Alpha Z Advisors offers an alternative to options investing
(GLOBALINTELHUB.COM) — Dover, DE 8/8/2017 — Global Intel Hub exclusive interview — Elite E Services sat down with Mike Connor, Principal and Senior AP of Alpha Z Advisors, LLC – a trading advisor offering alternative investments based on strategies incorporating research on price anomalies, behavioral biases and institutional practices. In November of last year, Alpha Z Advisors LLC was ranked #1 Options Strategies Category by Barclay Hedge, a service that tracks funds’ strategies. So we wanted to learn more about on the Alpha Z Advisors strategy, as we have always supported options as a great way to not only hedge investments but also provide additional alpha to any portfolio. Also, futures options are generally traded on regulated exchanges – unlike FX which are mostly traded over the counter (OTC).
Who is Mike Connor?
Professional risk manager and former member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, who has more than 40 years’ experience in the futures and options industry.
What is the story behind Alpha Z Advisors?
Professor William Ziemba started Alpha Z Advisors, LLC with trading capital from friends and family. The initial investors were individuals he knew from the academic world in addition to a few referrals from the initial investors. The fund has grown in size from trading profits from the initial capital without attracting new investors.
How has the performance been?
2015 had great performance, more than 100% return, but it probably will never happen again due to a management decision to reduce initial margin to equity risk.
Why has it been so consistent?
The fund primarily trades options based on CME’s S&P 500 E-mini contract. Trading centers around the extreme prices of puts on the E-mini contract. The big money in trading options is made from being long, but returns are inconsistent (but the risk is usually very well controlled). The consistent money is made by being short options, but it comes with risk, and to stay in the game the risk has to be controlled.
How do you control the risk?
By properly hedging the positions either with other options or a futures position, and by margin to equity control. Short (selling) options positions are no different than an insurance company policies – you are selling price insurance. Like any insurance company, we’re going to have occasional disasters, like Katrina – but they should be manageable. Over a long time horizon, well managed market disasters should not prevent us from continuing to perform. We have had our share of ups and downs, and fortunately we have been able to survive all drawdowns. Good risk control and position sizing are the most important factors in any trading campaign.
What factors may impact the strategies’ performance?
Implied Volatility. Volatility is opportunity, but left unchecked it can be a horrible threat.
Considering the results, why do you think there’s not larger AUM?
Until recently we have not solicited publicly. This is our first concentrated effort at soliciting investors. In addition, we put together a minimum account size so high ($250K for the managed account, $100K for the fund). Our account size should eliminate many potential investors. We are looking for sophisticated investors that can take a part of their portfolio and take greater risk for a higher return.
How can investors ‘prove’ that the performance is ‘real’ – is there an institutional My FX Book ? There’s been a lot of CTA frauds that were real CTAs but used fake performance to lure investors – what assurances can we offer them about Alpha Z?
All the accounts – all the funds’ assets – all the performance results are compiled every month by an independent CPA firm. The statements themselves can be verified by the FCM.
Positions are manually stress-tested intra-day.
What makes Alpha Z Advisors LLC different than other CTAs?
I’m not sure if that’s the case, we have a very professional trading plan. You can go to Amazon and buy books published by our founder Dr. William Ziemba, actually he’s published more than 50 books on statistical abnormalities and opportunities in the stock market. It certainly does not mean we cannot lose, or have losing open positions – we are going to have losing positions there is no way around it. But overall, if we can control the risk and keep margin to equity at a reasonable level we should be able to survive during the bad times. We have, I think, enough excess margin to sit through a significant rise in implied volatility and still survive, if the positions and margin to equity can be properly controlled. Like any market position whether it is options or futures an unexpected giant gap opening is always a threat to open market position’s stability.
What makes the strategy different?
Trades are well positioned and I believe are market entry timing is very good. Our exposure is laid out over a broad time horizon (we don’t trade in nearby month, for example). If futures were a bullseye, you’d have to hit the target almost dead center to make a profit, with options, you can just hit the wall and still make a profit – of course, only with properly controlled risk and other parameters. I do not know how other CTA’s manage their positions and stress test their market risk, but I am confident our process is robust. What we do is not magic, it’s simply neutralizing the risk as much as possible, and there is a number of ways we accomplish that. It is all about understanding what the options can do if they move against you, and how you can respond adverse market activity.
The execution is done by a professional service. One way we keep our costs down other than accounting, is to try and soft dollar expenses through a soft dollar basis.
Customers are free to choose any brokerage house they want that clears at the CME. If customers do not have any preference, we are happy to set them up with our preferred FCM.
This article/interview is for information/educational purposes only and is privileged, confidential and proprietary. This article/interview is NOT an offer to sell or a solicitation of any investment products or other financial product or services, is NOT an official confirmation of any transaction, or an official statement. Past performance is not indicative of future results. There is a substantial high and unlimited level of risk of loss in trading commodity futures, options, options writing, equities and off-exchange foreign currency products; such trading is not suitable for all investors. Investors should only invest money they can afford to lose.