Computational Optimization and Applications

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 463–481 | Cite as

Robust portfolio optimization: a conic programming approach

  • Kai Ye
  • Panos Parpas
  • Berç Rustem


The Markowitz Mean Variance model (MMV) and its variants are widely used for portfolio selection. The mean and covariance matrix used in the model originate from probability distributions that need to be determined empirically. It is well known that these parameters are notoriously difficult to estimate. In addition, the model is very sensitive to these parameter estimates. As a result, the performance and composition of MMV portfolios can vary significantly with the specification of the mean and covariance matrix. In order to address this issue we propose a one-period mean-variance model, where the mean and covariance matrix are only assumed to belong to an exogenously specified uncertainty set. The robust mean-variance portfolio selection problem is then written as a conic program that can be solved efficiently with standard solvers. Both second order cone program (SOCP) and semidefinite program (SDP) formulations are discussed. Using numerical experiments with real data we show that the portfolios generated by the proposed robust mean-variance model can be computed efficiently and are not as sensitive to input errors as the classical MMV’s portfolios.


Mean variance optimization Robust optimization Conic programming 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ComputingImperial CollegeLondonUK

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