CalSTRS' investment officials catalogued the features they most appreciate about managed accounts in a report prepared for a Feb. 3 investment committee meeting:
nfull transparency on managers' portfolio positions and ability to compare managers following the same strategy;
ncontrol over excessive risk taking, manager style drift, leverage, exposure policies and liquidity risks through agreed risk management guidelines;
nprotection against fraud, misappropriation of assets and misrepresentation of performance;
n negotiation of terms for strategy customization, investment guidelines, management and performance fees, and fee reporting; and
nreducing cost of services from non-investment oriented providers, including custodians, administrators and auditors, because of the scale offered by a standardized managed account platform.
Managed account platform providers report steady growth in inflows from institutional investors over the last several years, but stress that 2016 represents a pivotal point as pension fund, endowment, foundation and sovereign wealth fund trustees seek reassurance that hedge fund allocations are essential to the investment success of their asset pools.
“We're starting to see a pickup in interest in managed accounts which parallels negative press reports about hedge funds. Institutional investors need to justify why hedge funds fit into their portfolio and high fees. The pipeline of institutional RFPs ... is growing,” said Andrew S. Lapkin, CEO of HedgeMark International LLC, New York, which offers managed account services.
HedgeMark has seen a 203% increase in total assets on its platformto $8.8 billion in the two years ended Dec. 31. Dedicated managed account assets rose 253% to $3.4 billion in the period and accounted for 39% of 2015 total year-end assets. Liquid alternative managed account assets rose 177% in the same period, accounting for 61% of assets, according to data from HedgeMark. HedgeMark's platform was launched in 2012.
Bruce Keith, CEO of managed account platform provider Infrahedge Ltd., London, agreed that “if you look beyond the headlines, you'll see that many institutional investors are considering a move to managed accounts” in response to “governance requests from boards (of trustees) that are supportive of hedge fund investment but want to be sure that investment staff have both control and visibility — line-of-sight transparency — into hedge fund portfolio holdings.”
The highest volume of transfers into managed accounts is coming from North American institutions, Mr. Keith said, noting the most interesting part of the wave of inflows is the greater size of individual allocations, with more investments starting at $200 million per hedge fund manager than in the past.
“There is definitely appetite for managed accounts, especially if you have a lot of money to put to work,” said Peter Dom, managing director and founder of AF Advisors BV, Rotterdam, Netherlands, a consulting firm that specializes in advising institutional investors on the structure of managed account programs.
In fact allocation size — generally at least $75 million and more likely between $100 million and $300 million — is the most important determinant for a hedge fund managed account, sources said.
As with allocations to long-only active investment strategies, the larger the allocation, the more willing a hedge fund manager will be to drop fees below the 2% management fee/20% performance fee standard.
“If you bring between $100 million and $300 million to a hedge fund manager for a managed account, it's fair to get a better deal on pricing, but it can't be so low that it's not a win-win for the manager too,” Mr. Dom said.
Part of the fairness of a managed account structure is that the hedge fund manager can't charge non-investment operating expenses such as marketing or technology costs to the owner the way it can with a commingled fund, added Mr. Dom.
Other sources said that the overall blended savings negotiated for management and performance fees easily covers the cost for asset owners investing in hedge funds via a managed account platform, which ranges between 15 and 30 basis points per account, depending on the strategy and the hedge fund manager.