"Gold is the money of kings, silver is the money of gentlemen, barter is the money of peasants – but debt is the money of slaves..."
to this we add
Volatility is the money of intergalactic emperors!
Black Peak Capital is registered investment advisor (RIA) in Connecticut
focused on the VIX futures market, a fast growing derivative market place.
VIX futures are based on the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX)
widely known in financial markets as the "Fear Index"
VIX futures investment strategies offer
leveraged returns during periods of market calm
protection during periods of market panic
We offer a range of systematic and discretionary strategies
using VIX futures based exchange traded products like SVXY and VXX
to help clients protect and grow their wealth and achieve retirement goals.
We are hard-line conservatives. We believe in self-reliance and smart work.
We don't beg the FED to keep interest rates at zero or for Congress to be building bridges to nowhere for our portfolios to succeed.
We believe that long-term wealth is built on surviving the bad times after harvesting the good ones. We are eternal optimists about the power of human enterprise, but we recognize that bad times happen for a reason. Long term sustainability requires that a system is rebalanced regularly and destabilizing excesses are removed.
After a Creativity Boom comes the Efficiency Consolidation.
We have built an investment system that is independent of government interventions in the stock market and can succeed in bear markets. But our system will also take advantage of government interventions and succeed in bull markets.
All we need is stock market volatility or lack of stock market volatility!
HOW IT WORKS
Stock prices are a Ponzi scheme... but with rules. Small business can hardly get angel investors to pay them 1 year of future earnings because the revenue is not repeatable. As a company gets bigger and its revenues become more certain and diversified, it may command 5 to 6 years of future earnings from private equity investors. In the biggest game in town, the S&P 500, companies can get 15 to 20 years of future earnings from public investors. Why? Investors assume that earnings can be repeated for that many years for multiple reasons. Those reasons are called "risk premiums" and are subject to various risks - risks that premiums go to zero!
Key point to understand is stock prices are made up only 5%-10% from fundamentals such as earnings and dividends and 90-95% from risk premiums that can be fleeting.
Because stock prices are mostly made up of thin air and not fundamentals, they are volatile. Investors constantly have to reevaluate the premiums built into the prices as governments around the world wage currency wars, trade wars, raise taxes, default on their debts and fall apart into anarchy or communism. Thus S&P 500 (SPX) has an average annual realized volatility of almost 15% over the past 70 years.
To combat this massive volatility in retirement accounts, financial planners usually pair stocks with bonds, which are more dependable. You get your coupon and your money back on schedule with bonds. That is why the template for retirement accounts is the Vanguard Balanced Portfolio which is composed of 60% stocks and 40% bonds. All other combinations that include international stocks and bonds are simply variants of this simple formula.
The Balanced Portfolio has a major Achilles heel. Interest rates. Success of the Balanced Portfolio depends heavily on declining interest rates. When interest rates go down, both stocks and bonds have higher valuations. When rates go up, both stocks and bonds decline. Can central banks force rates to decline forever? No, they can't. Eventually, the result of easy money is hyperinflation like in the 70s USA or 90s Eastern Europe. Hyperinflation makes both stock and bond holders equally poor by destroying purchasing power and corporate earnings. There is no silver bullet in life.
Thus interest rates move in long cycles. They move up and they move down. The by-product of interest rate cycles are volatility regimes. When interest rates rise, stock market volatility increases. When interest rates fall, stock market volatility decreases.
The CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) represents expected annual volatility of stocks as measured by option prices. Spot VIX reflects what investors think about volatility today. VIX futures, on the other hand, particularly further out in time reflect historical volatility averages and general expectations that the market will have at least one big drawdown during the year. SPX falls -7% at least once during the year 80% of the time!
The market is either panicking (selling off) or recovering (going up) and thus there is always a substantial spread between the spot VIX and VIX futures. While far out VIX futures tend to be in 18-22 area regardless of market conditions, front VIX futures and spot VIX tend to be either in the 12-16 area when market is going up during bull markets or in the 25-40 area when the market is going down during bear markets. As a VIX future gets closer and closer to expiration, it needs to converge to the spot VIX. That means when you invest in VIX futures there is always movement, always some kind of spread to harvest.
VIX futures products like VXX or SVXY are a recent financial product invention which was introduced at the start of an 8 year period of zero FED funds rates as requested by President Obama. Many newcomers to the VIX trade think that shorting VIX futures is the only way to make money because spot VIX has been low (because of low rates) and VIX futures have been forced to converge down for years. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. There will be periods in the future when interest rates will go up, spot VIX will go up and VIX futures will be forced to converge up rendering VIX shorting a losing proposition.
The financial industry today is populated with practitioners of an arcane art called "stock picking" where investors pick companies based on outstanding fundamentals. Unfortunately, companies with outstanding fundamentals are very few and even worse, fundamentals are only 10% of a stock prices. There are only a few stocks like Amazon or Apple that grow fundamentals fast enough to overcome premium risks and they have limited float.
Stock pickers get run over by macro factors the way a picket fence gets run over by a tank. We think the best way to beat the market is to amplify fundamental market trends with reasonable leverage. The volatility trade is by definition leveraged as the VIX moves 4% for every 1% move in the SPX. As discussed above volatility tends to have substantial trends (regimes) influenced by interest-rate cycles. Thus there are substantial opportunities to profit from the implied leverage. We have to take out perfect timing and substantial volatility drag from expected returns but even then what is left manages to beat the market. In fact, it allows for unprecedented financial engineering and targeting of risk and return parameters.
In our view, there are 2 main consistent ways to profit from volatility as a long term investment (not a hedge)
The first and most popular way (because of recency bias) to participate in the volatility trade is by selling volatility. The stock market goes up 80% of the time. Then VIX tends to hang around its mode in the 12-16 area and VIX futures are forced to converge down. Contango averages about 6% yield per month! Even when you substract perfect timing and volatility drag, the leverage built in delivers outstanding returns.
By pairing short VIX products with bonds, various levels of risk and return can be engineered. The short VIX trade is, however, subject to substantial sudden loss and termination risk and thus you can't buy and hold it even during great bull markets. XIV - the most notorious VIX product - was terminated in the best economic year in the last decade and right after the market posted 30% return in the prior 12 months! Exposure must be actively managed at all times. During period when the economy is going into a recession or stock market volatility is increasing for other reasons, selling volatility can be a losing proposition. Those periods, which can sometimes span years, must be spent in cash equivalents.
Our Short Volatility Strategies
"Relative Value" is a fancy term for an opportunistic long/short volatility strategy that makes money where there is money to be made. There are many approaches to this but our approach is simple. The Volatility Curve is either in contango or backwardation formations. We are long VIX if the curve is in backwardation and VIX products have positive expected return from the upward convergence of VIX Futures. We are short VIX if the curve is in contango and VIX products have a positive expected return from the downward convergence of VIX Futures.
Perhaps the most important part of pursuing relative value vol strategies is having a lot of humility and a good understanding of how mistakes and volatility drag can destroy long term returns. That is why it is essential that a relative value volatility strategy is systematically rebalanced to preserve gains while ahead. Stacking cash and taking profit is super important. A relative value strategy allows you to make money during bear markets and big corrections and gives you additional capital to buy at market lows. That is when this strategy shines. It is not often, but it really counts when it does. During bull markets volatility drag will make relative value strategies under perform a simple short volatility strategy, but this is the strategy for all season investing.
Our Relative Value Strategies
High Volatility Strategies
Smart Short VIX
Qualified Clients Only
$2.1 million net worth
Low Volatility / Growth Strategies
Conservative Short VIX
* Minimums may be waived at our discretion
sign up instructions
1. Review our ADV forms
2. Review our Privacy Notice
3. Sign Investment Management Agreement
Print name and sign agreement
Initial signature block granting the adviser the ability to email information and certifying that client has received ADV form and Privacy Notice
Select strategy and review fee schedule
Initial Qualified Client signature block (if applicable)
Sign account minimum disclosure
4. Fill out Investor Profile Form
5. Review Separately Managed
THIS financial ADVISER USES
Chief Investment Officer
A recognized expert on the VIX futures market and systematic volatility investing, Stephen brings more than a decade of experience in the financial industry as a technology architect of risk management systems with stints at top investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Royal Bank of Scotland. He graduated from Stanford University with an engineering degree and was a national math Olympian in high school.
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Investors should carefully consider the investment objective, risks, charges and expenses of the investment strategies presented on this web page. There is no guarantee that the strategies will meet their objectives. The adviser’s use of trading algorithms and judgments about the attractiveness, value and potential appreciation of particular ETPs may prove to be incorrect and may not produce the desired results. This strategies are actively managed and there is no guarantee investments selected and strategies employed will achieve the intended results. Strategies are subject to change. Active management may also increase transaction costs. The strategies are not diversified, and narrowly focused investments may be subject to higher risk.
Performance Since Inception
Performance data quoted represents hypothetical past performance of a model portfolio and does not guarantee future results. Performance reflects trading signals that have been recorded by our computer system at Black Peak Ventures during live trading conditions, however no actual trades have been executed in client accounts. Due to liquidity and other considerations, performance in actual trading conditions may differ from the one that is stated.The investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate so that when redeemed, it may be worth more or less than their original cost. The quoted performance does not include actual trading fees, margin fees or other fees incurred when managing a portfolio. Management and performance fees also are not included as such actual results would have been lower than quoted. Prospective clients should not assume that future performance will be profitable. Participation in this strategy carries the potential for profit as well as the probability of loss especially over shorter time periods.
Backtested performance is NOT an indicator of future actual results. The results reflect performance of a strategy not [historically] offered to investors and do NOT represent returns that any investor actually attained. Backtested results are calculated by the retroactive application of a model constructed on the basis of historical data and based on assumptions integral to the model which may or may not be testable and are subject to losses. Backtested performance is developed with the benefit of hindsight and has inherent limitations. Specifically, backtested results do not reflect actual trading or the effect of material economic and market factors on the decision-making process. Since trades have not actually been executed, results may have under-or overcompensated for the impact, if any, of certain market factors, such as lack of liquidity, and may not reflect the impact that certain economic or market factors may have had on the decision-making process. Further, backtesting allows the security selection methodology to be adjusted until past returns are maximized. Actual performance may differ significantly from backtested performance.
Other Fees and Expenses, Impact of Taxes
The investment management fee paid to BPC is separate and distinct from the internal fees and expenses charged by mutual funds and ETFs to their shareholders. These fees and expenses are described in each fund's prospectus and will generally include a management fee, internal investment, custodial and other expenses, and a possible distribution fee. Prospective clients should consider all of these fees and charges when deciding whether to invest in the program. Performance results for this program do not reflect the impact of taxes. Program accounts may engage in a significant amount of trading. Gains or losses will generally be short-term in nature; consequently this program may not be suitable for clients seeking tax efficiency.
Comparison to index ETFs
The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust ("SPY"), an ETF that replicates the market capitalization-weighted index of 500 widely held stocks, is often used as a proxy for the broader stock market and includes the common stocks of industrial, financial, utility and transportation companies. The historical performance results of the SPY do not reflect the deduction of transaction or custodial charges, nor the deduction of an investment management fee, which would decrease historical performance. Accounts participating in this program will be invested in securities tied to this index but not part of it. Investments in these other securities and differences in allocation to cash of account participating in this program will cause the performance of client accounts to differ materially from the performance of this index and the presented performance. Performance of the SPY is provided solely for comparison purposes and does not imply that the program seeks to match the index over time.
Max Drawdown is the maximum loss from peak to trough measured monthly since inception of a strategy.
Sharpe Ratio and Sortino Ratio are calculated and annualized from monthly excess returns over risk free rate (1-month treasury bill)
Compound annual return is the aggregate return since inception.
Stock market correlation is based on the correlation of monthly returns
Volatility is annualized standard deviation of monthly returns
Alpha is a historical measure of return compared to the risk adjusted expected return
Beta is historical measure of volatility and measures how an asset moves versus a benchmark.
Volatility Exchange Traded Products
Volatility Exchange Traded Products (ETPs) may have significantly greater daily movements that that of the broad US equity markets. Investors cannot directly invest in an index and unmanaged index returns do not reflect any fees, expenses or sales charges. The Fund may invest or buy or sell options on volatility related ETPs, such as: (holdings are subject to change and should not be considered investment advice)
VIX: The CBOE VIX (S&P 500 Volatility Index) is a measure of market expectations of near-term volatility conveyed by S&P 500 stock index option prices. The VIX is forward looking and seeks to predict the variability of future market movements. This is in contrast to realized (or actual) volatility which measures the variability of historical (or known) prices.
Short VIX: A “short VIX” investment is one that is designed to correlate negatively or move opposite of the Chicago Board Option Exchange Volatility Index (VIX). These investments may take many forms but are typically Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) or Exchange Trades Notes (ETN). They may also be designed to have various ratios to the daily movement of the VIX (for example 2 times or .5 times) in which case they are also referred to as leveraged or geared ETFs or ETNs
SVXY: ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, that correspond to the inverse (-1x) of the daily performance of the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index.
VXX: The iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN tracks an index with exposure to futures contracts on the CBOE Volatility Index with average 1-month maturity.
The CBOE Volatility Index (the “VIX®”) is a product of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC (“SPDJI”) and is based on the CBOE VIX® methodology, which is the property of Chicago Board Options Exchange (“CBOE”). S&P® is a registered trademark of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC (“S&P”); CBOE® and VIX® are registered trademarks of the CBOE. ProShares and ProShares ETFs are service marks of ProShares; IPath and IPath ETNs are the registered trademarks of Barclays Bank PLC. All other trademarks, service marks or registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Our strategies will invest in Exchange-Traded Notes (ETNs) and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and will be subject to the risks associated with such vehicles. The strategies are not sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by SPDJI, Dow Jones, the CBOE, S&P, Barclays Bank, ProShares or their respective affiliates, and none of such parties make any representation regarding the advisability of investing in such products, nor do they have any liability for any errors, omissions, or interruptions of the Index, ETNs, or ETFs.
The liquidity of the market for the ETNs and ETFs may vary materially over time. Any limitation or suspension on the issuance, or change in number of outstanding ETNs or ETFs, may materially and adversely affect the price and liquidity of the ETNs or ETFs in the secondary market. Several factors may affect the price and/or liquidity of the Exchange-Traded Notes and Exchange-Traded Funds invested in by the strategies, including but not limited to: prevailing market prices and forward volatility levels of the U.S. stock markets, equity securities included in the S&P 500®, and prevailing market prices of options on the S&P 500® and the VIX® Index, options on the VIX®, VIX® Futures, and/or any other financial instruments related to the S&P 500®, the VIX®, VIX® Futures; interest rates; economic, financial, political, regulatory, geographical or judicial events that affect the current volatility reading of the VIX® or the market price or forward volatility of the U.S. stock markets; supply and demand as well as hedging activities in the listed and over-the-counter equity derivatives markets; disruptions in trading of the S&P 500® . Futures contracts on the S&P 500® or options on the S&P 500® and the level of contango or backwardation in the VIX® Futures Contracts market.
There are a number of risks associated with Exchange-Traded Notes (ETNs), including:
Credit Risk: ETNs are unsecured debt obligations of the issuer. If the issuer defaults on the note, investors may lose some or all of their investment.
Market Risk: ETNs are market-linked: the value of an ETN is largely influenced by the value of the index it tracks. As an index's value changes with market forces, so will the value of the ETN in general, which can result in a loss of principal to investors. Thus, in addition to credit risk, an ETN subjects investors to market risk, which is generally not assumed by investors in traditional corporate debt.
Liquidity Risk: Although ETNs are exchange-traded, they do carry liquidity risk. As with other Exchange-Traded Products, a trading market may not develop. In addition, under some circumstances, issuers can delist an ETN. If this happens, the market for the ETN can dry up or evaporate entirely.
NAV-Tracking Risk: An ETN's market price may vary significantly from its intra-day indicative value and its closing indicative or net asset value (NAV).
Holding Risk: Some ETNs, particularly some leveraged, inverse and inverse leveraged ETNs, are designed to be short-term trading tools (with holding periods as short as one day) rather than buy-and-hold investments. Because of the effects of compounding, the performance of these products over long periods can differ significantly from the stated multiple of the performance (or inverse of the performance) of the underlying index or benchmark during the same period.
Call, Early Redemption and Acceleration Risk: Some ETNs are callable at the issuer's discretion. In some instances ETNs can be subject to early redemption or an "accelerated" maturity date at the discretion of the issuer or one of its affiliates. Since ETNs may be called at any time, their value when called may be less than the market price that you paid or even zero, resulting in a partial or total loss of your investment.
Conflicts of Interest: There are a number of potential conflicts of interest between investors and the issuer of these products. For example, the issuer of the notes may engage in trading activities that are at odds with investors who hold the notes (shorting strategies, for instance). Please carefully read the ETN's prospectus for any mention of "conflicts of interest" and evaluate whether these conflicts are worth the risk.
This webpage is not to be construed as an offer to buy or sell any financial instruments and should not be relied upon as the sole factor in an investment making decision. References to specific securities and their issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, recommendations to purchase or sell such securities. Any specific securities mentioned are not representative of all securities purchased, sold or recommended for advisory clients. Actual portfolio holdings vary for each client and there is no guarantee that a particular client’s account will hold any, or all, of the securities identified. It should not be assumed that any of the securities or recommendations made in the future will be profitable or will equal the performance of the listed securities. It should not be assumed that any securities listed were or will be profitable. Performance reflects the deduction of brokerage commissions and other expenses. The views and opinions expressed are those of the portfolio manager at the time of publication and are subject to change. There is no guarantee that these views will come to pass. As with all investments there are associated inherent risks. Please obtain and review all financial material carefully before investing. Investments are subject to change without notice.
Black Peak Capital, LLC is an investment advisor registered in Connecticut which primarily manages separately managed account (SMA) for qualified retail clients. We do not sell securities. Please, review our ADV form to which we have provided a link in the "Onboarding" section.
Black Peak Ventures, Inc provides non-personalized investment analysis of the VIX futures market and related exchange traded products to retail and professional investors through the website vixcontango.com. The was started in 2013 as a hobby project to track important VIX statistics and analytics and after encountering high demand, it was turned into a paid subscription service in 2015. The website has generated over 1 million page views, been visited by more than 40,000 visitors and more than 400 investors have become paying subscribers. The website offers real-time dashboards of S&P 500 volatility analytics, comprehensive historical volatility data and reports, daily updates discussing volatility markets, a weekly "State of Volatility" newsletter and systematic and discretionary trading strategies via email trading alerts.
Black Peak Ventures, Inc and Black Peak Capital, LLC are affiliated entities with some shared ownership.