Should Asset Managers Hedge Their 'Fees at Risk'?
9 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2011
Date Written: December 23, 2010
Although the recent financial crisis afflicted all asset managers, the problem of general market exposure was in some respects worse for the long-only funds that rely almost completely on asset-based fees than for the 'absolute return' and other kinds of hedge funds that also receive performance-based fees. While the revenue generated by performance-based fees is expected to be volatile, asset-based fees tend to be viewed as an 'annuity' stream that involves little or no earnings risk. But, especially in the case of long-only funds, large shortfalls in asset fees were caused by the combination of significant redemptions and sharp reductions in assets under management that accompanied the plunge in asset prices. In this article, the author attempts to quantify the expected effect of market fluctuations on the asset fees and profitability of long-only asset managers. Having done so, he then argues that traditional long-only asset managers - managers whose only reason for being is their ability to generate above-market returns (or 'alpha') on a fairly consistent basis - routinely retain too much beta risk in their primarily asset-based fee structures. The author offers two main reasons for long-only asset managers to hedge beta risk: (1) it would reduce the need for fund management firms to hold liquid capital to ensure solvency and fund important projects during market downturns; (2) it would provide the firm's current and prospective clients with a clearer signal of whether its managers are succeeding in the firm's mission of generating alpha, as well as the possibility of more equity-like and cost-effective incentive compensation systems for those managers.
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