A brief look over time at periods of extreme volatility in the stock market shows us that many of these periods are associated with unpredictable, large-scale disruptions, often termed as “black swan” events. We have experienced these events within our own lifetime – the 2011 tsunami in Japan, the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, and the unforgettable 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
The origin of the term “black swan” dates back historically to a time when swans were only believed to be only white in colour. At that time, a black-coloured swan was seen as an impossibility. More recently, former Wall Street analyst and Chicago options exchange trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb redefined a black swan event to be an outlier which has an extreme impact but, due to human nature and rationalization, becomes explainable.
A look back over time shows that black swan events occur fairly frequently. They may have a significant short-term impact on the financial markets, but oftentimes do not create any long-lasting impact. These abrupt market-changing events often cause discomfort and, due to human nature, often pressure investors to hastily react. However, in hindsight, after these black swan events are over and things have returned to normal, the simple act of staying-the-course may also be a viable defense.
Are there any pre-emptive measures that you can take to prepare for a black swan event? Here are some practical investment tactics that you might consider to help you to black swan-proof your investment portfolio.