Investor overseeing more than $1 trillion: 'Thank God alpha is back'

Key Points
  • "Thank God alpha is back," the CEO of JPMorgan Asset Management says at the Delivering Alpha conference.
  • Big institutional investors say they see the best opportunities to beat the market are abroad.
Mary Callahan Erdoes speaking during a panel sessions with Marc Lasry and Michael Trotsky at the 2017 Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Sept 12, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Big institutional investors overseeing trillions of dollars said they believe the opportunities to beat stock market benchmarks are increasing.

And the best place for investors to do that right now are abroad, in emerging markets where growth is accelerating, said Mary Callahan Erdoes, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Asset Management, which had $1.87 trillion of investor assets under management as of the end of the second quarter.

"Thank God alpha is back," Erdoes said.

Her sentiment was joined by other members of a panel at the Delivering Alpha conference Tuesday in New York, including Mark Lasry of the hedge fund Avenue Capital, Michael Trotsky of the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board and Mark Baumgartner of the Institute for Advanced Study.

With the U.S. stock market hitting another record high Tuesday, the panelists said investors could find better-priced opportunities in Europe, China and emerging markets, where 80 percent of the economies are in expansion mode, Erdoes said. A year ago, that figure was under 50 percent.

Trotsky said the high flying U.S. market is an indicator that investors are either "very confident or very complacent."

While there are still pockets of value in the U.S. stock market, another strategy that should work once again is to take short positions in stocks, which are bets they will decline in value.

"In general if equities are overvalued if bonds are overvalued there is an opportunity to go short," Baumgartner said.

In the United States, investors could find opportunities in real estate, the panelists said. Trotsky also said the Massachusetts pension fund had invested in U.S. timberland and agriculture and was looking to U.S. small cap stocks.

The Delivering Alpha conference is presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor.