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What is Portfolio Diversification? Research Team | Posted On Monday, January 25,2010, 07:24 PM

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What is Portfolio Diversification?



Portfolio Diversification

If you are a budding investor, got some spare money and thinking of investing in stock markets and for the first time you walk into broker’s office, tell your broker about your interest. The first thing that broker would be telling is “diversification or portfolio construction”. If you know the word its well and good, but if you don’t have any idea about it then you will be puzzled. You would have read that shares of your favorite company (e.g.: Infosys, Reliance or TCS) are trading well, so you tell your broker that you want to put all your money into stocks of that company. For a moment your stock broker will look at you as if you have fallen from sky, it’s because people living at the stock markets believe that if you don’t diversify then there are very less chances of you surviving in the market. Now, is it always necessary to have a diversified portfolio…..??? If yes then how much should an investor diversify? Are there any side effects of this so called diversification?

Being an investor you must have heard this particular word more than thousand times and I’m also sure that you would have read a lot on this topic, but most of the times the investors do not get the full meaning of portfolio diversification. If you ask what’s diversification most of the answers would be “having shares of many companies” or if he is an investor with bit of knowledge he would say “not putting all your eggs in one basket”. I would agree with the second person to some extent, but if asked to elaborate he will switch over to the first definition, which is incomplete. Diversification does not only refer to holding shares of different companies but holding the securities of many companies, fixed income securities, money market instruments etc, in what proportion we allocate or invest in these avenues depends on our risk taking ability, knowledge to analyze the economic conditions, companies etc.

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Advantages of Portfolio Diversification

Let’s have a look at some of the advantages of portfolio diversification

  • By diversifying you will be able to hedge (evade) the risk (systematic and unsystematic).
  • Even though there are fluctuations in the prices of the stocks in the market, you will have fixed returns.
  • Diversification is very helpful for an investor who is looking out for investing in the companies for a long term. The reason is that he will be having a variety of securities in his portfolio and even if one company is going through a lean patch, other securities will be doing well.
  • Portfolio Diversification helps during the worst times of the market, when the market has crashed.

Disadvantages of Portfolio Diversification

  • The first and the most important thing is that by diversifying you will be losing an opportunity to make most of your investment. It’s just a matter of chance that one of companies in which you had invested gave a return of 15% and your portfolio return was 12%.
  • Investing in too many securities means you will have to spend a lot of time to study the company, performance of its stocks. Not only this, you will have to spend a lot of time in order to manage the portfolio

Over-Diversification and Under-Diversification

Overdoing something is bad and under doing is not an exemption. This holds good in case of diversification. Over diversifying and under diversifying can harm your portfolio. Some of the reasons why investors go for over diversification are;

  • They have lot of disposable income
  • They think, more the diversification more will be their earnings
  • Interpreting market conditions in a wrong way
  • It is a reason for them to be proud of themselves.
  • Their relative or friend has shares of more companies

Reasons for Portfolio Diversification

  • They are mostly risk averse investors
  • They want to play safe in the stock market
  • Wrongly interpreting the market conditions

Portfolio Re-Balancing

This is also called as portfolio evaluation and portfolio revision. Most of the investors must be wondering as to why there is a need for revising the portfolio. For example last year you had invested 75% in shares and 25% in bonds and your portfolio had given you returns of 15%. These figures look good but is it good to continue with the same portfolio…..??? experts say that investor must revise his portfolio. Some of the reasons that are given in support of their view are;

  • The economic conditions are changing continuously, so the securities that had done well during previous year may or may not do well this year
  • The changes in the monetary policies, fiscal policies which are revised every now and then have their own implications on the market and which in turn have an effect on earnings of the investor.
  • The changes that have taken place in the companies can also have an effect on the earning capacity of the company, hence affect earnings.
  • The phase (Bullish or Bearish) of the markets have an implications on the earnings of a portfolio.
  • Prices of shares keep changing and there are some phases when the share prices are very low. So to encash on this situation an investor needs to revise his portfolio. For example you are holding 100 shares (price of each share is rupees 90) of company XYZ. Your total investment in this case would be 9000 rupees. Now due to some news or changes in some policies which are not in favor of markets prices of all the stocks fall so is the case with these shares. Suppose the prices of this share falls to 75 rupees. Now same investor with same 9000 rupees can buy more number of shares if he had sold some of shares or thought of revising his portfolio.

Effect of Portfolio Diversification

Stock markets go through phases such as Bullish or Bearish, and as the phase change there are changes in the earnings and stock prices. An investor can capitalize on these phases to revise his portfolio, so that changes that occur in stock markets do not have a greater affect on his earnings. Experts have said that only way to protect yourself is to tilt your portfolio towards shares when there is a bullish trend and towards fixed income securities such as bonds, debentures etc during bearish phase.

See Also: How To Choose Your Mutual Fund Portfolio?

After all this discussion the question is how much to diversify? The answer for this question depends on certain variables which must be decided by the investor.

  • Do decide on whether you are a high risk taking or risk averse or a moderate risk taking investor. It depends on many of the situational and personal factors such as your age, your earnings, status (married or unmarried), disposable income, expertise to analyze the situation etc.

  • You must not spread your investments too thin over many securities in the market. If you do this, you expose yourself to risk of losses. Averse

Let’s see what will be the effect on your earnings if you falter in diversifying your portfolio. Let’s take an example of three investor friends Ajith, Ramesh and Randev who have invested an amount Rs. 10,000 in stock market and have diversified their portfolio. Ajith is a risk averse investor, Ramesh is an investor with good analytical reasons and moderate risk taker and lastly Randev is an aggressive investor.





Total investment












Shares of Company. L




Shares of Company. M




Shares of Company. N




Shares of Company. O




Shares of Company. P




Shares of Company. Q




Shares of Company. R




Returns from Different Avenues

  • Bonds-10%,
  • Company L-16%,
  • Company M-10%,
  • Company N-14%,
  • Company O-4%,
  • Company P & Q-Nil,
  • Company R-8%.

The dividends that are paid to shareholders depends on the profits made by the company. In case company doesn’t make profits then it doesn’t pay any dividends as is the case of companies P & Q in this case

Returns of Ajith will be

Returns=3000(16%) + 7000(10%)
=1180 rupees

Returns for Ramesh

Returns=4000(16%)+1000(10%)+1000(14%)+4000(10%) = 1280 rupees

Returns for Randev

Returns=3000(16%) +1000(10%) +1000(14%) +1000(4%) +1000(0%) +1000(0%) +1000(8%) =840 rupees

From the above given example it is clear that over diversification and under diversification of investments is harmful.

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