Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Shrinkage of Hedge Fund Seeding Capital

I have written in the past ( , ) that my expectation is that emerging manager hedge funds will find raising capital difficult. Part of the reason for this view is the shrinkage of seeding capital providers. Infovest21 is the source for this overviewing of the status quo in hedge fund seeding:

The size of assets committed in the overall seeding industry dropped in 2008/2009 as has the number of seeders actively providing seeding capital.

Seeding is very resource-intensive. It requires sourcing a wide range of proposals, having the skills and resources to analyze diverse strategies, having negotiating skills and helping put businesses together. This cuts down on the number of firms that can do it, says Patric de Gentile- Williams of FRM’s Capital Advisors. “People are getting out of seeding business because it is a very hard business - you need to find the talent, be a risk manager of the talent and have a disciplined marketing plan for the business,” adds Anthony Scaramucci of Skybridge Capital.

In 2007, there were 50-90 seeders. Today, there are just a handful of active seeders. Many of the active seeders don’t expect the seeding activity to get back to 2007 levels. Many key personnel at some of the larger seeders have left. Many are virtually out of the business but not publicly admitting to that, says one seeder.

The vast majority of seeders were a part of larger businesses. Those businesses became stressed by events in 2008 and had to refocus on their core business at the expense of their peripheral business. “Where seeding was a peripheral activity, it had to be sacrificed even though this is the one of the best times for seeding. In addition, some seeders were within investment banks and were using capital from the bank’s balance sheet. When 2008 arose, much of that capital was withdrawn,” adds Gentile-Williams.

It may be tough for some of the fund of funds’ seeders to come back. Scaramucci says, “If they don’t have the right resources in their organization, then they think they’re in the funds of funds business as a seeder. They’re not in the funds of funds business: they’re in the private equity/intellectual capital management business…When a fund of funds goes into the seeder business, they approach it the way funds of funds would. They don’t get deal terms right. They’re not partnering as tightly with the manager.”

In terms of seeing new candidates to be seeded, seeders say they haven’t seen a better environment. There are large numbers of talented people who want to be entrepreneurs who have been displaced by either the collapse of the firms they were with, whether hedge funds or investment banks, or are in an existing platform where they can’t supply enough capital.


Gentile-Williams observes that the first quarter of 2010 has been more active than last year. “The pipeline is very strong; eight or nine managers are in [our] pipeline which could lead to a transaction in the next few months.”

Asset raising at the seed level i.e. raising a new fund is still challenging, say a number of seeders.As general interest for hedge funds picks up, emerging managers will benefit. The challenging piece is that some of the established largest managers, who had been closed, opened up to new investment following the financial crisis. Some of the largest allocators are currently going directly to the larger funds.

If the hedge fund situation improves and liquidity returns to the market, former seeders could return but they will probably do one-off deals rather than a dedicated fund. It could be done as a side letter not as a cookie cutter fund, says a former seeder.

There will be more capital committed and new players. There will be a small number of large players. Some family offices and some institutions are seeding. On the family office side, seeding is often viewed opportunistically. For example, The Koffler Group seeds only one manager or so a year. It seeded EchoBridge with $20 million in 2008. Another example is Parly Company which has seeded about 25 funds in the past.

Some larger pensions are also entering the seeding arena. CalPERS is considering providing start-up money to hedge funds similar to what it has done with private equity. The UK pension fund Railpen is expected to start a hedge fund seeding operations in order to gain greater control of alternative assets. Details haven’t been publicly disclosed yet but sources expect the model will follow the CalPERS and Hermes’ models.

In 2010, New York State Common Retirement Fund seeded London-based Finisterre’s emerging market hedge fund with $250 million.

Monday, 15 March 2010

HF Counterparties: Collateral Arbitrage Benefitting Banks with Large OTC Books

Following up the posting on investment bank rehypothecation of their clients’ assets (, there is a great story today on Bloomberg. It highlights further changes in the balance of power in the relationships between hedge funds and the prime brokerage operations of investment banks.

By Michael J. Moore and Christine Harper

March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., two of the biggest traders of over-the-counter derivatives, are exploiting their growing clout in that market to secure cheap funding in addition to billions in revenue from the business.

Both New York-based banks are demanding unequal arrangements with hedge-fund firms, forcing them to post more cash collateral to offset risks on trades while putting up lesson their own wagers. At the end of December this imbalance furnished Goldman Sachs with $110 billion, according to a filing. That’s money it can reinvest in higher-yielding assets.

“If you’re seen as a major player and you have a product that people can’t get elsewhere, you have the negotiating power,” said Richard Lindsey, a former director of market regulation at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who ran the prime brokerage unit at Bear Stearns Cos. from 1999 to 2006. “Goldman and a handful of other banks are the places where people can get over-the-counter products today.”

The collapse of American International Group Inc. in 2008 was hastened by the insurer’s inability to meet $20 billion in collateral demands after its credit-default swaps lost value and its credit rating was lowered, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the time of the bailout, testified on Jan. 27. Goldman Sachs was among AIG’s biggest counterparties.

Goldman Sachs Chief Financial Officer David Viniar has said that his firm’s stringent collateral agreements would have helped protect the firm against a default by AIG. Instead, a $182.3 billion taxpayer bailout of AIG ensured that Goldman Sachs and others were repaid in full.

  Extracting Collateral

Over the last three years, Goldman Sachs has extracted more collateral from counterparties in the $605 trillion over-the-counter derivatives markets, according to filings with the SEC.

The firm led by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein collected cash collateral that represented 57 percent of outstanding over-the-counter derivatives assets as of December 2009, while it posted just 16 percent on liabilities, the firm said in a filing this month. That gap has widened from rates of 45 percent versus 18 percent in 2008 and 32 percent versus 19 percent in 2007, company filings show.

“That’s classic collateral arbitrage,” said Brad Hintz, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York who previously worked as treasurer at Morgan Stanley and chief financial officer at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. “You always want to enter into something where you’re getting more collateral in than what you’re putting out.”

  Using the Cash

The banks get to use the cash collateral, said Robert Claassen, a Palo Alto, California-based partner in the corporate and capital markets practice at law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP.

“They do have to pay interest on it, usually at the Fed funds rate, but that’s a low rate,” Claassen said.

Goldman Sachs’s $110 billion net collateral balance in December was almost three times the amount it had attracted from depositors at its regulated bank subsidiaries. The collateral could earn the bank an annual return of $439 million, assuming it’s financed at the current Fed funds effective rate of 0.15 percent and that half is reinvested at the same rate and half in two-year Treasury notes yielding 0.948 percent.

“We manage our collateral arrangements as part of our overall risk-management discipline and not as a driver of profits,” said Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs.

He said that Bloomberg’s estimates of the firm’s potential returns on collateral were “flawed” and declined to provide further explanation.

  JPMorgan, Citigroup

JPMorgan received cash collateral equal to 57 percent of the fair value of its derivatives receivables after accounting for offsetting positions, according to data contained in the firm’s most recent annual filing. It posted collateral equal to 45 percent of the comparable payables, leaving it with a $37 billion net cash collateral balance, the filing shows.

In 2008 the cash collateral received by JPMorgan made up 47 percent of derivative assets, while the amount posted was 37 percent of liabilities. The percentages were 47 percent and 26 percent in 2007, according to data in company filings.

By contrast, New York-based Citigroup Inc., a bank that’s 27 percent owned by the U.S. government, paid out $11 billion more in collateral on over-the-counter derivatives than it collected at the end of 2009, a company filing shows.

Brian Marchiony, a spokesman for JPMorgan, and Alexander Samuelson, a spokesman for Citigroup, both declined to comment.

  Derivatives Market

The five biggest U.S. commercial banks in the derivatives market -- Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo & Co. -- account for 97 percent of the notional value of derivatives held in the banking industry, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

In credit-default swaps, the world’s five biggest dealers are JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank AG and London-based Barclays Plc, according to a report by Deutsche Bank Research that cited the European Central Bank and filings with the SEC. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan had combined revenue of $29.1 billion from trading derivatives and cash securities in the first nine months of 2009, according to Federal Reserve reports.

The U.S. Congress is considering bills that would require more derivatives deals be processed through clearinghouses, privately owned third parties that guarantee transactions and keep track of collateral and margin. A clearinghouse that includes both banks and hedge funds would erode the banks’ collateral balances, said Kevin McPartland, a senior analyst at research firm Tabb Group in New York.

  ‘Level Playing Field’

When contracts are negotiated between two parties, collateral arrangements are determined by the relative credit ratings of the two companies and other factors in the relationship, such as how much trading a fund does with a bank, McPartland said. When trades are cleared, the requirements have “nothing to do with credit so much as the mark-to-market value of your current net position.”

“Once you’re able to use a clearinghouse, presumably everyone’s on a level playing field,” he said.

Still, banks may maintain their advantage in parts of the market that aren’t standardized or liquid enough for clearing, McPartland said. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs’s Blankfein both told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in January that they support central clearing for all standardized
over-the-counter derivatives.

“The percentage of products that are suitable for central clearing is relatively small in comparison to the entire OTC derivatives market,” McPartland said.

  Bilateral Agreements

A report this month by the New York-based International Swaps & Derivatives Association found that 84 percent of collateral agreements are bilateral, meaning collateral is exchanged in two directions.

Banks have an advantage in dealing with asset managers because they can require collateral when initiating a trade, sometimes amounting to as much as 20 percent of the notional value, said Craig Stein, a partner at law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP in New York who represents hedge-fund clients.

JPMorgan’s filing shows that these initiation amounts provided the firm with about $11 billion of its $37.4 billion net collateral balance at the end of December, down from about $22 billion a year earlier and $17 billion at the end of 2007. Goldman Sachs doesn’t break out that category.

A bank’s net collateral balance doesn’t get included in its capital calculations and has to be held in liquid products because it can change quickly, according to an executive at one of the biggest U.S. banks who declined to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

  Counterparty Demands

Counterparties demanding collateral helped speed the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, according to a New York Fed report published in January. Those that had posted collateral with Lehman were often in the same position as unsecured creditors when they tried to recover funds from the bankrupt firm, the report said.

“When the collateral is posted to a derivatives dealer like Goldman or any of the others, those funds are not segregated, which means that the dealer bank gets to use them to finance itself,” said Darrell Duffie, a professor of finance at Stanford University in Palo Alto. “That’s all fine until a crisis comes along and counterparties pull back and the money that dealer banks thought they had disappears.”

  ‘Greater Push Back’

While some hedge-fund firms have pushed for banks to put up more cash after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and other survivors of the credit crisis have benefited from the drop in competition.

“When the crisis started developing, I definitely thought it was going to be an opportunity for our fund clients to make some headway in negotiating, and actually the exact opposite has happened,” said Schulte Roth’s Stein. “Post-financial crisis, I’ve definitely seen a greater push back on their side.”

Hedge-fund firms that don’t have the negotiating power to strike two-way collateral agreements with banks have more to gain from a clearinghouse than those that do, said Stein. Regulators should encourage banks to post more collateral

to their counterparties to lower the impact of a single bank’s failure, according to the January New York Fed report. Pressure from regulators and a move to greater use of clearinghouses may mean the banks’ advantage has peaked.

“Before the financial crisis, collateral was very unevenly demanded and somewhat insufficiently demanded,” Stanford’s Duffie said. A clearinghouse “should reduce the asymmetry and raise the total amount of collateral.”

Update of Dec 2011
For an update on rehypothecation of hedge fund assets have a look at this article on

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Gartmore Results for 2009 - Absolute Return Products Attract Capital

Gartmore's hedge fund range is well known, and indeed well-regarded as a whole. The reasons for that are evident from the table below which shows performance :

Note:Data is based on published NAV returns. Returns denominated in currency of the primary share class.

(1) AUM is net of performance fees accrued

(2)Annualised returns net of fees and commissions with dividends re-invested to December 2009
What is also interesting in the Gartmore results for 2009 is the growth in Absolute Return Funds

From a corporate perspective that 11 out of 14 hedge funds produced positive returns in 2009 bodes well, and that the funds in negative teritory for the year are the smaller ones also helps. 
Gartmore categorises absolute return funds as part of their mutual fund range. In 2009 the absolute return funds drew in £903m net, and the positive flows continued into 2010. In the first two months of this year Gartmore's absolute return funds had net inflows of £195m, and the company has launched two new absolute return funds in 2010. From a recent beginning the absolute return funds are now 5% of the firm's AUM, and importantly for cash flow, the absolute retun funds crystalise their perfromance fees quarterly. Last year absolute return fund contributed 10% of the firm's performance fees. Quite useful those absolute return funds, eh?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

PODCAST FOUR – CTA Beach Horizon

A Discussion with Head of Research of Beach Horizon, Dr. Paul Netherwood.
Dr. Netherwood spent four years in the Nineties in trading systems research and development at AHL (Adams, Harding and Lueck, now part of Man Group), and for the last 9 years he has been at Beach Capital Management and Beach Horizon LLP, a systematic fund management partnership. Beach Horizon is based in the City of London.


Clicking on the link will open a page containing the sound file - download or play in your browser

Part One (Link Here) (15 minutes)

 0.00 Introduction to Beach Horizon and sytematic CTAs
 5.50 Portfolio construction and diversification including milk and pork bellies
 9.20 Targets for outputs return and volatility
 10.50 Upside volatility
 11.55 Margin-to-equity as a proxy for risk

Part Two (Link Here) (13 minutes)

 0.00 The team - an advantage in being able to tap into a trader with a discretionary background for idea creation  and assessing research ideas.
 4.45 An FX research project
 6.20 Prioritising research, co-opting the sciences
7.35 Research productivity
10.00 People power - intellect is not scalable
12.05 Beyond trend-following - different frequencies

Part Three (Link Here) (8 minutes) 

0.00  Different time horizons of investors - a dominant frequency
1:06 Performance of CTAs in 2008
3.40 Performance in 2009
5.06 Current Drawdown - when will we see outperformance of CTAs? Influence of QE?


Drawdown Analysis for Beach Horizon May 2005 to December 2009


Source: Beach Horizon Database


My thanks go to Dr. Paul Netherwood for his contribution to this podcast.