Value at Risk

Value-at-risk (VAR) is a probabilistic measure of the range of values a firm’s portfolio could lose due to market volatility. This volatility includes effects from changes in interest rates, exchange rates, commodities prices, and other general market risks. A typical reporting of VAR would be the following statement: “There is a 5% chance the bank will lose more than $5 million over the next trading week.” Thus VAR is simply a statement of probable loss.

History

J.P. Morgan Chairman Dennis Weatherstone demanded a simple report at the end of each day on how the firm’s position could change due to market risk. Morgan analysts came up with VAR as this measure and incorporated it into what became known as the 4:15 report, the report was given to Weatherstone daily at that time to summarize the day’s market events.

The Washington-based Group of Thirty, in a 1993 study headed by Weatherstone, Derivatives: Practices and Principles, recommended using VAR as a means of identifying a firm’s overall market risk. Since then, VAR has skyrocketed in popularity and there are few financial institutions which do not envisage making it part of their day-to-day reporting. In fact, many financial regulators, such as the European Economic and Monetary Union, require banks to report their VARs on a regular basis.

Because there are a variety of ways to calculate VAR, J.P. Morgan sought to make its method the industry standard. In 1994 it began giving away copies of RiskMetrics, a program it developed to calculate VAR. Morgan’s Internet web site includes a RiskMetrics section, where individuals or firms can download parts of the program. This initial move into the VAR market did not stop other investment banks from creating their own VAR calculation programs and peddling them to other financial organizations. Many of these programs differ from RiskMetrics, and while RiskMetrics is widely recognized in VAR measurement, the industry has yet to settle on a single calculation method.

Investment Strategy

An investment strategy is an approach to investment analysis and security selection. In the broadest sense, investment strategies are passive, active, or semiactive.

In a passive investment approach, portfolio composition does not react to changes in capital market expectations (passive means not reacting). For example, a portfolio indexed to the MSCI-Europe Index, an index representing European equity markets, might add or drop a holding in response to a change in the index composition but not in response to changes in capital market expectations concerning the security’s investment value. Indexing, a common passive approach to investing, refers to holding a portfolio of securities designed to replicate the returns on a specified index of securities. A second type of passive investing is a strict buy-and-hold strategy, such as a fixed, but non-indexed, portfolio of bonds to be held to maturity.

In contrast, with an active investment approach, a portfolio manager will respond to changing capital market expectations. Active management of a portfolio means that its holdings differ from the portfolio’s benchmark or comparison portfolio in an attempt to produce positive excess risk-adjusted returns, also known as positive alpha. Securities held in different-from-benchmark weights reflect expectations of the portfolio manager that differ from consensus expectations. If the portfolio manager’s differential expectations are also on average correct, active portfolio management may add value.

A third category, the semiactive, risk-controlled active, or enhanced index approach, seeks positive alpha while keeping tight control over risk relative to the portfolio’s benchmark. As an example, an index-tilt strategy seeks to track closely the risk of a securities index while adding a targeted amount of incremental value by tilting portfolio weightings in some direction that the manager expects to be profitable.

Investment Policy Statement

An investment policy statement (IPS) is a written document that clearly sets out a client’s return objectives and risk tolerance over that client’s relevant time horizon, along with applicable constraints such as liquidity needs, tax considerations, regulatory requirements, and unique circumstances.

Intertemporal Rate of Substitution

The ratio of the marginal utility of consumption s periods in the future (the numerator) to the marginal utility of consumption today (the denominator). (Institute 465)

Source: Institute, CFA. 2018 CFA Program Level II Volume 6 Alternative Investments and Portfolio Management. CFA Institute, 07/2017. VitalBook file.

Corporate Income Tax

The final large non-operating item is the tax expense. This is often a large amount that affects profit substantially. Differences in tax rates can be an important driver of value. Generally, there are three types of tax rates:

The statutory tax rate, which is the tax rate applying to what is considered to be a company’s domestic tax base.

The effective tax rate, which is calculated as the reported tax amount on the income statement divided by the pre-tax income.

The cash tax rate, which is the tax actually paid (cash tax) divided by pre-tax income.

Differences between cash taxes and reported taxes typically result from timing differences between accounting and tax calculations and are reflected as a deferred tax asset or a deferred tax liability.

In forecasting tax expense and cash taxes, respectively, the effective tax rate and cash tax rate are key. A good understanding of their operational drivers and the financial structure of a company is useful in forecasting these tax rates.

Differences between the statutory tax rate and the effective tax rate can arise for many reasons. Tax credits, withholding tax on dividends, adjustments to previous years, and expenses not deductible for tax purposes are among the reasons for differences. Effective tax rates can differ when companies are active outside the country in which they are domiciled. The effective tax rate becomes a blend of the different tax rates of the countries in which the activities take place in relation to the profit generated in each country. If a company reports a high profit in a country with a high tax rate and a low profit in a country with a low tax rate, the effective tax rate will be the weighted average of the rates, and higher than the simple average tax rate of both countries. In some cases, companies have also been able to minimize their taxes by using special purposes entities. For example, some companies create specialized financing and holding companies to minimize the amount of taxable profit reported in high tax rate countries. Although such actions could reduce the effective tax rate substantially, they also create risks if, for example, tax laws change. In general, an effective tax rate that is consistently lower than statutory rates or the effective tax rates reported by competitors may warrant additional attention when forecasting future tax expenses. The notes on the financial statements should disclose other types of items, some of which could contribute to a temporarily high or low effective tax rate. The cash tax rate is used for forecasting cash flows and the effective tax rate is relevant for projecting earnings on the income statement. In developing an estimated tax rate for forecasts, analysts should adjust for any one-time events. If the income from equity method investees is a substantial part of pre-tax income and also a volatile component of it, the effective tax rate excluding this amount is likely to be a better estimate for the future tax costs for a company. The tax impact from income from participations is disclosed in the notes on the financial statements.

Often, a good starting point for estimating future tax expense is a tax rate based on normalized operating income, before the results from associates and special items. This normalized tax rate should be a good indication of the future tax expense, adjusted for special items, in an analyst’s earnings model.

By building a model, the effective tax amount can be found in the profit and loss projections and the cash tax amount on the cash flow statement.3 The reconciliation between the profit and loss tax amount and the cash flow tax figures should be the change in the deferred tax asset or liability. (Institute 128-129)

Source: Institute, CFA. 2018 CFA Program Level II Volume 4 Equity. CFA Institute, 07/2017. VitalBook file.

Return on Equity

Return on equity (ROE) measures the rate of return on the money invested by common stock owners and retained by the company thanks to previous profitable years. It demonstrates a company’s ability to generate profits from shareholders’ equity (also known as net assets or assets minus liabilities).

ROE shows how well a company uses investment funds to generate growth. Return on equity is useful for comparing the profitability of companies within a sector or industry.

Investors generally are interested in company’s that have high, increasing returns on equity.

Formula
Return on Equity = Net Income / Average Common Shareholder’s Equity