Surveys: Institutional Investors Disillusioned With Hedge Funds, But Warming To Real Estate And Infrastructure

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Two separate surveys released in recent days suggest institutional investors might be growing weary of hedge funds and the associated fees and lack of transparency.

But the survey results also show that the same investors are becoming more enthused with infrastructure and real estate investments.

The dissatisfaction with hedge funds — and their fee structures — is much more pronounced in the U.S. than anywhere else. From the Boston Globe:

Hedge funds and private equity funds took a hit among US institutions and pension managers in a survey by Fidelity Investments released Monday.

The survey found that only 19 percent of American managers of pensions and other large funds believe the benefits of hedge funds and private equity funds are worth the fees they charge. That contrasted with Europe and Asia, where the vast majority — 72 percent and 91 percent, respectively — said the fees were fair.

The US responses appear to reflect growing dissatisfaction with the fees charged by hedge funds, in particular. Both hedge funds and private equity funds typically charge 2 percent upfront and keep 20 percent of the profits they generate for clients.

Derek Young, vice chairman of Pyramis Global Advisors , the institutional arm of Fidelity that conducted the survey, chalked up the US skepticism to a longer period of having worked with alternative investments.

“There’s an experience level in the US that’s significantly beyond the other regions of the world,’’ Young said.

A separate survey came to a similar conclusion. But it also indicated that, for institutional investors looking to invest in hedge funds, priorities are changing: returns are taking a back seat to lower fees, more transparency and the promise of diversification. From Chief Investment Officer:

Institutional investors are growing unsatisfied with hedge fund performance and are increasingly skeptical of the quality of future returns, according to a survey by UBS Fund Services and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The survey of investors overseeing a collective $1.9 trillion found that only 39% were satisfied with the performance of their hedge fund managers, and only a quarter of respondents said they expected a “satisfying level of performance” in the next 12-24 months.

[…]

The report claimed this showed a change in expectations of what hedge funds are chosen to achieve. Investors no longer expect double-digit returns, but instead are content to settle for lower fees, better transparency, and low correlations with other asset classes.

Mark Porter, head of UBS Fund Services, said: “With institutional money now accounting for 80% of the hedge fund industry, they will continue seeking greater transparency over how performance is achieved and how risks are managed, leading to increased due diligence requirements for alternative managers.”

Meanwhile, the USB survey also indicated investors are looking to increase their allocations to infrastructure and real estate investments. From Chief Investment Officer:

“Despite the challenges of devising investment structures that can effectively navigate the dynamic arena of alternative markets, asset managers should remain committed to infrastructure and real assets which could drive up total assets under management in these two asset classes,” the report said.

“This new generation of alternative investments is expected to address the increasing asset and liability constraints of institutional investors and satisfy their preeminent objective of a de-correlation to more traditional asset classes.”

The report noted that despite waning enthusiasm for hedge funds, allocations aren’t likely to change for the next few years.

But alternative investments on the whole, according to the report, are expected to double by 2020.

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