Harvest Volatility Management CYES and Other Strategies
Harvest Volatility Management is an asset management firm that focusses on derivatives. Specifically, it offers overlay strategies and portfolio options. Overlay strategies are defined as strategies that utilize derivatives, such as options, to either hedge or generate yield above and beyond the existing underlying portfolio. Harvest Volatility has been around since 2008 when it launched its Collateral Yield Enhancement Strategy ("CYES"). Besides CYES, Harvest Volatility also offers other strategies such as their Put Writing Strategy ("PWS") and a Call Writing Strategy ("CWS").
CYES is a popular options strategy that was utilized by several brokerage firms, including Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Jeffries, Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and Merrill Lynch. Harvest Volatility portrays CYES as a conservative strategy to create additional income from an existing underlying portfolio. CYES utilizes an "Iron Condor" to achieve its ends. This is a strategy involving options in which the manager sells near-the- money and out-of-the-money puts and calls against various indices, including the S&P 500 index, and NASDAQ. As mentioned above, CYES has been around only since 2008. For the most part, except for the year of its inception, it has operated in a Bull market. During relatively stable market conditions, most of the puts and calls will expire. This allows the investor to collect income in the form of "premiums" from the sale of those options. In a stabilized market environment, some or all of the options will expire and the investor collects the premiums. However, in a less than stable market the opposite can occur. What happens is internal margin calls can be created and/or the options can get exercised. This generates losses.
Understandably, many conservative investors over the past few years were in search of options that yield just a little bit more than standard investment-grade fixed-income investments. Investors want stable, liquid income that entails little risk. Many financial advisors were introduced to the Harvest Volatility products with very little understanding of how they worked. These advisors or brokers likely believed CYES was an option for conservative investors because that is exactly how CYES markets itself. It should also be noted that CYES pays a nice fee to the advisor/broker on top of any "wrap" or management fee already paid to the advisor/broker on the underlying portfolio. Many advisors represented to their clientele that CYES was safe because it was strategically hedged and would protect the downside in volatile markets. In reality, there was a serious risk/reward issue. The product enhanced yield by only a few percentage points but exposed the clients to exponentially greater losses than gains.
Option premiums are calculated by both maturity and strike price. Put and Call maturities with shorter expiration dates translate to a shorter period in which to exercise in a volatile market. This, in turn, leads to greater swings in the market value of the option. Excessive swings cause premiums for the put and call side of the iron condor strategy to dramatically increase which leads to losses on either side of the trade. Harvest Volatility uses the "Iron Condor" options strategy specifically against the S&P 500 index. Thusly it sells near-the money and out-of-the-money puts and calls of that particular index. As discussed above and what happened with CYES was that when the market became volatile, in this case, the S&P 500, the options were exercised unfavorably. If the portfolio was not properly hedged, which was the case with CYES, the client will experience serious losses, which is exactly what happened. Exacerbating the situation, CYES utilized leveraged, short term option positions, amplifying the losses.
If your broker or financial advisor recommended CYES or any Harvest Volatility product as a safe alternative to fixed income please contact the attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas. Regardless if the misrepresentation was purposeful or negligent, you were still wronged. Moreover, all advisors and brokers have a duty to only recommend suitable investments that are within their clients' risk tolerances, understanding, and objectives. If duties are breached, the client should seek recovery of his or her investment losses. Do not sit idly by as your portfolio and future are negatively impacted.