A hedge fund is a private investment fund open to a limited range of investors which is permitted by regulators to undertake a wider range of activities than other investment funds and which pays a performance fee to its investment manager. Although each fund will have its own strategy which determines the type of investments and the methods of investment it undertakes, hedge funds as a class invest in a broad range of investments, from shares, debt and commodities to works of art.
As the name implies, hedge funds often seek to offset potential losses in the principal markets they invest in by hedging their investments using a variety of methods, most notably short selling. However, the term "hedge fund" has come to be applied to many funds that do not actually hedge their investments, and in particular to funds using short selling and other "hedging" methods to increase rather than reduce risk, with the expectation of increasing return.
Hedge funds are typically open only to a limited range of professional or wealthy investors. This provides them with an exemption in many jurisdictions from regulations governing short selling, derivative contracts, leverage, fee structures and the liquidity of investments in the fund. A hedge fund will nevertheless voluntarily limit the scope of its activities via its contractual arrangements with the individual investors in order to give them some certainty surrounding the specific investments that will be invested by the hedge fund itself.
The assets under management of a hedge fund can run into many billions of dollars, and this will usually be multiplied by leverage, meaning that their influence over markets is substantial. Hedge funds dominate certain specialty markets such as trading within derivatives with high-yield ratings and distressed debt.
As large institutional investors have entered the hedge fund industry the total asset levels continue to rise. The 2008 Hedge Fund Asset Flows & Trends Report published by HedgeFund.net and Institutional Investor News estimates total industry assets reached $2.68 trillion in Q3 2007. According to the BarclayHedge Monthly Asset Flow Report, hedge funds received only $15 billion in October, the second-lowest inflow in 2007. Year-to-date hedge funds attracted $278.5 billion, three times year-to-date inflow into equity mutual funds.
Fees are payable by the fund to the investment manager. They are therefore taken directly from the assets that the investor holds in the fund.
Typically, hedge funds charge 20% of gross returns as a performance fee. However, the range is wide with highly regarded managers charging higher fees. In particular, Steven Cohen's SAC Capital Partners charges a 3% management fee and a 35-50% performance fee, while Jim Simons' Renaissance Technologies Corp. charged a 5% management fee and a 44% incentive fee in its flagship Medallion Fund.
Performance fees are intended to align the interests of manager and investor better than flat fees that are payable even when performance is poor. However, performance fees have been criticized by many people, including notable investor Warren Buffett, for giving managers an incentive to take excessive risk rather than targeting high long-term returns. In an attempt to control this problem, fees are usually limited by a high water mark and sometimes limited by a hurdle rate. Alternatively a "claw-back" provision may be included, whereby the investment manager might be required to return performance fees when the value of the fund drops.
This measure is intended to link the manager's interests more closely to those of investors and to reduce the incentive for managers to seek volatile trades. If a high water mark is not used, a fund that ends alternate years at $100 and $110 would generate performance fee every other year, enriching the manager but not the investors.
The mechanism does not provide complete protection to investors: a manager who has lost a significant percentage of the fund's value will often close the fund and start again with a clean slate, rather than continue working for no performance fee until the loss has been made good. This depends on the manager's ability to persuade investors to trust him or her with their money in the new fund.
Managers who specify a "soft" hurdle rate charge a performance fee based on the entire annualized return once the hurdle rate has been achieved. Managers who use a "hard" hurdle rate only charge a performance fee on returns above the hurdle rate.
Because demand for hedge funds has outstripped supply, most managers do not now need hurdle rates in order to attract investors. For this reason, hurdle rates are now rare.
Hedge funds employ many different trading strategies, which are classified in many different ways, with no standard system used. Each strategy can be said to be built from a number of different elements:
The four main strategy groups are based on the investment style and have their own risk and return characteristics. The most common label for a hedge fund is "long/short equity", meaning that the fund takes both long and short positions in shares traded on public stock exchanges.
(Macro, Trading) Anticipate to global macroeconomic events using all markets and instruments.
(Equity hedge) Hedged investments with exposure to the equity market.
(Special situations) Exploit pricing inefficiencies caused by anticipated specific corporate events.
(Arbitrage, Market neutral) Exploit pricing inefficiencies between related assets that are mispriced.
Under certain circumstances an investor can completely hedge the risks of an investment, leaving pure profit. For example, at one time it was possible for exchange traders to buy shares of, say, IBM on one exchange and simultaneously sell them on another exchange, leaving pure profit. Competition among investors has leached away such profits, leaving hedge fund managers with trades that are partially hedged, at best. These trades still contain residual risks which can be considerable.
Investors in hedge funds are, in most countries, required to be sophisticated investors who will be aware of the risk implications of these factors. They are willing to take these risks because of the corresponding rewards: leverage amplifies profits as well as losses; short selling opens up new investment opportunities; riskier investments typically provide higher returns; secrecy helps to prevent imitation by competitors; and being unregulated reduces costs and allows the investment manager more freedom to make decisions on a purely commercial basis.
At end-2007, 52% of the number of hedge funds were registered offshore. The most popular offshore location was the Cayman Islands (57% of number of offshore funds), followed by British Virgin Islands (16%) and Bermuda (11%). The other offshore centers are the Isle of Man and Mauritius. The US was the most popular onshore location (with funds mostly registered in Delaware) accounting for 65% of the number of onshore funds, followed by Europe with 31%.
Many hedge funds are structured as master/feeder funds. In such a structure the investors will invest into a feeder fund which will in turn invest all of its assets into the master fund. The assets of the master fund will then be managed by the investment manager in the usual way. This allows several feeder funds (e.g. an offshore corporate fund, a US limited partnership and a unit trust) to invest into the same master fund, allowing an investment manager the benefit of managing the assets of a single entity while giving all investors the best possible tax treatment.
The investment manager, which will have organized the establishment of the hedge fund, may retain an interest in the hedge fund, either as the general partner of a limited partnership or as the holder of “founder shares” in a corporate fund. Founder shares typically have no economic rights, and voting rights over only a limited range of issues, such as selection of the investment manager – most of the fund’s decisions are taken by the board of directors of the fund, which is self-appointing and independent but invariably loyal to the investment manager.
A fund listing is distinct from the listing or initial public offering (“IPO”) of shares in an investment manager. Although widely reported as a "hedge-fund IPO", the IPO of Fortress Investment Group LLC was for the sale of the investment manager, not of the hedge funds that it managed.
London is Europe’s leading centre for the management of hedge funds. At the end of 2007, three-quarters of European hedge fund investments, totaling $400bn (£200bn), were managed from London, having grown from $61bn in 2002. Australia was the most important centre for the management of Asia-Pacific hedge funds, with managers located there accounting for approximately a quarter of the $140bn of hedge fund assets managed in the Asia-Pacific region in 2008.
Part of what gives hedge funds their competitive edge, and their cachet in the public imagination, is that they straddle multiple definitions and categories; some aspects of their dealings are well-regulated, others are unregulated or at best quasi-regulated.
Although hedge funds fall within the statutory definition of an investment company, the limited-access, private nature of hedge funds permits them to operate pursuant to exemptions from the registration requirements. The two major exemptions are set forth in Sections 3(c)1 and 3(c)7 of the Investment Company Act of 1940. Those exemptions are for funds with 100 or fewer investors (a "3(c) 1 Fund") and funds where the investors are "qualified purchasers" (a "3(c) 7 Fund"). A qualified purchaser is an individual with over US$5,000,000 in investment assets. (Some institutional investors also qualify as accredited investors or qualified purchasers.) A 3(c)1 Fund cannot have more than 100 investors, while a 3(c)7 Fund can have an unlimited number of investors. However, a 3(c)7 fund with more than 499 investors must register its securities with the SEC. Both types of funds can charge performance or incentive fees.
In order to comply with 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7), hedge funds are sold via private placement under the Securities Act of 1933. Thus interests in a hedge fund cannot be offered or advertised to the general public, and are normally offered under Regulation D. Although it is possible to have non-accredited investors in a hedge fund, the exemptions under the Investment Company Act, combined with the restrictions contained in Regulation D, effectively require hedge funds to be offered solely to accredited investors.. An accredited investor is an individual person with a minimum net worth of US $1,000,000 or, alternatively, a minimum income of US$200,000 in each of the last two years and a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level in the current year. For banks and corporate entities, the minimum net worth is $5,000,000 in invested assets.
The regulatory landscape for Investment Advisors is changing, and there have been attempts to register hedge fund investment managers. There are numerous issues surrounding these proposed requirements. One issue of importance to hedge fund managers is the requirement that a client who is charged an incentive fee must be a "qualified client" under Advisers Act Rule 205-3. To be a qualified client, an individual must have US$750,000 in assets invested with the adviser or a net worth in excess of US$1.5 million, or be one of certain high-level employees of the investment adviser.
For the funds, the tradeoff of operating under these exemptions is that they have fewer investors to sell to, but they have few government-imposed restrictions on their investment strategies. The presumption is that hedge funds are pursuing more risky strategies, which may or may not be true depending on the fund, and that the ability to invest in these funds should be restricted to wealthier investors who are presumed to be more sophisticated and who have the financial reserves to absorb a possible loss.
In December 2004, the SEC issued a rule change that required most hedge fund advisers to register with the SEC by February 1, 2006, as investment advisers under the Investment Advisers Act. The requirement, with minor exceptions, applied to firms managing in excess of US$25,000,000 with over 15 investors. The SEC stated that it was adopting a "risk-based approach" to monitoring hedge funds as part of its evolving regulatory regimen for the burgeoning industry. The rule change was challenged in court by a hedge fund manager, and in June 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned it and sent it back to the agency to be reviewed. See Goldstein v. SEC
Although the SEC is currently examining how it can address the Goldstein decision, commentators have stated that the SEC currently has neither the staff nor expertise to comprehensively monitor the estimated 8,000 U.S. and international hedge funds. See New Hedge Fund Advisor Rule One of the Commissioners, Roel Campos, has said that the SEC is forming internal teams that will identify and evaluate irregular trading patterns or other phenomena that may threaten individual investors, the stability of the industry, or the financial world. "It's pretty clear that we will not be knocking on [hedge fund] doors very often," Campos told several hundred hedge fund managers, industry lawyers and others. And even if it did, "the SEC will never have the degree of knowledge or background that you do."
In February 2007, the President's Working Group on Financial Markets rejected further regulation of hedge funds and said that the industry should instead follow voluntary guidelines.
Between 2004 and February 2006 some hedge funds adopted 25 month lock-up rules expressly to exempt themselves from the SEC's new registration requirements and cause them to fall under the registration exemption that had been intended to exempt private equity funds.
Some hedge funds that are based offshore report their prices to the Financial Times, but for most there is no method of ascertaining pricing on a regular basis. Additionally, mutual funds must have a prospectus available to anyone that requests one (either electronically or via US postal mail), and must disclose their asset allocation quarterly, while hedge funds do not have to abide by these terms.
Hedge funds also ordinarily do not have daily liquidity, but rather "lock up" periods of time where the total returns are generated (net of fees) for their investors and then returned when the term ends, through a passthrough requiring CPAs and US Tax W-forms. Hedge fund investors tolerate these policies because hedge funds are expected to generate higher total returns for their investors versus mutual funds.
Recently, however, the mutual fund industry has created products with features that have traditionally only been found in hedge funds.
Mutual funds have appeared which utilize some of the trading strategies noted above. Grizzly Short Fund (GRZZX), for example, is always net short, while Arbitrage Fund (ARBFX) specializes in merger arbitrage. Such funds are SEC regulated, but they offer hedge fund strategies and protection for mutual fund investors.
Also, a few mutual funds have introduced performance-based fees, where the compensation to the manager is based on the performance of the fund. However, under Section 205(b) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, such compensation is limited to so-called "fulcrum fees". Under these arrangements, fees can be performance-based so long as they increase and decrease symmetrically.
For example, the TFS Capital Small Cap Fund (TFSSX) has a management fee that behaves, within limits and symmetrically, similarly to a hedge fund "0 and 50" fee: A 0% management fee coupled with a 50% performance fee if the fund outperforms its benchmark index. However, the 125 bp base fee is reduced (but not below zero) by 50% of underperformance and increased (but not to more than 250 bp) by 50% of outperformance.
Hedge funds have to file accounts and conduct their business in compliance with the requirements of these offshore centres. Typical rules concern restrictions on the availability of funds to retail investors (Dublin), protection of client confidentiality (Luxembourg) and the requirement for the fund to be independent of the fund manager.
Many offshore hedge funds, such as the Soros funds, are structured as mutual funds rather than as limited partnerships.
None of the bills has received serious consideration yet.
Derivatives, particularly CFDs, have become increasingly important as hedge funds attempt to avoid public declarations of their holdings, gain easy access to leverage and, in the UK, avoid stamp duty. Approximately, a third of UK equity trading consists of trading in CFDs.
Investable indices are created from funds that can be bought and sold, and only Hedge Funds that agree to accept investments on terms acceptable to the constructor of the index are included. Investability is an attractive property for an index because it makes the index more relevant to the choices available to investors in practice, and is taken for granted in traditional equity indices such as the S&P500 or FTSE100. However, such indices do not represent the total universe of hedge funds and may under-represent the more successful managers, who may not find the index terms attractive. Fund indexes include Eurekahedge Indices, BarclayHedge, Hedge Fund Research, Credit Suisse Tremont and FTSE Hedge
The index provider selects funds and develops structured products or derivative instruments that deliver the performance of the index, making investable indices similar in some ways to fund of hedge funds portfolios.
Non-investable benchmarks are indicative in nature, and aim to represent the performance of the universe of hedgefunds using some measure such as mean, median or weighted mean from a hedge fund database. There are diverse selection criteria and methods of construction, and no single database captures all funds. This leads to significant differences in reported performance between different databases.
Non-investable indices inherit the databases' shortcomings, or strengths, in terms of scope and quality of data. Funds’ participation in a database is voluntary, leading to “self-selection bias” because those funds that choose to report may not be typical of funds as a whole. For example, some do not report because of poor results or because they have already reached their target size and do not wish to raise further money. This tends to lead to a clustering of returns around the mean rather than representing the full diversity existing in the hedge fund universe. Examples of non-investable indices include an equal weighted benchmark series known as the HFN Averages, and a revolutionary rules based set known as the Lehman Brothers/HFN Global Index Series which leverages an Enhanced Strategy Classification System.
The short lifetimes of many hedge funds means that there are many new entrants and many departures each year, which raises the problem of “survivorship bias”. If we examine only funds that have survived to the present, we will overestimate past returns because many of the worst-performing funds have not survived, and the observed association between fund youth and fund performance suggests that this bias may be substantial. As the HFR and CISDM databases began in 1994, it is likely that they will be more accurate over the period 1994/2000 than the Credit Suisse database, which only began in 2000.
When a fund is added to a database for the first time, all or part of its historical data is recorded ex-post in the database. It is likely that funds only publish their results when they are favorable, so that the average performances displayed by the funds during their incubation period are inflated. This is known as "instant history bias” or “backfill bias”.
In traditional equity investment, indices play a central and unambiguous role. They are widely accepted as representative, and products such as futures and ETFs provide liquid access to them in most developed markets. However, among hedge funds no index combines these characteristics. Investable indices achieve liquidity at the expense of representativeness. Non-investable indices are representative, but their quoted returns may not be available in practice. Neither is wholly satisfactory.
The ECB (European Central Bank) issued a warning in June 2006 on hedge fund risk for financial stability and systemic risk: "... the increasingly similar positioning of individual hedge funds within broad hedge fund investment strategies is another major risk for financial stability which warrants close monitoring despite the essential lack of any possible remedies. This risk is further magnified by evidence that broad hedge fund investment strategies have also become increasingly correlated, thereby further increasing the potential adverse effects of disorderly exits from crowded trades.
The Times wrote about this review: "In one of the starkest warnings yet from an official institution over the role of the burgeoning but secretive industry, the ECB sounded a note of alarm over the possible repercussions from any collapse of a hedge fund, or group of funds.
However, the ECB statement itself has been criticized by a part of the financial research community. These arguments are developed by the EDHEC Risk and Asset Management Research Centre: The main conclusions of the study are that “the ECB article’s conclusion of a risk of ‘disorderly exits from crowded trades’ is based on mere speculation. While the question of systemic risk is of importance, we do not dispose of enough data to reliably address this question at this stage”, “it would be worthwhile for financial regulators to work towards obtaining data on hedge fund leverage and counterparty credit risk. Such data would allow a reliable assessment of the question of systemic risk”, and “besides evaluating potential systemic risk, it should be recognized that hedge funds play an important role as ‘providers of liquidity and diversification’.”
The potential for systemic risk was highlighted by the near-collapse of two Bear Stearns hedge funds in June 2007. The funds invested in mortgage-backed securities. The funds' financial problems necessitated an infusion of cash into one of the funds from Bear Stearns but no outside assistance. It was the largest fund bailout since Long Term Capital Management's collapse in 1998. The U.S. Securities and Exchange commission is investigating.
Restrictions on marketing and the lack of regulation means that there are no official hedge fund statistics. An industry consulting group, HFR (hfr.com), reported at the end of the second quarter 2003 that there are 5,660 hedge funds world wide managing $665 billion. For comparison, at the same time the US mutual fund sector held assets of $7.818 trillion (according to the Investment Company Institute).
Some hedge funds, mainly American, do not use third parties either as the custodian of their assets or as their administrator (who will calculate the NAV of the fund). This can lead to conflicts of interest, and in extreme cases can assist fraud. In a recent example, Kirk Wright of International Management Associates has been accused of mail fraud and other securities violations which allegedly defrauded clients of close to $180 million.
However, the market capacity effect has been questioned by the EDHEC Risk and Asset Management Research Centre through a decomposition of hedge fund returns between pure alpha, dynamic betas, and static betas.
While pure alpha is generated by exploiting market opportunities, the dynamic betas depend on the manager’s skill in adapting the exposures to different factors, and these authors claim that these two sources of return do not exhibit any erosion. This suggests that the market environment (static betas) explains a large part of the poor performance of hedge funds in 2004 and 2005.
In the U.S., the SEC is focusing more resources on investigating violations and illegal conduct on the part of hedge funds in the public securities markets. Linda C. Thomsen, enforcement director of the SEC, said in November 2007 that federal regulators were concerned about illegal trading and the potential for harm to hedge fund investors. She said, “These days, the money is in hedge funds, so the potential for abuse, the potential for securities law violations, is there because there is so much money there.” Outside firms offering services to the hedge funds such as Prime Brokerage may be held accountable for failing to report illegal conduct on account of their client hedge funds.
The issue of performance measurement in the hedge fund industry has led to literature that is both abundant and controversial. Traditional indicators (Sharpe, Treynor, Jensen) work best when returns follow a symmetrical distribution. In that case, risk is represented by the standard deviation. Unfortunately, hedge fund returns are not normally distributed, and hedge fund return series are autocorrelated. Consequently, traditional performance measures suffer from theoretical problems when they are applied to hedge funds, making them even less reliable than is suggested by the shortness of the available return series.
Innovative performance measures have been introduced in an attempt to deal with this problem: Modified Sharpe ratio by Gregoriou and Gueyie (2003), Omega by Keating and Shadwick (2002), Alternative Investments Risk Adjusted Performance (AIRAP) by Sharma (2004), and Kappa by Kaplan and Knowles (2004). An overview of these performance measures is available in Géhin, W., 2006, The Challenge of Hedge Fund Performance Measurement: a Toolbox rather than a Pandora’s Box, EDHEC Risk and Asset Management Research Center, Position Paper, December. However, there is no consensus on the most appropriate absolute performance measure, and traditional performance measures are still widely used in the industry.
Because of the unavailability of reliable figures, the top 50 list excludes funds such as Renaissance Technologies' Renaissance Medallion Fund and ESL Investments' ESL Partners (each thought to have returned an average of over 35% in the previous 3 years) and funds by SAC Capital and Appaloosa Management, which might otherwise have made the list.
The list also excludes funds with a net asset value of less than $250 million. The returns are net of fees.
Trader Monthly's list of top 10 earners among hedge fund managers in 2007 was:
Trader Monthly's top 3 in 2006 were:
Trader Monthly's top 3 in 2005 were:
In comparison, Institutional Investor's list of top 3 earners among hedge fund manager in 2007 was:
|Och-Ziff Capital Management||$33.2bn|
|Goldman Sachs Asset Management||$32.5bn|
|Paulson and Company||$29bn|
|Barclays Global Investors||$18.9bn|