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A Guide to Private Markets for Insurers
A Guide to Private Markets for Insurers
May 15, 2018

Until somewhat recently, insurance companies benefited from yield compression, which allowed them to invest conservatively and still remain competitive. But now that returns from fixed-income investments are at an all-time low, insurers are looking beyond traditional investments to boost returns and meet their long-term liabilities.

 

To illustrate the benefits that insurers stand to reap by investing in private markets, we turn to a case study, which shows how even a modest allocation toward alternative investments has the potential to increase returns, keep volatility in check, reduce expected shortfalls, and shorten duration.

 

StepStone believes the regulatory and accounting constraints facing insurance companies are not as restrictive as they may have been. To learn more about our research on private markets, feel free to contact any of us at StepStone.

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Chinese Politics in the Age of Xi
Chinese Politics in the Age of Xi
April 5, 2018

Politics in the People’s Republic of China is at a point of transition: the country’s bicameral legislature convened last month for its annual session to rubber-stamp a series of new laws and constitutional amendments, which are expected to have important ramifications for political and economic governance in the world’s second largest economy.

 

One change in the constitution that has attracted much debate is the lifting of term limits on the presidency. Xi Jinping, whose second five-year term began in March, has now been given the option to serve a third, from 2023 to 2028. Should investors welcome or fear this prospect? What are the implications for China’s economy and private markets? We explore these topics and more in Chinese Politics in the Age of Xi. 

 

Stepstone believes the short- and medium-term outlook for private market investors is weighted to the upside, while potential downside risks in the long term are visible but also avoidable. To learn more about our research on private markets in Asia, please contact any of us at StepStone.

 

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Retail Real Estate: Clean Up in Aisle Six, or Heading to Chapter-7?
Retail Real Estate: Clean Up in Aisle Six, or Heading to Chapter-7?
February 23, 2018

Most headlines would have you believe that the rise of online shopping portends imminent doom for brick and mortar. We view these notions as overstated: traditional retail accounts for 90% of all sales in the US, and even as e-commerce continues along its growth trajectory over the next decade, brick and mortar is still likely to account for two-thirds of consumer purchases.

 

  • The rise of e-commerce gave traditional retail the jolt it needed to move toward omni-channel. As long as both sectors are headed in that direction, brick and mortar has an advantage: it controls the centrally-located real estate that online merchants crave.
  • Not all brick and mortar shops will survive. Half of all malls in the US could close in the next ten years. But the real estate they occupy will remain valuable as they are razed and replaced by multifamily homes, hospitals, or e-tail distribution centers.
  • Even after e-commerce’s opening salvo, the fundamentals for investing in retail real estate are still in place: cap rates and supply are low, the vacancy rate has held steady, and rents have gone up for 23 straight quarters.

 

We hope you find this report informative. If you would like to learn more about our research on real estate, please contact any of us at StepStone.

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The US Energy Sector: Out of Aces
The US Energy Sector: Out of Aces
October 19, 2017

The US Energy Sector: Out of Aces makes the case that anyone looking to invest in North America’s oil and gas sector should be cautious. No longer a play on rising commodity prices, the companies that survived the collapse of 2014 are leaner and use leverage more conservatively. Discipline is the new rule.

 

  • The nimble producers that define North America’s production capabilities are setting the world’s marginal supply curve; their ability to adjust production to match prevailing prices may create a series of mini-cycles that we believe will prevent prices from rising significantly.
  • Companies that underwrote futures contracts when a barrel of oil was worth US$100 continue to face liquidity problems as their hedges roll off; more than 200 companies filed for bankruptcy between January 2015 and the first quarter of this year.
  • Although the worst of the bankruptcy wave may be behind us, it will take a few years to resolve the remaining distress.
  • To stay competitive, upstream companies are cutting costs and building rigs only where reserves are proven, infrastructure is established, and there are plenty of service companies downstream.

 

Until commodity prices increase, we believe investors should navigate the market carefully to capitalize on the few pockets of opportunity that exist. If you would like to learn more about our research on energy private equity or to inquire about investment opportunities, please contact any of us at StepStone.

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Blending the Real Estate Allocation
Blending the Real Estate Allocation
October 3, 2017

Blending the Real Estate Allocation explores the risk, returns and statistical challenges associated with the different investment formats through which commercial real estate can be accessed. Long viewed as a binary allocation decision, relatively little research has been conducted on the performance and risks of building portfolios composed of listed and private real estate. This paper attempts to fill that void.

 

  • We simulated the historical performance of blended real estate portfolios made up of fixed capital allocations to listed equity/debt and private equity/debt, and created five hypothetical portfolios, each with a varying level of exposure to commercial real estate.
  • At a 10% allocation, commercial real estate was shown to be accretive to an overall portfolio; performance at higher allocation levels is less conclusive.
  • Like other alternative investments, real estate can present statistical challenges that investors ought to be prepared for. We advise against focusing extensively on mean-variance optimization—any allocation framework should address statistical considerations such as negative skewness in the return distributions.
  • Finally, our results show that private debt (i.e., senior loans) can enhance risk-adjusted returns.

 

This paper is the first in a series on strategic asset allocation. You can expect subsequent issues over the next few quarters. If you would like to learn more our research or inquire about investment opportunities, please contact any of us at StepStone.

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Healthcare & Life Sciences: The Evolution of China’s Next Big Market
Healthcare & Life Sciences: The Evolution of China’s Next Big Market
August 10, 2017

Healthcare & Life Sciences: The Evolution of China’s Next Big Market, evaluates the demographic and political tailwinds that have converged with the region’s vibrant technology sector to create an expanding set of investment opportunities that are as compelling as they are diverse.

 

  • China is projected to age faster than any country ever; its elderly population will double in just 20 years. More importantly, China’s baby boomers have the resources to afford and command better healthcare.
  • Regulatory reforms are encouraging Chinese pharmaceutical firms to increase their R&D budgets, attracting top global talent and reversing years of brain drain. By 2020, China is projected to be the world’s largest R&D spender.
  • Like the tech boom, private equity and venture capital should have a big role to play in the healthcare market’s development; the number of local healthcare specialists we track has grown five-fold since 2010.
  • The data garnered in SPI™, our proprietary data platform, suggest that with the right strategy, savvy investors may be rewarded handsomely—investments in Chinese healthcare companies performed better than investments in all other sectors, delivering a higher MOIC and gross IRR and half the loss ratio.

 

The insights offered in this report are the result of recent investments we’ve made in Chinese healthcare funds. We hope you find them informative. If you would like to learn more about our research or current investment opportunities, please contact any of us at StepStone.

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The ID Register: A More Efficient Universal Onboarding Platform
The ID Register: A More Efficient Universal Onboarding Platform
July 13, 2017

The ID Register: A More Efficient Universal Onboarding Platform examines several initiatives that private markets have taken to reduce the cost and complexity inherent to the investor onboarding process. Standardization in financial services has been more successful when wide-spread adoption leads to greater efficiency and does not concentrate costs to any one group. More than diffusing costs, the ID Register is a powerful tool that benefits GPs and LPs alike.

 

  • LPs spend less time performing tedious tasks by creating one profile that contains enough information to comply with anti-money laundering and know-your-client regulations in several jurisdictions, and can be shared with each fund to which the LP subscribes.
  • GPs enjoy a simpler sale process and can close each subscription faster.

 

We encourage you to explore the platform and diligence materials for GPs, LPs and service providers at www.theidregister.com. If you would like to learn more about our research on fund subscriptions, please contact any of us at StepStone.

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Overall Solutions for Private Debt Investments
Overall Solutions for Private Debt Investments
May 18, 2017

Overall Solutions for Private Debt Investments provides an overview of the current private debt landscape and describes StepStone Private Debt’s approach to investing in this nascent, yet pervasive asset class.

 

  • In recent years, a tense interest rate environment has led many institutional investors to invest more of their assets in private debt.
  • While attractive returns have made first lien syndicated corporate loans particularly popular, investors are increasingly exploring other categories within private debt.

 

StepStone Private Debt offers a full range of solutions in private debt to institutional investors building customized portfolios. If you would like to learn more about our research on private debt or current investment opportunities, please feel free to contact any of us at StepStone.

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A Comprehensive Guide To Private Equity Investing
A Comprehensive Guide To Private Equity Investing
May 7, 2017

A Comprehensive Guide to Private Equity Investing is a primer on this varied and complex asset class—providing details on the risks, advantages and terms that investors ought to be familiar with.

 

  • Each of the four strategies that comprise private equity has its own nuances; choosing the right GP with the proper expertise is critical.
  • That private equity has historically outperformed public markets may help to explain why institutional investors are projected to make the asset class a more prominent part of their portfolios.

 

We hope you find this paper informative. If you would like to learn more about our research on private equity or current investment opportunities, please feel free to contact any of us at StepStone.

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Drivers of Investment Returns: Value Creation Analysis Improved
Drivers of Investment Returns: Value Creation Analysis Improved
April 2, 2017

Drivers of Investment Returns: Value Creation Analysis Improved compares the traditional method of measuring a GP’s value-add to our proprietary approach—Drivers of Investment Returns™ (“DIR”). With hundreds of managers raising funds each year, LPs need a deeper, more detailed understanding of how each GP creates value, and whether its strategy fits the market environment. DIR indicates which analyses may yield the greatest additional insight.

 

  • In the past, comparing and evaluating managers was simpler: there were fewer managers using fewer strategies; financial engineering was often enough to generate high returns.
  • As private equity matured, grew more competitive and perfected new value creation strategies, comparing managers became more complicated. The calculus for drawing these comparisons, however, did not evolve as quickly.
  • Collecting enough of the relevant data can be problematic to a rigorous value creation analysis, and traditional approaches are difficult to compare across strategies and managers; DIR and our proprietary database address these issues.

 

The purpose of this paper is to familiarize you with an analytical tool that appears in our investment memos and research reports. If you would like to learn more about our investment approach or our research on private markets, please feel free to contact us.

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Asia Venture Capital: Less Disruptive, More Additive
Asia Venture Capital: Less Disruptive, More Additive
December 2, 2016

Asia VC: Less Disruptive, More Additive, reviews the evolution of venture capital (VC) in Asia. By some measures, VC is larger in China than it is in the US. The fact that one-quarter of the world’s “unicorns” are based in China, India, and Southeast Asia reflects Asia’s growing importance within a truly global asset class. Investors would be wise to not overlook this rapidly evolving sector.

 

  • No longer the land of copycats, many Chinese start-ups have surpassed their American counterparts in scale and function. Last year, Alibaba’s sales volume was double Amazon’s; Facebook is reportedly poaching engineers from Tencent.
  • Maturing capital markets, entrepreneurs returning to China from Silicon Valley, an exploding consumer class, and favorable public policies have helped VC in China develop faster than it did in the US; key indicators suggest that it will grow even faster in India and Southeast Asia.
  • Start-ups in these latter regions are also benefiting from China’s funding and expertise. Alibaba and Tencent have invested more than US$1 billion in Indian and Singaporean start-ups.
  • The potential for rapid growth notwithstanding, pricing for start-ups in India and Southeast Asia is still modest compared to their analogues in Silicon Valley—even considering regional risks. While this reflects an inchoate VC ecosystem, it also offers an opportunity for investors looking to broaden their VC exposure. This arbitrage will ultimately close as seen in China where valuations are catching up to those in the US. India and SEA may follow the same trend.

 

We hope this report informs your long-term investment strategies. If you would like to learn more about our research on Asia or VC, or current investment opportunities, please contact any of us at StepStone.

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The Energy Sector in Crisis
The Energy Sector in Crisis
November 9, 2016

The Energy Sector in Crisis, is the first part of a two-part series on energy private equity. In Part I, we explore the role that energy specialists played in fueling the American energy surge, as well as the economic and political factors that left many managers reeling.

 

  • Robust global demand, new exploration and production technologies, strong commodity prices, and a steady stream of credit fostered America’s hydrocarbon boom.
  • Despite its capital intensity, the energy sector shined in the early 2000’s, as growth in developing economies created a spike in demand.
  • After the GFC, new technologies helped extend strong returns even in the absence of the price increases seen at the start of the century.But when oil prices plummeted in 2014, America’s energy boom came to a halt: more than 90 companies have filed for bankruptcy, fundraising for natural resource strategies is on pace to be the lowest it’s been in five years, and a TVM of 1.1x has been good enough for first quartile for recent vintages.
  • Still, between 2011 and 2015, more than US$150 billion was raised across more than 100 funds. As pressure to deploy mounts, managers will need to adjust their playbooks if they are to generate returns in the absence of the tailwinds the sector enjoyed for the past decade and a half.

 

In Part II of this special series on energy private equity, StepStone will search for clues as to how the sector might pivot at the beginning of the next energy market cycle. Expect it early next year. We hope this report informs your long-term investment strategies. If you would like to learn more about this topic or current investment opportunities, please contact any of us at StepStone.

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