From Distressed Debt to Capital Solutions: An Evolving Landscape

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This is a podcast episode titled, From Distressed Debt to Capital Solutions: An Evolving Landscape. The summary for this episode is: <p>As the global economy has slowed, investor interest in distressed debt strategies has risen. But the distressed market isn't what it used to be. Bryan High discusses how structural changes in that space and others have led to an entirely new landscape for opportunistic capital. </p><p><br></p><p>Episode Segments:</p><p><br></p><p>(02:43) – The traditional distressed debt opportunity and how it’s changed</p><p>(05:26) – The factors driving structural change in a competitive environment</p><p>(07:44) – Where defaults may go from here</p><p>(10:15) – The opportunities emerging for opportunistic capital</p><p>(13:06) – From direct lending, to pharma royalties, to Charleston marinas</p><p>(20:34) – Originating bespoke transactions, a multi-channel approach</p><p>(23:17) – The skillset needed for deploying opportunistic capital</p><p>(26:49) – Defining and understanding the complexity premium </p><p>(29:03) – How investors are bucketing capital solutions strategies</p><p>(32:17) – How the market opportunity may continue to evolve</p><p><br></p><p>IMPORTANT INFORMATION</p><p><br></p><p>Any forecasts in this podcast are based upon Barings’ opinion of the market at the date of preparation and are subject to change without notice, dependent upon many factors. Any prediction, projection or forecast is not necessarily indicative of the future or likely performance. Investment involves risk. The value of any investments and any income generated may go down as well as up and is not guaranteed. PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. Any examples set forth in this podcast are provided for illustrative purposes only and are not indicative of any future investment results or investments. The composition, size of, and risks associated with an investment may differ substantially from any examples set forth in this podcast. No representation is made that an investment will be profitable or will not incur losses. </p><p><br></p><p>Barings is the brand name for the worldwide asset management and associated businesses of Barings LLC and its global affiliates. Barings Securities LLC, Barings (U.K.) Limited, Barings Global Advisers Limited, Barings Australia Pty Ltd, Barings Japan Limited, Barings Real Estate Advisers Europe Finance LLP, BREAE AIFM LLP, Baring Asset Management Limited, Baring International Investment Limited, Baring Fund Managers Limited, Baring International Fund Managers (Ireland) Limited, Baring Asset Management (Asia) Limited, Baring SICE (Taiwan) Limited, Baring Asset Management Switzerland Sarl, and Baring Asset Management Korea Limited each are affiliated financial service companies owned by Barings LLC (each, individually, an “Affiliate”).</p><p><br></p><p>NO OFFER: The podcast is for informational purposes only and is not an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument or service in any jurisdiction. The material herein was prepared without any consideration of the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of anyone who may receive it. This podcast is not, and must not be treated as, investment advice, an investment recommendation, investment research, or a recommendation about the suitability or appropriateness of any security, commodity, investment, or particular investment strategy.</p><p><br></p><p>Unless otherwise mentioned, the views contained in this podcast are those of Barings and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may make different investment decisions for different clients. Parts of this podcast may be based on information received from sources we believe to be reliable. Although every effort is taken to ensure that the information contained in this podcast is accurate, Barings makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information</p><p><br></p><p>Any service, security, investment or product outlined in this podcast may not be suitable for a prospective investor or available in their jurisdiction.</p><p><br></p><p>Copyright in this podcast is owned by Barings. Information in this podcast may be used for your own personal use, but may not be altered, reproduced or distributed without Barings’ consent.</p><p><br></p><p>22-2580486</p>

Bryan High: As central banks attempt to get inflation under control and engineer a slowdown in the economy, it's widely expected that a spike in corporate debt defaults is on the horizon. Naturally, investors are turning their attention to distressed debt strategies, which may see a growing opportunity set in the months and years ahead. But it's not as simple as that. Since the last major economic downturn, the distressed debt market has seen material changes in its own structure. If you sort of think about how that market has evolved from a competitive standpoint, there's a lot of players there and a finite market. That's created less attractive opportunities than we've seen historically.

Greg Campion: That was Bryan High, Head of Capital Solutions at Barings, and this is Streaming Income, a podcast from Barings. I'm your host, Greg Campion. Coming up on today's show, the evolving opportunity from traditional distressed debt to capital solutions and why deal origination, transaction structuring, and private market's expertise have become critical to capitalizing in this shifting landscape. All right. Bryan, hi. Welcome back to Streaming Income.

Bryan High: Thanks for having me back.

Greg Campion: Excited to have you. I was thinking about this and I decided I wanted to hit you with the hardest question right off the bat. So the question for you is this, do you remember the last time you were on the Streaming Income podcast?

Bryan High: I don't. I remember where I was, but I don't remember when it was.

Greg Campion: Okay. I'll clue you in. It was February, 2021, so it's been almost coming up on two years. It's been a while, so it's been too long.

Bryan High: A lot happened in two years.

Greg Campion: A lot happened. And it's funny, I actually don't bring that up purely to test your knowledge of times and dates, but actually to make a point that a lot has changed over that time period. And we're going to get into that and really talk about specifically what has changed. A lot's changed kind of structurally just in terms of the market and the opportunity that's out there. And I know you and your team have sort of adapted the way that you're approaching it. So I want to get into all of that today. Now your background traditionally is more on the distressed debt/ special situations side. So from a market perspective, I want to maybe start there, because I think going through that evolution of more traditional kind of distressed debt to the types of opportunities that are available today is a pretty interesting progression. So let's start there maybe just to give people context. If you look back, let's say over the last decade or so, where was that opportunity on the distressed debt side? Where did that traditionally exist?

Bryan High: Sure, yeah. If you think back to our first fund in 2012, and even going before that into the GFC, we were investing in the secondary market, buying loans and bonds at discounts for either a pull to par trade or looking for some event to ultimately restructure the balance sheet, swap debt for equity and get our returns that way. It's changed quite a bit since then. I would sort of highlight documentation as maybe a driver of some of the changes that have happened.

Greg Campion: What does that mean?

Bryan High: If you sort of think about how loose documents are today in terms of baskets that you can utilize to inject capital into companies. You can drop down assets into sub- city areas. You can do a lot of creative things to ultimately create new transactions for yourself, either through the secondary market or even more so today, fresh capital coming into some of these, we'll call them troubled or storied credits. So that has created an opportunity for us to do more primary transactions as opposed to secondary. And then, if you sort of take that forward, once you're known for being able to structure something up front like that, you may wind up, as we did, seeing more private investment opportunities. So it went from a very public focused strategy to now probably swung completely the opposite direction into a private transaction.

Greg Campion: Oh, wow. Okay. That's really interesting. Yeah. So traditionally, it's more kind of liquid market credits that encounter some sort of stress or distress. Now, the script has flipped a little bit, and I guess to your point, partially due to changes in documentation. What else has changed would you say that's driven that kind of evolving landscape?

Bryan High: I think the amount of capital that's been raised on the private side has created more private capital structures, where there are a lot of players in the traditional direct lending space that have finance companies. And not all of them work out, as we all know. A lot of those providers don't necessarily have the skillset or the personnel to kind of deal with those issues. So we've seen more opportunities come our way where sponsors are looking for a solution to get rid of what were traditional direct lenders into a situation that may be a little bit more challenged and they're not comfortable being in those shoes and we can step in with a new solution.

Greg Campion: Okay. So you've got massive growth in the direct lending space, and obviously, that asset class has not really truly been tested through a cycle and maybe we're starting to see that finally come through. What about on the distressed side? Has increasing competition and things like the higher cost of bankruptcy, have those been kind of part of the equation as well?

Bryan High: Absolutely. So there's been a lot of capital raised to go after the liquid markets over the years, and there's been fewer defaults than maybe people would have anticipated. It's been a long sort of bull run here. And so, a lot of that capital still exists and they're all looking at the same opportunities.

Greg Campion: And that's mostly on the liquid side, would you say?

Bryan High: On the liquid side, right. So it's much more competitive, and therefore prices maybe don't break down or have not broken down as much as they did previously. We'll see what happens. Maybe there'll be some more capitulation in the public markets to come. If you sort of think about how that market has evolved from a competitive standpoint, there's a lot of players there in a finite market. That's created less attractive opportunities than we've seen historically.

Greg Campion: And then, on the rising cost of bankruptcy, is that a factor, too?

Bryan High: Yes. Yes, very important point. I think given the complexities that now exist in some of these structures because of the ability to inject capital, there tends to be around one where maybe there's a liability management transaction. That creates another class of debt within a capital structure, or new money coming in that creates another class of debt. On top of that, professionals are more expensive. I can remember when we were all sort of thinking$ 1, 000 an hour for a bankruptcy attorney was crazy, and now it's well north of that.

Greg Campion: Exactly.

Bryan High: Multiples of that.

Greg Campion: Interesting. Yeah.

Bryan High: That cost associated with complexity in the capital structure, as well as just call it inflationary pressure on bankruptcy professionals, has made it difficult to keep a company in bankruptcy to do some of the things that we used to do with bankruptcy, where you could reject leases, contracts, other things that could create value for you. It's becoming much more focused on just a balance sheet restructuring transaction and you're seeing 24- hour bankruptcies or a very short, prepackaged bankruptcies that ultimately don't create the value that they used to and are more expensive than they used to be. So the value proposition for a restructuring still makes sense in some cases, but maybe not as much as it did in all cases previously.

Greg Campion: Okay. Okay. Okay. I'm just curious, one of the things that you could argue, I guess, is that defaults have been at a minimum for whatever time period you want to pick, a decade or so, because of artificial monetary stimulus. Do you think that that's a big factor? And you think as that unwinds if we continue down this path that the Fed seems to be pushing us down, do you think that you end up seeing rising defaults?

Bryan High: I do. I think certainly capital structures are strained, given the higher interest rates on floating rate capital structures. And then, on top of that, inflationary pressures elsewhere, to the extent companies can't continue to pass that through and capital markets are frozen and there are companies that are facing significant challenges with maturity walls or some other liquidity event. I think that there will be a rising default rate. Do I think it's going to mirror the GFC, where there's this huge spike and then it sort of tailed off? I don't. I would kind of expect it to be maybe a lower level of a higher default rate for a longer period of time, so that opportunities that will linger out there. The triggers in the documents today are primarily liquidity related or maturity related, so you sort of have to wait for those things to play out.

Greg Campion: Yep, yep. Okay. And to your earlier point, I guess it could be interesting because so much capital has been raised over the last couple years in distressed funds. Even if we see a rise in defaults, it seems like it's probably still going be hyper competitive, trying to take advantage of that opportunity. So maybe just to recap, so we've got in terms of kind of what's changed and led us to where we are today before we talk about some of the more specific opportunities, so massive growth and direct lending space, and you're seeing that potentially go through a cycle here. And maybe there are managers out there who have not managed through this type of environment before, and you're likely to see some stressed and distressed situations coming out of that. You've got a liquid market that traditionally has offered maybe more opportunity than it is today, simply because competition and other factors like documentation and rising bankruptcy costs, et cetera. So that's all led you down this road to basically a real changing opportunity set, right? And I think this is why you and the team made some changes in terms of how you're approaching the market. So talk to me about that. Talk to me about what types of transactions are available today that maybe weren't even on your radar before or maybe were less a part of the equation before.

Bryan High: Yeah. I think the firm has been incredibly supportive of allowing us to evolve with the market. If you think about our skillset, it's around complex transactions that need some kind of a solution. It used to be that was primarily restructuring, as we've led over 150 corporate debt restructurings since 2008, both in developed Europe and in North America. That has given us an opportunity to effectively create new capital structures, which is very similar to ultimately structuring a transaction in another complex situation that maybe because it's a growth business that ultimately doesn't have the EBITDA yet but needs financing to continue to grow into something that's a more traditional direct lending capital structure, if you will. So if you think about how we've situated ourselves within Barings, we were traditionally focused on the public side of the market and then shifted to the private side, really during Covid was when it started to pick up significantly, and there were opportunities for us to leverage other parts of Barings and tap into that origination network. And it's rather impressive. We've learned over the last couple of years the amount of opportunities that come in through either Barings or Barings affiliates, to look at interesting transactions that are different, unique, things that investors like to see less correlated to the overall markets. I'm thinking about pharma royalties that we've done, more hard asset, structured asset finance opportunities that we've participated in. And then also, where we can be more like our global private finance partners, the sole solution and a capital structure and we're not in a club dealer and a syndicated deal and we control our own destiny. That's something that didn't really exist five years ago and now it's a bigger part of our book.

Greg Campion: That makes sense. So it's very much the opposite of stuff that you could buy off of a public exchange. As I look at some of the things that you guys have done, it's stuff like opportunistic lending, looking at orphaned assets, still looking at market dislocations when that makes sense, and restructuring situations. And also, I know you guys have done some structured preferred equity types of transactions. So I almost think of it, maybe this is too simplistic, but I almost think of it as the types of transactions that are not obviously falling into another traditional bucket. And I want to talk a little bit about that, because I'm kind of thinking ahead to how our investors think about this and what bucket they put it in. I can imagine that's a little bit of a challenge. But let's talk a little bit more specifically about some of these deals, because I think it's one thing to sort of mention them kind of high level, but it's another thing to hear about them. So it'd be interesting to hear are there one or two that you could tell us about that would give people a real feel for the type of transaction that you're doing today?

Bryan High: Sure. Yeah. You mentioned a few themes that make a ton of sense, and the way that we describe it is Barings has a lot of tee shots, if you will, given the network that we have. If it's down the middle of the fairway, it fits a lot of the strategies that we have. Things that are in the fringe or maybe in the rough, that's where we typically like to play because there's less competition, not as many people focused on those types of assets away from Barings.

Greg Campion: What would be the woods, because that's where I usually play from?

Bryan High: Yeah, same here. I just try not to lose my ball. I don't know how I would describe that.

Greg Campion: Okay.

Bryan High: Yeah. I do think that there are opportunities that we've seen recently, even since last December, that I would describe as similar to what we talked about. Maybe a more vanilla opportunity would be a traditional direct lending club lender group that was facing sort of an unforeseen new risk and a contingent liability that was hit at the company because of regulatory changes in their market. They were looking for a junior capital solution to basically deal with the contingent liability. We were shown that opportunity. There was a handful of people that were tapped to sort of look at it. We ultimately didn't think the junior capital solution made a lot of sense for us. What we thought made a lot more sense was a unitranche deal where we could be dollar one risk and control our own destiny. We knew the players in that club lender group that we didn't really want to be a junior capital provider behind, because of their lack of experience in sort of stressed situations. So we were able to step in, get paid, call it equity- like returns, mid to high teens even before interest rates moved, to be dollar one risk and have warrants in that business to sort of provide a runway for a better day for the sponsor and ultimately pay us for the risk and our ability to structure something that was unique. We were the only person that came with a unitranche deal. They ultimately started down the path looking to get that junior capital deal done, ran into issues with our senior lenders, and called us up and said, " You guys were right to sort of point this out early and we'd like you to pick the pencil up again." And we ultimately closed that deal last December. So those are opportunities that we didn't used to see that now we do because we're tapped into our sponsor coverage network here at Barings. Other examples, we have a Pharma Royalties Team here at Barings, when there are debt solutions and those opportunities are creative financing opportunities, we've partnered with them to be a part of those solutions. They're experts on the drugs, we're experts on putting something creative together to ultimately get the risk adjusted return right from our perspective, box- in the risk that they identify and then price it appropriately. And our investors tend to really like that. And that's risk that's very different than a company facing inflationary pressures or the labor market issues that everybody else is facing.

Greg Campion: Now, for those two, is it usually when something is going off the rails or there is a company is in a tough spot?

Bryan High: Not necessarily.

Greg Campion: Not necessarily? Okay.

Bryan High: A couple of opportunities for us, one was they were looking to introduce new capital into a situation where they could go chase another drug if they had an existing drug we could underwrite and provide a royalty bond against. And we were able to sort of structure that and partner with a couple people to get that done. A second example in that space was a Milestone Rights Agreement, which is a very unique structure that was ultimately part of a prior financing package. The old lender was refinanced and they had this Milestone Rights still sitting in their fund that could go on for decades. And ultimately, we were able to buy that at a steep discount because they had made their money on the debt. So that's ultimately where we've kind of found unique opportunities that other folks were not. It would be a different underlying portfolio than some other competitor.

Greg Campion: Mm-hmm. Mm- hmm. Okay. Again, I guess really stuff that is kind of off the run. I don't know if that's the right terminology.

Bryan High: Way off the run.

Greg Campion: Way off the run. But one of the interesting points I think I hear you saying is that it's not like these types of transactions are really widely shopped around, right? And they're certainly not part of syndicated offerings. They are much more-

Bryan High: Bespoke, unilateral type deals, that's right.

Greg Campion: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I know there's a marina in Charleston that you guys are involved in that I'm very interested in, partially because I want to go visit, but what are you guys doing there?

Bryan High: Yeah. We have a fantastic partner down in Charleston, a management team and an executive chairman that I've known for over a decade, who introduced us to this opportunity during Covid, when they had bought a couple of small marinas in Charleston and realized that there was an opportunity to potentially source some more very quietly and were looking for financing partners. That's a space that although we have a very large real estate business, Barings hasn't traditionally participated in. Thankfully, Covid gave us a lot of time to get really deep in the diligence there and we brought in some third parties and got very comfortable with that market. And marinas in general, I really like the space. They're very unique assets. If you think about the Charleston market, there's not a lot of marshland to build new slips, if you will. And that's a very strong boating community globally, frankly. So we thought we had the right location. We had a couple of really nice assets and an opportunity to go out and do a little bit more. And we provided a whole co- financing behind the banks inside of real estate valuation, and got paid very attractively and got some upside alongside that, and got to watch them operate and execute and ultimately decided to continue to invest in the equity alongside them to become a larger player and influence that situation a little bit more. And we continue to sort of look for new opportunities in that market, given the execution that's happened to date.

Greg Campion: That's great. That's great. Well, between what you all are doing in Charleston and what the Real Estate Team is doing as well, had John Ockerbloom on the podcast talking about some of the development that they've been doing in Savannah, and then also it looks like more and more in the Charleston area as well. I think we may be able to approach our CEO, Mike Freno, about opening the Charleston office.

Bryan High: I'll take this.

Greg Campion: I may suggest we put down a flag in Kiawah. That's not a bad place.

Bryan High: Absolutely. And John and his team have been great about helping us think about other ways to add value in those situations on the back end where we have some raw land and have the opportunity to develop, whether it's hotels or other multi- family opportunities. They've been great helping us think about that as we price, how we ultimately purchase some of these properties.

Greg Campion: Yep. Yep. That's great. Okay. So let's talk a little bit about sourcing, because as we've kind of mentioned multiple times, these are not the types of investments that you're buying off public market exchanges. It's changed, as we've talked about, pretty dramatically from the days when you were primarily looking at distressed credits that were liquid market- based credits. So let's talk about sourcing. I imagine these are not the easiest transactions to originate. And I also imagine that there's no one kind of uniform way in which these transactions come into you and the team. So how does that work?

Bryan High: Yeah. We have a unique situation, in that we have a fantastic parent that sees a lot of stuff. But we'll start there, and then we'll work our way down. So there are things that we see because we're owned by Mass Mutual that maybe we wouldn't otherwise see. I think that the Barings part of the equation is incredibly strong. We've picked our verticals, we've grown in those verticals. On the liquid side, we're a large player in a number of deals and we have proprietary models on 1, 800 + corporate issuers. We can tap into that very easily and have been doing that for well over a decade at this stage. We have our private credit business that's grown tremendously and is a fantastic player in that market. They have strong sponsor relationships. We can tap into those originators internally. Similar, on the real estate side, and really across some of the structured asset parts of the business to really see everything, frankly, that has some kind of angle that requires, we'll call it a complexity premium to it, that ultimately we can structure around and get paid nice returns on a risk adjusted basis for our underlying investors. So that's another element. And then, you can even go down to our affiliates like Eclipse, which we purchased last year via the BDC. It's an asset- based lender that's playing in stressed and distressed situations on an asset- based lending perspective. And sometimes we can partner with them to provide a holistic solution for a term loan and asset- based revolver. Those opportunities are coming fast and furious as well, and I anticipate that to pick up given where we're headed. So there's just a lot of unique angles that we have and we have an aircraft lessor. We didn't ultimately execute on anything, but looked at a lot of opportunities through them during the Covid crisis. And we'll see, if we go into a downturn, there may be opportunities there as well as airlines look to find ways to create liquidity for themselves.

Greg Campion: Okay. So when you think about, I guess, the commonalities between some of these different types of investments, right? We're talking about a pretty diverse group of investments, everything from a marina and Charleston to pharma royalties to some of the unitranche deal you mentioned on the direct lending side, a pretty diverse group of opportunities. So to me it seems like, maybe not to put words in your mouth, but it seems like one of the commonalities is really the structuring. So I guess my question for you is, if you are running a team, as you are, that is looking at deals that are so different, what is the skill set you need to be able to actually execute? Because also, let's not forget, a lot of times these are situations that have a fair amount of risk associated with them, so pricing that risk and structuring around that is massively important. So what is that sort of expertise you really need?

Bryan High: From my perspective, there's a couple of, where are we experts? We're generalists generally, in terms of we don't focus on an industry. But we're really good at getting underneath, from a risk perspective, how to box that in via whatever agreement we're subject to, and then price that risk appropriately so that it feels like relatively compensated for the risk that we're taking. And those risks can take various shapes and sizes. Where I think we're also really good is we're generalists and we acknowledge that. We can tap in and we're willing to tap into where Barings has deep industry knowledge via whether it's a high yield analyst, someone on the real estate side, someone who's been focused on pharma royalties for their entire career. We lean heavily on them from an experience standpoint in a given vertical, and then we try to go deep alongside them. They can get us up to speed a lot quicker, structure a transaction that maybe a little bit more creative than hopefully our competition would put together, be able to sell that to the issuer and the sponsor if there is one, as a good solution for everyone, all of us accomplishing the same goals. That's a skill set that we've been negotiating complex transactions for a long time in various instances, including restructurings, which can get pretty complex and heated. So we tend to take an unemotional, very economical approach to sort of boxing in that risk and pricing it appropriately.

Greg Campion: Yeah. It's interesting to hear the word solutions, because I feel like the word solutions is thrown around very liberally in asset management marketing. But the more and more I learn about what you and your team are doing, it really does seem to be solutions. You're having different groups come to you and saying, " Hey, we have a problem here and we need some creativity to come up with what really is a financing solution." And I know you and your team have structured deals in so many different ways now, but I imagine that having that experience of working through so many bankruptcies over the years, dealing with the legal side of things, you just get very comfortable in the weeds on these types of transactions. Now with regards to, we don't really talk explicitly about returns on this podcast for obvious reasons, compliance reasons, et cetera. But I know that as you think about the attraction of the space that you're in for our investors, well, I guess what types of premiums would you think are potentially achievable? So we hear a lot about the illiquidity premium when we're having our conversation with our colleagues in the direct lending side, but I've heard you talk about a complexity premium as well. It'd be interesting to hear you talk a little bit about what that actually means.

Bryan High: Sure. I think it's driven by sourcing and structuring. So it is where you don't receive a shiny deck that has all the answers, and you're sort of fitting it into your model. It's less of a manufacturing line and more of a one- off solution for a lot of what we do. And so, if I tried to describe sort of the sourcing and structuring angle, something that has some asset scarcity, where we can really tap into the origination network that we have at Barings and with some of our affiliates that I mentioned earlier. And then also, sort of lean on some of our own personal relationships that we've built over the last couple of decades, whether it be restructuring professionals or legal advisors or some of the banks and intermediaries that have vast networks of middle market opportunities that get shown to a handful of potential financing partners. That's where I think the sourcing angle comes from. And then the structuring is really trying to tailor these bespoke solutions that we talked about earlier to exactly what the situation is. Do we like the underlying fundamentals of what's happening, even if it's in a challenging situation where some people may just walk away, but we like the underlying fundamentals and what is the base of what we're ultimately investing in. And we're willing to sort of be patient and use the capital that we have. We're judged on a vintage basis or over a longer period of time as opposed to every single day looking at a Bloomberg and saying, " Okay, we were down five basis points yesterday and the market was down four, why was that?" So it's a much longer term financing in terms of how we ultimately put money to work.

Greg Campion: Yep. Yep. Okay. And I just want to come back to the point around our investors. As you have conversations out there with big pension funds, insurance companies, endowments, et cetera. As you have conversations with these sophisticated institutional investors, I'm curious how they are thinking about what you're doing. I'm sure they are looking at the same set of facts that we are in terms of, " Hey, the landscape for traditional distressed assets has really changed, and maybe we need to shift and look at this opportunity over here." How are they thinking about that and how are they bucketing this type of investment?

Bryan High: Yeah. I think the general theme is they view it as something that's complimentary to traditional direct lending, private credit. So we're obviously chasing a different kind of premium as we just talked about, so the return profile is a little bit different. But does tend to be sort of somewhere between private credit and private equity in terms of how it ultimately fits there. And I think we've gotten a lot of traction with family offices, endowments, some of the pensions and the like, that ultimately like the fact that it is very different. It's not in lieu of a private credit allocation, it's just a different flavor of private credit and they look at it as complimentary.

Greg Campion: Yeah. Well that makes sense. And I know that John Bock and a lot of our team who are involved in private credit and BDCs and things like that, I know one of the things that they've all been talking about is as the private credit asset class has matured, it's arguably become almost more of a beta play, or it sort of depends on how you are investing in it. But with certain managers, you're almost getting a market beta type of exposure. So I know that that's something that they really concentrate on and looking for areas within that universe that they can generate alpha. But I think what you're describing to me almost seems like the opposite of market beta, right? It's going for that really differentiated alpha, but it's the type of thing that involves a lot of work on the back end, a lot of creativity, a lot of structuring expertise as you target those returns.

Bryan High: Yeah. I think I'm probably saying the same thing you are, but it does feel like traditional sponsor LBO finance, there is a correlation between one manager to the other. One might pick better sectors and better companies, but a lot of the drivers that we're seeing out there today that are putting stress on companies are impacting all of them. Whereas a marina in Charleston may have a very different dynamic, a little less correlated, and very regionally focused. That's a different risk profile and ultimately generates a different return profile. But it's still a private deal that we can monetize when we think the opportunity is right.

Greg Campion: Yep. Yep. Great. All right Bryan, I think we made it to the end here. Last question for you. As you look out, let's say at the next two years, so let's hope we don't wait another two years before getting you on the podcast, because you're doing too much interesting stuff to wait that long. But looking out over the next couple of years, any thoughts on how this market opportunity may develop from here?

Bryan High: Yeah. We're starting to see our pipeline fill up more and more with stress here opportunities, companies that are facing challenges that are looking for some form of opportunistic capital to come in and help shore up ahead of what may be coming. And I definitely think, as we talked about before though, there will be more defaults. And as a result of that and the fact that the documentation is what it is, there's going to be opportunities for liquidity solutions to come in, for liability management opportunities. And certainly, if we continue to see what we've been seeing in the liquid markets, maybe some dislocation, where there's an opportunity to take advantage of sort of a technical element in the market that could create attractive entry points for us. So while we've been very focused on the private side, it doesn't mean that the public markets can't ultimately offer something attractive. It just tended to be in windows of opportunity, if you sort look back over the last handful of years, and I think that that may be the case on a go forward, just given the amount of capital on the sidelines at the moment. So that's sort of how we are thinking about deploying capital. We'll see where the Fed takes us. It does feel like there's going to be a lot of opportunity.

Greg Campion: Yep. Yep. All right. Well, I'll look forward to hearing about that opportunity. It sounds like it's about being flexible and nimble and sort of being able to adapt with this market as it changes. As we've already discussed in pretty good detail, it's changed quite a bit. I will look forward to doing this again with you sometime soon and hearing about how it's changed. But this is awesome, Bryan. I appreciate your time today.

Bryan High: Yeah, maybe in Charleston. I appreciate you having me on.

Greg Campion: Oh, let's do it. All right. Thanks. Thanks for listening to Episode# 5 of Season 7 of Streaming Income. If you'd like to stay up to date on our latest thoughts on asset classes ranging from high yield and private credit to real estate and emerging markets, make sure to follow us and leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. We're on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and more. We publish a new episode every other week. And if you have specific feedback, you can email us at podcasts @ barings. com. That's podcast at B- A- R- I- N- G- S. com. Thanks again for listening, and see you next time.


As the global economy has slowed, investor interest in distressed debt strategies has risen. But the distressed market isn't what it used to be. Bryan High discusses how structural changes in that space and others have led to an entirely new landscape for opportunistic capital.