How to avoid the pitfalls in portfolio optimization? Putting the Black-Litterman approach at work

Financial Markets and Portfolio Management | 03/2001


In this article we have demonstrated the intuition behind the portfolio optimization model presented by BLACK and LITTERMAN (1992). Their approach helps to alleviate many of the problems associated with the implementation of traditional MARKOWITZ (1952) approach. Their advice is intuitive and consistent with a normal investment behavior of an average investor. The asset manager starts from the market portfolio (or some strategic weighting scheme), which constitutes a neutral point of reference. Starting from all positive weights, he or she should then deviate toward the most favoured asset classes by taking appropriate long and short positions. The technique allows to distinguish between strong views and vague assumptions, which is reflected by the optimal amount of deviation from the equilibrium weighting scheme. This technique reduces the problem associated with estimation errors, and leads to more intuitive and less sensitive portfolio compositions. In addition, the BLACK-LITTERMAN approach is very flexible with regards to expressing a variety of possible views.