Machine Learning Optimization Algorithms & Portfolio Allocation

Portfolio optimization emerged with the seminal paper of Markowitz (1952). The original mean-variance framework is appealing because it is very efficient from a computational point of view. However, it also has one well-established failing since it can lead to portfolios that are not optimal from a financial point of view (Michaud, 1989). Nevertheless, very few models have succeeded in providing a real alternative solution to the Markowitz model.

The main reason lies in the fact that most academic portfolio optimization models are intractable in real life although they present solid theoretical properties. By intractable we mean that they can be implemented for an investment universe with a small number of assets using a lot of computational resources and skills, but they are unable to manage a universe with dozens or hundreds of assets. However, the emergence and the rapid development of robo-advisors means that we need to rethink portfolio optimization and go beyond the traditional mean-variance optimization approach.

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