Hedge funds have not met pension plan clients' actuarial assumed rates of return.net of fees in the challenging zero-interest-rate policy environment, despite generally producing returns since the financial crisis that met investor expectations gross of fees. One outcome has been an outcry from pension funds for a reduction in fees to raise the performance needle.
The structure of the industry needs a framework that turns a zero-sum game (less for the managers, more for the investors) into a positive-sum game in which both managers and investors benefit.
Allocators to the largest funds generally hold no market power to sway managers. Nearly $3 trillion is invested with hedge funds, every dollar of which represents an existing fee agreement between managers and investors. No matter how much allocators would like to pay less, the managers of these funds are unlikely to change without some give and take.
A resolution must create a win-win for both managers and allocators, and we believe the trade-off between fees and duration of investment is a good place to start. A number of established managers offer long-duration share classes that charge below-market fees, but many allocators are uncomfortable or unable to accept illiquidity in a relatively liquid investment area. A better fee structure for more participants might be one that rewards investor loyalty with reduced management fees over time.
Consider the following structure for a hedge fund's management fee:
Years 1-3: 1.5%
Year 4: 1.4%
Year 5: 1.3%
Year 6: 1.2% (continuing to decline 10 basis points per year)
Year 14 and beyond: 0.5%