Structured Notes: The Secret to Improving Your Risk/Return Profile?
Structured notes are gaining momentum in the market, with a whopping $2 trillion in assets under management (AUM) globally.
So why haven’t more investors heard of them?
Traditionally, structured notes had a $1 million minimum investment. They were only available to high-net-worth or institutional investors—but they are now becoming more accessible.
Today’s infographic from Halo Investing explains what structured notes are, outlines the two main types, and demonstrates how to implement them in a portfolio.
What is a Structured Note?
A structured note is a hybrid security, where approximately 80% is a bond component and 20% is an embedded derivative.
Structured notes are issued by major financial institutions. Since they are the liability of the issuer, it is critical that the investor is comfortable with the issuer—as with any bond purchase.
Almost all structured notes have four simple parameters.
- Maturity – The term typically falls within 3 to 5 years.
- Payoff – The amount the investor receives at maturity.
- Underlying asset – The note’s performance is linked to the price return (excluding dividends) of an asset, such as stocks, ETFs, or foreign currencies.
- Protection – The level of protection the investor receives if the underlying asset loses value.
As long as the underlying asset does not fall lower than the protection amount at maturity, the investor will receive their initial investment back in full.
This is the primary draw of structured notes: they provide a level of downside protection, while still allowing investors to participate in market upswings.
Types of Structured Notes
There are a variety of structured notes, providing investors with diverse options and a range of risk/return profiles. Structured notes generally fall into one of two broad categories: growth notes and income notes.
Investors receive a percentage—referred to as the participation rate—of the underlying asset’s price appreciation.
For example, a growth note has the following terms:
- Maturity: 5 years
- Participation rate: 117%
- Underlying asset: S&P 500 index
- Principal protection: 30%
Here’s what the payoff would look like in 4 different scenarios:
|S&P 500 return||Growth Note Return|
The S&P 500 can return a loss of up to 30%, the principal protection level in this example, before the note starts to lose value.
Over an income note’s life, investors receive a fixed payment known as a coupon. Income notes do not participate in the upside returns the way a growth note does—but they may generate a higher income stream than a standard debt security or dividend-paying stock.
This is because protection is offered for both the principal and the coupon payments. For example, say a note’s underlying asset is the S&P 500, and it pays an 8% coupon with 30% principal protection. If the S&P 500 trades sideways all year—sometimes slightly negative or positive—the note will still pay its 8% coupon due to the protection.
Income notes have another big advantage: their yields can spike in tumultuous markets, as was demonstrated during the market volatility near the end of 2018.
Why did this spike occur? Banks construct the derivative piece of an income note by selling options*, which are more expensive in volatile markets. Banks then collect these higher premiums, creating larger coupons inside the structured note.
Investors can diversify their return profile by using a combination of growth and income notes.
*Option contracts offer the buyer the opportunity to either buy or sell the underlying asset at a stated price within a specific timeframe. Unlike futures, the buyer is not forced to exercise the contract if they choose not to.
Structured notes are powerful tools that can accomplish almost any investment goal, and investors commonly use them as a core portfolio component.
- Step 1: Select a portfolio asset class where downside protection is desired.
- Step 2: Reallocate a portion of the asset class to a structured note
- Step 3: Improve risk/reward performance.
The asset class will demonstrate an enhanced return profile, with less downside risk.
A Global Market
While relatively small in the Americas, the structured notes market is growing on a global scale:
|Region||AUM (2019 Q2)|
In the first half of 2019, assets under management in the Americas was up by 4%. It’s clear the asset class presents enormous untapped potential—and investors are taking notice.
Lowering Barriers Through Technology
Technology is becoming more ingrained in wealth management—empowering investors to access structured notes more easily through efficient trading.
The market is already becoming more accessible. By 31 October 2019, the average transaction size had decreased by almost $500,000 over the year prior.
Technology also offers other benefits for investors:
- Improved analytics
- Investment education
- Risk information
- Increased competition = lower fees
- Improved secondary liquidity
As more investors take advantage of this asset class, they may be able to improve their return potential while limiting their risk.
How to Avoid Common Mistakes With Mining Stocks (Part 5: Funding Strength)
A mining company’s past projects and funding strength are interlinked. This infographic outlines how a company’s ability to raise capital can determine the fate of a mining stock.
A mining company’s past projects and funding strength are interlinked, and can provide clues as to its potential success.
A good track record can provide better opportunities to raise capital, but the company must still ensure it times its financing with the market, protects its shareholders, and demonstrates value creation from the funding it receives.
Part 5: The Role of Funding Strength
We’ve partnered with Eclipse Gold Mining on an infographic series to show you how to avoid common mistakes when evaluating and investing in mining exploration stocks.
Part 5 of the series highlights six things to keep in mind when analyzing a company’s project history and funding ability.
View all five parts of the series:
- 1. Common mistakes made with the team
- 2. Common mistakes made with the business plan
- 3. Common mistakes with the jurisdiction of the project
- 4. Common mistakes with the project and technical risks
- 5. Common mistakes with raising money
Part 5: Raising Capital and Funding Strength
So what must investors evaluate when it comes to funding strength?
Here are six important areas to cover.
1. Past Project Success: Veteran vs. Recruit
A history of success in mining helps to attract capital from knowledgeable investors. Having an experienced team provides confidence and opens up opportunities to raise additional capital on more favorable terms.
- A team with past experience and success in similar projects
- A history of past projects creating value for shareholders
- A clear understanding of the building blocks of a successful project
A company with successful past projects instills confidence in investors and indicates the company knows how to make future projects successful, as well.
2. Well-balanced Financing: Shareholder Friendly vs. Banker Friendly
Companies need to balance between large investors and protecting retail shareholders. Management with skin in the game ensures they find a balance between serving the interests of both of these unique groups.
- Clear communication with shareholders regarding the company’s financing plans
- High levels of insider ownership ensures management has faith in the company’s direction, and is less likely to make decisions which hurt shareholders
- Share dilution is done in a limited capacity and only when it helps finance new projects that will create more value for shareholders
Mining companies need to find a balance between keeping their current shareholders happy while also offering attractive financing options to attract further investors.
3. A Liquid Stock: Hot Spot vs. Ghost Town
Lack of liquidity in a stock can be a major problem when it comes to attracting investment. It can limit investments from bigger players like funds and savvy investors. Investors prefer liquid stocks that are easily traded, as this allows them to capitalize on market trends.
- A liquid stock ensures shareholders are able to buy and sell shares at their expected price
- More liquid stocks often trade at better valuations than their illiquid counterparts
- High liquidity can help avoid price crashes during times of market instability
Liquidity makes all the difference when it comes to attracting investors and ensuring they’re comfortable holding a company’s stock.
4. Timing the Market: On Time vs. Too Late or Too Early
Raising capital at the wrong time can result in little interest from investors. Companies in tune with market cycles can raise capital to capture rising interest in the commodity they’re mining.
Being On Time:
- Raising capital near the start of a commodity’s bull market can attract interest from speculators looking to capitalize on price trends
- If timed well, the attention around a commodity can attract investors
- Well-timed financing will instill confidence in shareholders, who will be more likely to hold onto their stock
- Raising capital at the right time during bull markets is less expensive for the company and reduces risk for investors
Companies need to time when they raise capital in order to maximize the amount raised.
5. Where is the Money Going? Money Well Spent vs. Well Wasted
How a company spends its money plays a crucial role in whether the company is generating more value or just keeping the lights on. Investors should always try to determine if management is simply in it for a quick buck, or if they truly believe in their projects and the quality of the ore the company is mining.
Money Well Spent:
- Raised capital goes towards expanding projects and operations
- Efficient use of capital can increase revenue and keep shareholders happy with dividend hikes and share buybacks
- By showing tangible results from previous investments, a company can more easily raise capital in the future
Raised capital needs to be allocated wisely in order to support projects and generate value for shareholders.
6. Additional Capital: Back for More vs. Tapped Out
Mining is a capital intensive process, and unless the company has access to a treasure trove, funding is crucial to advancing any project. Companies that demonstrate consistency in their ability to create value at every stage will find it easier to raise capital when it’s necessary.
Back For More:
- Raise more capital when necessary to fund further development on a project
- Able to show the value they generated from previous funding when looking to raise capital a second time
- Attract future shareholders easily by treating current shareholders well
Every mining project requires numerous financings. However, if management proves they spend capital in a way that creates value, investors will likely offer more funding during difficult or unexpected times.
Wealth Creation and Funding Strength
Mining companies that develop significant assets can create massive amounts of wealth, but often the company will not see cash flow for years. This is why it is so important to have funding strength: an ability to raise capital and build value to harvest later.
It is a challenging process to build a mining company, but management that has the ability to treat their shareholders and raise money can see their dreams built.
Emerging Markets: A Growing Set of Opportunities
Spanning nearly 30 countries around the world, emerging markets can offer plenty of opportunities for growth-minded investors.
Emerging Markets: A Growing Set of Opportunities
With growth portfolios becoming increasingly focussed on China, investors may develop a tendency to overlook the broader emerging markets universe.
To shed a light on some lesser-known opportunities, this infographic from BlackRock explores the evolving landscapes of Southeast Asia, Brazil, and India.
Putting Opportunity Into Perspective
Emerging markets often exhibit lower price/earnings ratios (P/E) when compared to developed markets. While this may suggest that the region is attractively priced, investors can also view emerging markets from a relative size perspective.
Here’s how the market capitalisations of several emerging markets compare to some of the biggest names in tech.
|Country||Total Country Market Cap (USD)||Comparable to||Company Market Cap (USD)|
As of September 2020. Source: CEIC, Ycharts
Investors often focus on tech companies when seeking long-term growth, but with valuations at their highest levels since the dot-com bubble, uncertainty could begin to rise.
That’s where emerging markets can come into play. A country such as Brazil, which contains over 400 listed companies, may offer enhanced returns and diversification when compared to a single company. To learn more, here’s a closer look at three emerging markets opportunities that might be flying under your radar.
1. Southeast Asia: A Rising Digital Economy
Southeast Asia (SEA), which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, is quickly emerging as the next digital giant. The region is currently home to an online population of 400 million people, a 53% increase from 2015.
With so many people going online, companies such as Grab, a local ride-share provider, have accumulated millions of new users. This spells good news for investors, with SEA’s internet economy expected to reach a gross merchandise value (GMV) of $309B by 2025.
|Year||SEA Internet Economy GMV* (USD)|
*GMV is the total value of merchandise sold through a customer-to-customer exchange site.
Source: Google, Temasek, Bain & Company
Favourable demographics are also contributing to this growth. The region is expecting 50 million entrants to its middle class by 2022 and has an average age of just 30.2 years. That’s roughly 10 years younger than the UK, and 18 years younger than Japan.
Furthermore, this growing cohort of wealthier consumers is already embracing technology. Ecommerce, a subsector of SEA’s internet economy, has added 100 million new users over the past 5 years, with GMV increasing from $5 billion in 2015 to $62 billion in 2020.
2. Brazil: Improvements in Gender Diversity
Gender diversity has been a historical weak point for Brazilian companies, but female representation in the country has been improving. Here’s how the percentage of women on corporate boards differs between Brazil, emerging markets, and developed markets.
|Year||Brazil (n=53)||MSCI Emerging Markets Index (n=1,323)||MSCI World Index (n=1,584)|
Brazil surpassed the emerging markets average in 2020 thanks to increased awareness and initiatives by its financial sector. Brazil’s B3 exchange, for example, was the first stock exchange in the Americas to sign the Women’s Empowerment Principles, an initiative by UN Women.
Greater female representation is welcome news for both investors and society alike. Research from the Boston Consulting Group found that companies with above-average diversity tended to be more innovative, generating a greater share of revenue from recently launched products.
3. India: Promising Opportunities in Healthcare and Real Estate
As part of its National Health Protection Scheme, India’s government is looking to provide 500 million people with government-sponsored health insurance. If progress is kept on track, health sector revenues could increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18%, making it one of the world’s fastest growing markets in the world.
|Year||Revenue from India's Healthcare Sector (USD)|
Achieving this goal will require participation from both the public and private sectors. For example, India’s government has pledged to increase public health spending from 1.1% of GDP in 2018, to 2.5% by 2025. Additionally, it allows 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in projects such as hospitals.
India is adopting a similar strategy for real estate, which has struggled to keep up with growing demand. In India’s top eight cities, the housing deficit amounts to over 3 million units.
To accelerate development, India’s government has allowed 100% FDI in residential and retail developments since 2018. Analysts believe that the country’s real estate market could become the third largest in the world by 2030.
There’s More Than Meets The Eye
Over the span of a few years, China has grown to comprise nearly 40% of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index—but this doesn’t mean that China should receive all of the attention from investors.
With almost 30 countries to explore, China and the opportunities discussed above are just a subset of what emerging markets have to offer. For growth-minded investors, giving this diverse region a closer look could be rewarding.
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