Calamos’ Kaufman, Bitwise’s Hougan Talks Alts

If the last year or two have taught investors anything, it’s that alts can play a big role in portfolios. As recently as 2022, bonds struggled amid significantly low interest rates, with their role as a contrast to stocks weakened. That invited markets to take a closer look at the growing and diverse world of alternatives, or alts. As part of the 2024 Market Outlook Symposium, VettaFi head of research Todd Rosenbluth discussed alts with leaders from Calamos Investments and Bitwise Asset Management.

The duo of Calamos Asset Management SVP and head of ETFs, Matt Kaufman, and Bitwise Asset Management’s CIO Matt Hougan took turns discussing the benefits of convertibles and crypto, respectively.

The Alts Landscape in Convertibles and Crypto

Kaufman reminded attendees of the panel segment that markets have included convertibles since 1977. Calamos Investments itself started out its business to some degree working in the convertibles space, he said. Convertibles are assets that begin as bonds issued from a given firm, but can convert into common stock from the same firm via an embedded call option. That helps convertibles offer what Kaufman described as a “unique combination of income, downside protection, and potential equity upside.”

“This combination really provides defensive income and enhanced alternative for direct equity investment,” Kaufman said.

Convertibles can be converted if a firm’s stock price hits a certain point. When rates were low for so long, firms didn’t have to pay too much to raise capital. Now, Calamos Investments believes firms will start looking more at convertibles for a lower cost of capital, with more investment grade borrowers looking to issue the alts asset.

“Year to date, we’ve started to see this play out,” Kaufman said. “We’ve seen investment grade borrowers selling roughly $12 billion worth of convertible bonds. That’s more than 30% of the total issuance and it’s much higher than the overall percentage of the market historically.”