What Is a Replicating Portfolio?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2019
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A replicating portfolio is a type of investment portfolio that is structured to match or replicate the value of various types of insurance liabilities with a collection of assets. Sometimes referred to as a synthetic asset, the goal of the portfolio is to balance assets currently held with those liabilities. This in turn helps to stabilize the portfolio of liabilities and can even make it easier to engage in trading those liabilities as debt instruments.

With a replicating portfolio, the goal is to create a group of assets that can be matched with a group of liabilities. In the case of investments in insurance liabilities, this means that some of the assets that help to serve as the underlying security for those instruments provide a cushion or guaranty for the debt. This approach helps to limit the risk that investors take on by purchasing those insurance liabilities, since the replicating portfolio helps to minimize the chance of incurring a loss on those purchased liabilities.

The same general concept of a replicating portfolio can be used in other investment strategies. Since the value of the portfolio is similar to the value of a different set of holdings, the investor has the knowledge that is the assets don’t perform as anticipated the assets in the replicating portfolio can aid in offsetting the loss. As a result, the investor is positioned to realize an equitable return while also being insulated from sustaining a total loss.


Another benefit of the replicating portfolio is the ability to analyze the assets held in this grouping and use them to project the movement of the insurance liabilities or other debt instruments that are held in the corresponding portfolio. When those projections are accurate, this makes it easier to determine if those liabilities should be held for a specific amount of time, then sold at a profit, or if they should be held for the long term. At the same time, projecting movement with the assets in the portfolio may also help investors to determine if those liabilities should be sold immediately, owing to upcoming market conditions that could undermine the amount of return earned from those investments.

There is some difference of opinion regarding the effectiveness of creating a replicating portfolio. Proponents hold that this approach can further strengthen the position of the investor and create another helpful tool in gauging market activity. Detractors hold that while the method can be helpful, other strategies can work just as well in protecting the interests of the investor.


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