Avoid “Hedge Fund Clones”

I suppose you can’t fault Wall Street for catering to demand, but as I explained a few years ago hedge fund clones are ridiculous investments. Nevertheless, the WSJ reports investors are still lining up for these offerings and banks are still rolling out new ones.

While most clones have so far generally kept pace with broad hedge-fund indexes, their performance has been all over the map. Between March 2008 and Sept. 30 of this year, clones studied by researchers at Haute Ecole de Gestion in Geneva and Bank Julius Baer & Co. delivered annualized returns ranging from -21% to 6%. And some clones this year have sharply underperformed broad hedge indexes. State Street’s Premia Fund was up less than 2% in the first 10 months of this year, compared with a 10% gain for the HFRI Fund of Funds Composite Index.

Even Andrew Lo, one of the originators of the “clone” concept, and current manager of a replication fund, has to admit that this concept is missing a big piece of the game:

Being restricted to easily traded holdings, replicators may not capture a big chunk of hedge-fund performance. Anywhere from 10% to 60% of hedge-fund returns may come from a premium earned by holding illiquid assets….

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