Alternative Allocations: Opportunities in Alternative Credit

In this second episode, Franklin Templeton Institute’s Tony Davidow discusses opportunities in alternative credit strategies with Richard Byrne from Benefit Street Partners.

In our second episode of the Alternative Allocations podcast series, I was joined by Rich Byrne, President of Benefit Street Partners. Rich and I explored the opportunities in alternative credit strategies. Specifically, we examined the attractiveness of private credit, distressed debt and real estate debt in today’s market environment.

We began by discussing the challenging economic backdrop and the impact of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). Rich discussed the difference in managing portfolios that are fully invested versus putting new capital to work today: “Two things can exist at the same time. There’s going to be a big challenge for existing portfolios, but at the same time, we think for new capital, there’s going to be one of the best investment opportunities we’ve seen, maybe even since the global financial crisis.”

Rich discussed his paper released earlier this year, “Private debt market outlook: The opportunity of a lifetime?,” where he uses the Titanic as a metaphor for financial markets. By the time the captain saw the tip of the iceberg, it was already too late for the ill-fated ship. The iceberg in the financial markets was the rising interest-rate environment. Interest rates rose from near zero to five percent in a matter of months, which had a ripple effect throughout the financial services industry.

Earlier this year, we witnessed the collapse of SVB, and the US Federal Reserve stepping in to provide stability to other troubled banks. Rich noted, “Banks, in particular, got caught up in that and we can talk about its impact on real estate and a lot of other asset classes. And the banks are not lending. In fact, the banks are going to have a whole host of portfolio problems, which could create second order buying opportunities for firms like us.”

Since the collapse of SVB, we have seen tighter credit conditions and concerns about contagions, especially in the real estate sector. After the global financial crisis (GFC), we experienced similar tight lending conditions, which have spurred the growth of the private credit market. Banks weren’t willing to lend, so private credit managers stepped in to fill the void.