Bayesian mean–variance analysis: optimal portfolio selection under parameter uncertainty

David Bauder, Taras Bodnar, Nestor Parolya*, Wolfgang Schmid

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The paper solves the problem of optimal portfolio choice when the parameters of the asset returns distribution, for example the mean vector and the covariance matrix, are unknown and have to be estimated by using historical data on asset returns. Our new approach employs the Bayesian posterior predictive distribution which is the distribution of future realizations of asset returns given the observable sample. The parameters of posterior predictive distributions are functions of the observed data values and, consequently, the solution of the optimization problem is expressed in terms of data only and does not depend on unknown quantities. By contrast, the optimization problem of the traditional approach is based on unknown quantities which are estimated in the second step, and lead to a suboptimal solution. We also derive a very useful stochastic representation of the posterior predictive distribution whose application not only gives the solution of the considered optimization problem, but also provides the posterior predictive distribution of the optimal portfolio return which can be used to construct a prediction interval. A Bayesian efficient frontier, the set of optimal portfolios obtained by employing the posterior predictive distribution, is constructed as well. Theoretically and using real data we show that the Bayesian efficient frontier outperforms the sample efficient frontier, a common estimator of the set of optimal portfolios which is known to be overoptimistic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-242
Number of pages22
JournalQuantitative Finance
Volume21 (2021)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Black–Litterman model
  • Efficient frontier
  • Optimal portfolio
  • Parameter uncertainty
  • Posterior predictive distribution
  • Stochastic representation


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