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Fixed income investing – explained

Do you get confused when it comes to the different types of investments that make up your investment portfolio? And what are the benefits and drawbacks of the ‘safer’ and ‘steadier’ style of fixed interest or fixed income investing in today’s uncertain investment climate?

Here, we explain what we mean by fixed income investing, what it is, who it’s for and how we invest in fixed income at Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management.

What is fixed income investing?

Typically, a fixed income investment provides a fixed amount of income annually to the investor; usually a fixed percentage of the amount invested. The largest sector of the fixed income market is made up of bonds either issued by governments (Gilts or US Treasury Bonds) or by companies (corporate bonds). In a typical diversified investment portfolio, an investor would have exposure to the main asset classes: equities, bonds, alternative investments and cash. A large majority of bonds can be bought or sold daily by your investment manager.

Who are fixed income investors?

The type of investors that favour large portions of their portfolio to be in fixed income investments are typically retired individuals who rely on their investments to provide a regular, stable income stream.

Why should I invest in fixed income investments?

There are many reasons you should hold bond investments in your portfolios – these include:

  • To diversify your portfolio to reduce the volatility of returns (and thereby the risk) by investing across different asset classes
  • To generate a steady income stream
  • To potentially produce capital gains
  • To make use of the fixed annual income to offset fixed liabilities.

Are there different types of fixed income?

When investing in bonds, it is a mistake to view all bonds in the same way. The risk, return and role they play in your portfolio can vary greatly depending on the characteristics of the bond and the reason the bond was originally purchased. For example, some bonds are considered high quality (lower risk – lower return) – such as bonds issued by governments or blue chip companies, whereas other bonds are regarded as lower quality (higher risk – higher return) such as bonds issued by companies whose ability to pay interest and repay the capital at maturity is less reliable.

How long does a bond ‘lifetime’ last?

Fixed income investments are basically loans or ‘debt’ instruments which typically have a specified life of duration – for example, 1 month to 30 years. They usually pay a set amount of annual income to you – the coupon.

Why are fixed income investments generally considered lower risk?

Bonds generally rank higher than equities on a company’s balance sheet and, in case of liquidation, the recovery potential for a bond investor is greater than an equity investor.

The performance of bonds also tends to have a low correlation to equity returns. This means that fixed income investments help to diversify your portfolio.

How can I tell the difference between how bonds are rated?

Being debt instruments, bonds are risk rated by their ‘credit rating’. They are rated from AAA (highest) to D (lowest). Investment grade bonds, the higher quality fixed income investments, are rated from AAA to BBB and sub-investment grade (higher yield) are rated BB to D.

What are the main factors that affect the price of fixed income investments?

The main things that affect a bond’s price are:

  • The direction interest rates are moving (interest rate risk)
  • The perceived risk associated with the issuer (credit risk)
  • The amount of time left before the issuer has to repay the bond holder (duration risk).

Shorter dated bonds – those that will redeem within five years – are less price-sensitive to interest rate movements than longer dated bonds.

What is the difference between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ quality bonds?

Higher quality bonds are more interest rate sensitive and will decline in price as interest rates rise. Lower quality bonds tend to be less interest rate sensitive and more sensitive to the economic climate. If times are prosperous, they are more able to make interest payments and repay bond holders when the bond reaches its maturity date.

How does the economic outlook affect fixed income investing?

When we meet as the Fixed Income Credit Committee at Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management, we set out to find bonds for our clients which we think offer value but, more importantly are ‘money good’, which means we believe the company is sound enough to service its debt and repay investors on redemption. They should be issued by companies that can operate in the prevailing economic conditions and have a healthy balance sheet. Depending on what is happening in markets it’s important we adjust our strategy accordingly. We look at a number of factors including global macro-economic fundamentals, the direction of interest rates and thematic ideas and geographies. And we undertake fundamental bottom-up research to find direct, as well as fund based fixed income investment opportunities for our clients.

Why not watch the video to find out more about how our fixed interest committee works.

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Investment involves risk. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

This is not a recommendation to invest or disinvest in any of the themes or sectors mentioned. They are included for illustrative purposes only.

Photo of Roy Clouse

Roy Clouse

Investment Director

Roy is responsible for managing discretionary portfolios for high net worth private clients. Over his career spanning 28 years, he has advised on investing in equities, fixed income, foreign exchange and funds on a global basis and in a variety of currencies for onshore and offshore clients. He sits on Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management’s Fixed Interest Committee and ETF Committee and is a Chartered Fellow of the CISI.


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IMPORTANT: Investment involves risk. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.