private firms that manage investments and wealth for high-net-worth families. A 2022 survey involving 188 participants from 32 countries revealed that family offices are actively seeking opportunities in private markets and direct investments. TAA, when employed within the context of private markets, involves a strategic approach known as tilted strategic asset allocation (SAA).

This method allows family offices to focus on specific regions and critical competencies, enhancing risk management and optimizing returns. Furthermore, TAA permits family offices to harness small market movements, providing the flexibility to maximize returns.

In summary, TAA is emerging as a strategy for family offices, offering them a dynamic approach to investing in private markets and the ability to capitalize on minor market fluctuations for improved returns.

Tactical Asset Allocation vs Strategic Asset Allocation vs Dynamic Asset Allocation

These are the three main asset allocation strategies. Let us study them in detail and distinguish between them. The table below provides a concise comparison of the critical characteristics of TAA, SAA, and DAA, helping to clarify the distinctions between these asset allocation approaches.

AspectTactical Asset Allocation (TAA)Strategic Asset Allocation (SAA)Dynamic Asset Allocation (DAA)
ObjectiveMaximizes short-term returnsLong-term alignment with goalsAdjusts to changing market conditions
Original Asset MixAdjusted temporarilyFixed based on objectivesContinuously changing
Relationship with MarketReacts to smaller variationsPassive, not influenced by short-term fluctuationsConstantly adapts to market shifts
Time HorizonShort-termLong-termOngoing, adaptable
Active vs. PassiveActive approachPassive approachActive approach
Investor SuitabilityExperienced investorsSuitable for most investorsRequires expertise or a fund manager
Investment Policy StatementOften not includedCentral in investment planningAdapted regularly

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the benefit of tactical asset allocation?

The primary benefit of TAA lies in its potential to help investors maximize returns by exploiting constant market variations. Additionally, TAA aids in diversifying investment portfolios, making them more dynamic by incorporating elements of active management.

2. Is tactical asset allocation short term?

Yes, TAA is a short-term approach, primarily centered on reacting to minor market fluctuations that can occur within a day or a week. It allows investors to respond swiftly to market dynamics, optimizing their positions. Importantly, once the opportunity has passed or market conditions change, the asset mix reverts to its original configuration, typically within a few weeks.

3. Is tactical asset allocation passive?

No, TAA is not a passive investment strategy. It is an active approach that involves making adjustments to an investment portfolio based on market conditions and short-term opportunities. TAA requires active management and the ability to react to changes in the market, making it distinct from passive strategies like buy-and-hold investing.

This article has been a guide to what is Tactical Asset Allocation. We compare it with strategic and dynamic asset allocations, and explain its examples. You may also find some useful articles here –

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