Managing Risks in a Risk-On/Risk-Off Environment

50 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2012 Last revised: 26 May 2014

See all articles by Marcos Lopez de Prado

Marcos Lopez de Prado

Cornell University - Operations Research & Industrial Engineering; AQR Capital Management, LLC

Date Written: September 23, 2012


Every structure has natural frequencies. Minor shocks in these frequencies can bring down any structure, e.g. a bridge. An Investment Universe also has natural frequencies, characterized by its eigenvectors. A concentration of risks in the direction of any such eigenvector exposes a portfolio to the possibility of greater than expected losses (indeed, maximum risk for that portfolio size), even if that portfolio is below the risk limits. This is particularly dangerous in a risk-on/risk-off regime. Managing Risk is not only about limiting its amount, but also controlling how this amount is concentrated around the natural frequencies of the investment universe.

Keywords: Risk Concentration, Eigenvectors, Eigen-risk decomposition, Risk-on/Risk-off

JEL Classification: C01, C02, C61, D53, G11

Suggested Citation

López de Prado, Marcos, Managing Risks in a Risk-On/Risk-Off Environment (September 23, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Marcos López de Prado (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Operations Research & Industrial Engineering ( email )

237 Rhodes Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States


AQR Capital Management, LLC

One Greenwich Plaza
Greenwich, CT 06830
United States


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