Does the Liquidity Risk Premium Still Exist in Private Equity?

FRG has recently been investigating the dynamics of the private capital markets.  Our work has led us to a ground-breaking product designed to help allocators evaluate potential cash flows, risks, and plan future commitments to private capital.  You can learn more here and read about our modeling efforts in our white paper, “Macroeconomic Effects On The Modeling of Private Capital Cash Flows.”

As mentioned in a previous post, we are investigating the effects of available liquidity in the private capital market.  This leads to an obvious question: Does the Liquidity Risk Premium Still Exist in Private Equity?

It is assumed by most in the space that the answer is “Yes.”  Excess returns provided by private funds are attributable to reduced liquidity.  Lock up periods of 10+ years allow managers to find investments that would not be possible otherwise.  This premium is HIGHLY attractive in a world of low rates and cyclically high public equity valuations.  Where else can a pension or endowment find the rates of return required?

If the answer is, “No,” then Houston, we have a problem.  Money continues to flow into PE at a high rate.  A recent article in the FT (quoting data from FRG partner Preqin) show there is nearly $1.5 trillion in dry powder.  Factoring in leverage, there could be, in excess of, $5 trillion in capital waiting to be deployed.  In the case of a “No” answer, return chasing could have gone too far, too fast.

As mentioned, leverage in private capital funds is large and maybe growing larger.  If the liquidity risk premium has been bid away, what investors are left with may very well be just leveraged market risk.  What is assumed to be high alpha/low beta, might, in fact, be low alpha/high beta.  This has massive implications for asset allocation.

We are attempting to get our heads around this problem in order to help our clients understand the risk associated with their portfolios.


Dominic Pazzula is a Director with the Financial Risk Group specializing in asset allocation and risk management.  He has more than 15 years of experience evaluating risk at a portfolio level and managing asset allocation funds.  He is responsible for product design of FRG’s asset allocation software offerings and consults with clients helping to apply the latest technologies to solve their risk, reporting, and allocation challenges.






Private Equity and Debt Liquidity, the “Secondary” Market

A significant consideration in several aspects of Private Equity and Private Debt has been attributed to the liquidity (or lack thereof) of these investments.  The liquidity factor has been cited as a basic investment decision, influencing complex pricing, return of investment and financial risk management.  But as the environment has changed and matured, is liquidity being considered as it should be?

FRG’s ongoing research suggests that some of the changes this asset class are experiencing may be attributable to changes in the liquidity profile of these investments, which in turn may affect asset management decisions.  As modeling techniques continue to evolve in the asset management space, illustrated in our recent paper Macroeconomic Effects On The Modeling of Private Capital Cash Flows, their use as both an asset management tool and a risk management tool become more valuable.

The extreme importance placed on liquidity risk for all types of financial investments, and the financial community in general, to this point in time have been primarily associated with public investments.  However, a burgeoning “secondary” market in Private Equity and Private Debt will change the liquidity consideration of this asset class, a better understanding of which is necessary for investment managers active in this space.  Achieving this understanding will in turn provide private equity and private debt investment managers with another perspective with which to assess management decision aligning a bit more with that traditionally available for public investments. FRG is refining research into the liquidity of Private Capital investments through an appreciation of the dynamics of the environment to provide a better understanding of the behavior of these investments. Watch for more from us on this intriguing subject.

Read more about FRG’s work in Private Capital Forecasting via the VOR platform.

Dr. Jimmie Lenz is a Principal with the Financial Risk Group and teaches Finance at the University of South Carolina.  He has 30 years of experience in financial services, including roles as Chief Risk Officer, Chief Credit Officer, and Head of Predictive Analytics at one of the largest brokerage firms and Wealth Management groups in the U.S.

Macroeconomic Effects on the Modeling of Private Capital Cash Flows

The demand of private capital investing has investors clamoring for more information about prospective cash flows. Historically, that data has been hard to estimate. Because the investments aren’t traded on a public venue, there are few figures generated beyond the data received by existing investors.

So what’s an investor to do? FRG has developed a Private Capital Model solution that provides more insight and understanding of the probable cashflows, one that includes the macroeconomic variables that have been found to influence cash flows and significantly improve the forecasting probabilities. We have found those variables create a more complete picture than the Takahashi and Alexander model, commonly used within the industry to provide guidance around cash flows.

Three of FRG’s modeling and investment experts – Dr. Jimmie Lenz, Dominic Pazzula and Jonathan Leonardelli – have written a new white paper detailing the methodology used to create the Private Capital Model, and the results the model provides. Download the paper, “Macroeconomic Effects on the Modeling of Private Capital Cash Flows” from the Resources section of the FRG website. Interested in a perspective on an investor’s need and utilization of cash flow information? Download FRG’s first Private Capital Fund Cash Flows paper.

Quantifying the Value of Electricity Storage

ABSTRACT: This research discusses the methodology developed to hedge volatility or identify opportunities resulting from what is normally a discussion constrained to the capital markets.  However, the demand (and the associated volatility) for electricity in the United States has never been more pronounced.  The upcoming paper, “Quantifying the Value of Electricity Storage,” will examine the factors that have led to the growth of volatility, both realized and potential.

There is widespread recognition of the value of energy storage, and new technologies promise to expand this capability for those who understand the opportunities being presented to firms involved in different areas of electricity generation. Objective tools to valuate these options, though, have been limited, as has the insight into when mitigation efforts make economic sense.

In order to answer these questions for electricity generators of all types we have created an economics-based model to address the initial acquisition of storage capacity, as well as the deployment optimization solutions, based on the unique attributes of the population served.

Links to the paper will be posted on FRG’s social media channels.

Forecasting Capital Calls and Distributions

Early in his career, one of us was responsible for cash flow forecasting and liquidity management at a large multiline insurance company. We gathered extensive historical data on daily concentration bank deposits, withdrawals, and balances and developed an elementary but fairly effective model. Because insurance companies receive premium payments from and pay claims to many thousands of individuals and small companies, we found we could base reasonably accurate forecasts on the quarter of the year, month of the quarter, week of the month, and day of the week, taking holidays into account. This rough-and-ready approach enabled the money market traders to minimize overnight balances, make investment decisions early in the morning, and substantially extend the average maturity of their portfolios. It was an object lesson in the value of proactive cash management.

It is not such a trivial matter for investors in private capital funds to forecast the timing and amount of capital calls and distributions. Yet maintaining adequate liquidity to meet obligations as they arise means accepting either a market risk or an opportunity cost that might be avoided. The market risk comes from holding domestic large-cap stocks that will have to be sold quickly, whatever the prevailing price, when a capital commitment is unexpectedly drawn down; the opportunity cost comes from adopting a defensive posture and holding cash or cash equivalents in excess of the amount needed for ongoing operations, especially when short-term interest rates are very low.

FRG is undertaking a financial modeling project aimed at forecasting capital calls and distributions. Our overall objective is to help investors with outstanding commitments escape the unattractive alternatives of holding excess cash or scrambling to liquidate assets to meet contractual obligations whose timing and amount are uncertain. To that end, we seek to assist in quantifying the risks associated with allocation weights and to understand the probability of future commitments so as to keep the total portfolio invested in line with those weights.

In other words, we want to make proactive cash management possible for private fund investors.

As a first step, we have formulated some questions.

  1. How do we model the timing and amount of capital calls and disbursements? Are there exogenous variables with predictive power?
  2. How do the timing of capital calls and disbursements correlate between funds of different vintages and underlying types (e.g., private equity from venture capital to leveraged buyouts, private credit, and real estate, among others)?
  3. Do private funds’ capital calls and distributions correlate with public companies’ capital issuance and dividend payout decisions?
  4. How do we model the growth of invested capital? What best explains the returns achieved before money is returned to LPs?
  5. What triggers distributions? 
  6. How do we allocate money to private funds keeping an eye on total invested capital vs. asset allocation weights?
    1. The timing of capital calls and distributions is probabilistic (from #1). 
    2. Diversification among funds can produce a smooth invested capital profile.  But we need to know how these funds co-move to create distributions around that profile (from #2).
    3. Confounding problem is the growth of invested capital (from #3).  This growth affects total portfolio value and the asset allocation weights.  If total exposure is constrained, what is the probability of breaching those constraints?

We invite front-line investors in limited partnerships and similar vehicles to join the discussion. We would welcome and appreciate your input on the conceptual questions. Please contact Dominic Pazzula at if you have an interest in this topic.

Risk Premia Portfolio Case Study

See how FRG’s VOR (Visualization of Risk) platform works for a major U.S. foundation: download a case study that explores how we customized VOR application tools to help them with their day-to-day portfolio management activities, as well as their monthly analysis and performance reporting.

The study shows how FRG was able to leverage its econometric expertise, system development capability and logistical strength to empower the foundation’s specialized investment team. Read the study, and learn more about VOR, here.

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