PerTrac: Larger Hedge Funds Outperformed Smaller Ones In ‘08

May 28 2009 | 8:26am ET

The widely held belief that emerging hedge funds tend to outperform older and larger funds may no longer be a valid thesis, according to study released today by PerTrac Financial Solutions.

The study by the financial services giant, which examined hedge fund returns, volatility and risk, based on a fund’s age and size, saw a partial reversal of the trend of new managers producing better returns than established funds—at least when it comes to the size of a fund.*

“Last year was a difficult one for hedge funds of all ages and sizes, but once again we saw younger funds outperforming older ones, confirming our findings from earlier studies,” said Meredith Jones, managing director at PerTrac. “However, when it comes to hedge fund performance as a function of fund size, we saw a reversal of the trend established from 1996 through 2007. During 2008, funds with the least assets actually performed the worst, while larger funds posted better returns.”

The study reveals that small funds averaged a loss of -17.03% in 2008, while medium-sized and large funds fared better, with average losses of -16.04% and -14.10% for the year, respectively. However, over the full history of the indexes, from 1996 through 2008, small funds performed best, with an annualized return of 13.05% versus 9.99% for medium-sized funds and 9.28% for large funds. Along with its stronger returns, the small fund index also showed greater volatility over the 13-year period with an annualized standard deviation of 6.96% versus just 5.92% and 6.05% for the medium-sized and large fund indexes, respectively.

“There are several possible reasons why small funds underperformed their larger peers for the first time ever in 2008. Due to losses across the board, hedge funds experienced heavy redemption requests last year. Larger funds generally have more cash on hand and greater access to lines of credit than small funds, better enabling them to handle redemption requests without compromising their portfolios’ performance,” Jones said.

“The recent market crash also appears to have prompted a ‘flight to quality’ among investors, with surveys indicating that hedge fund investors have become more interested in larger, more ‘institutional’ funds. So it’s likely that smaller funds had to deal with relatively greater redemptions than did their larger peers,” Jones said. “We also noted a larger differential in the number of large managers reporting in both the prior and current studies, with a larger percentage of small managers participating in both updates. As a result, there is heavier survivor bias in the large fund group. Other possible reasons include infrastructure considerations, greater reliance on beleaguered prime brokers, and larger redemptions from poor performers pushing more managers into lower asset bands.”

However, Jones emphasized that one year’s worth of data doesn’t add up to a trend.

“It will be interesting to see whether the small funds’ underperformance in 2008 proves to be a short-term exception to the rule or the start of an official trend,” she said.

*As in past studies, PerTrac conducted two different analyses: one based on a fund’s asset size, and the other based on a fund’s age. Monthly hedge fund returns were compiled from leading hedge fund databases and analyzed using the proprietary PerTrac Analytical Platform software. In each analysis, funds were re-categorized into one of three assets under management (AUM) size groups: up to $100 million; $100 million to $500 million; and over $500 million. The funds were also categorized into one of three age groups: up to two years; two to four years; and over four years. The mean fund return was calculated for each group in each month, creating three size-based monthly indexes and three age-based monthly indexes. Various risk and return statistics were calculated on the returns of each index to evaluate historical performance, and Monte Carlo simulations were run on each index to indicate probable ranges of future returns and drawdowns.


PerTrac’s 2008 Emerging Managers Study Update

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