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Unconstrained Investing: Definition, Examples, and Benefits

Last updated 03/29/2024 by

Bamigbola Paul

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Unconstrained investing allows fund managers to pursue investment themes and ideas without tying them to a specific performance benchmark, offering flexibility but also increasing investment manager risk.

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Understanding unconstrained investing

Unconstrained investing, as a concept, gained traction in response to the 2007-2008 financial crisis, which eroded investor trust in traditional investment strategies tied to benchmarks like the S&P 500 Index or Russell 2000. In conventional investing, fund and portfolio managers are often constrained by specific benchmarks, limiting their ability to capitalize on market changes promptly.
During the financial crisis, the rigidity of benchmark-focused strategies became apparent. Many portfolios were heavily invested in the U.S. market, leaving them vulnerable to the subprime mortgage crisis. This inflexibility underscored the need for a more adaptable approach, leading to the emergence of unconstrained investing as an alternative style.

Accessing unconstrained investing

Institutional options

Institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals often have access to unconstrained investing through established asset managers and specialized funds. These funds typically employ experienced investment teams with a track record of navigating unconstrained strategies successfully.

Alternative investment platforms

Apart from traditional asset managers, alternative investment platforms offer opportunities for retail investors to access unconstrained strategies. These platforms leverage technology to provide diversified portfolios that align with investors’ risk profiles and objectives.

Examples of unconstrained investing

Unconstrained investing can manifest in various ways across different asset classes and investment strategies. Here are a few examples:

Equity investments

In equity investing, unconstrained strategies may involve actively managed portfolios that are not tied to a specific benchmark index. Fund managers have the flexibility to invest in companies of any size, industry, or geographic location based on their analysis of growth prospects and valuation metrics. This approach allows for opportunistic investing in undervalued stocks or emerging market opportunities without being constrained by benchmark weightings.

Fixed-income portfolios

Unconstrained fixed-income portfolios deviate from traditional bond benchmarks and allocation constraints. Portfolio managers have the freedom to select bonds across different credit qualities, maturities, and sectors based on their assessment of interest rate movements, credit risk, and yield curve dynamics. They may also utilize derivatives to hedge against interest rate risk or enhance returns through active duration management. This unconstrained approach enables bond managers to capitalize on market inefficiencies and adapt to changing interest rate environments more effectively.
Weigh the pros and cons
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks of unconstrained investing.
  • Enhanced flexibility: Unconstrained investing provides fund managers with the flexibility to pursue investment opportunities across a broader universe of asset classes, sectors, and geographies.
  • Dynamic risk management: By deviating from benchmark weightings and allocation constraints, unconstrained investing enables portfolio managers to implement dynamic risk management strategies.
  • Manager risk: Unconstrained strategies entrust managers with significant discretion, increasing the risk of poor decision-making.
  • Evaluation challenges: Without a benchmark to gauge performance against, evaluating the success of unconstrained strategies can be challenging.

Additional examples of unconstrained investing

Diversification across asset classes

One example of unconstrained investing is a portfolio that diversifies across various asset classes, including equities, fixed income, real estate, and commodities. Rather than adhering to a specific benchmark, the portfolio manager allocates assets based on their assessment of market opportunities and risks. For instance, during periods of economic uncertainty, the manager may increase allocations to defensive assets like gold or Treasury bonds while reducing exposure to volatile equities.

Global macro strategy

Another example is a global macro strategy employed by hedge funds or institutional investors. In this approach, managers analyze macroeconomic trends and geopolitical events to identify investment opportunities across global markets. They may take long or short positions in currencies, bonds, stocks, and commodities based on their outlook for different regions and asset classes. By operating unconstrained by benchmarks, these managers can capitalize on emerging trends and market inefficiencies regardless of traditional asset allocation constraints.

Implementing unconstrained investing

Successfully implementing unconstrained investing requires careful consideration of several key factors:

Manager expertise and research capabilities

Investors should assess the expertise and research capabilities of fund managers when considering unconstrained investment options. Managers with a deep understanding of various asset classes, market dynamics, and risk management techniques are better equipped to navigate unconstrained strategies effectively.

Risk management and portfolio oversight

Effective risk management is essential in unconstrained investing to mitigate the inherent risks associated with manager discretion. Portfolio oversight mechanisms, including robust internal controls and performance monitoring, help ensure that portfolios adhere to investment objectives and risk tolerance levels.


Unconstrained investing represents a departure from traditional benchmark-driven approaches, offering greater flexibility and diversification. While it empowers managers to pursue opportunities across diverse asset classes, it also requires disciplined risk management and expertise. Investors seeking to capitalize on market inefficiencies and navigate dynamic market conditions may find unconstrained investing strategies appealing.

Frequently asked questions

What are the main benefits of unconstrained investing?

Unconstrained investing offers several advantages, including enhanced flexibility for fund managers to pursue investment opportunities across various asset classes, sectors, and geographies. It also allows for dynamic risk management strategies, enabling managers to adapt to changing market conditions more effectively.

What are the potential drawbacks of unconstrained investing?

While unconstrained investing provides flexibility, it also carries risks such as increased manager discretion, which can lead to poor decision-making. Additionally, evaluating the success of unconstrained strategies can be challenging without a benchmark for comparison.

How does unconstrained investing differ from traditional benchmark-driven strategies?

Unconstrained investing diverges from traditional strategies by not tying fund managers to specific performance benchmarks. Instead, it allows managers to focus on long-term performance rather than short-term benchmark targets, offering greater flexibility and diversification.

Can retail investors access unconstrained investing?

Yes, retail investors can access unconstrained investing through alternative investment platforms that offer diversified portfolios aligned with their risk profiles and objectives. These platforms leverage technology to provide access to unconstrained strategies typically available to institutional investors.

What types of assets can be included in an unconstrained investment portfolio?

An unconstrained investment portfolio can include a wide range of assets, including equities, fixed income securities, real estate, commodities, and currencies. Portfolio managers have the flexibility to allocate assets based on market opportunities and risk assessments rather than adhering to specific benchmark weightings.

How important is manager expertise in unconstrained investing?

Manager expertise is crucial in unconstrained investing as managers are entrusted with significant discretion in portfolio decision-making. A deep understanding of various asset classes, market dynamics, and risk management techniques is essential for navigating unconstrained strategies effectively and maximizing returns while managing risk.

Key takeaways

  • Unconstrained investing allows managers flexibility to pursue opportunities across various asset classes and sectors.
  • Managers must possess deep expertise and exercise disciplined risk management to succeed in unconstrained strategies.
  • Investors can access unconstrained investing through institutional options and alternative investment platforms.

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