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Hedge Fund Benchmarking and Absolute Returns

Testing whether hedge fund portfolios add value

JAMES FISHER AND DAN COVICH, ASSOCIATE DIRECTORS, PAVILION ALTERNATIVES GROUP

How can we test whether a hedge fund programme is adding value to large institutional investor portfolios? This question has grown in importance since the financial crisis, as an eight-year equity bull market has made hedging unattractive. Frequently, hedge fund programmes are compared to the asset class they most resemble (for example, a hedge fund programme is sometimes compared to a long-only equity index, such as the MSCI All Country World Index). In this context, the performance of many hedge fund managers has lagged significantly since 2009. Given that hedge funds may have lower market exposures than a long-only equity benchmark, is this fair? If not, how should they be measured? We argue that a beta-matched mix of stocks and bonds is the most appropriate measuring stick for customized hedge fund programmes, as it compares them to the risk profile that investors could achieve using traditional markets.

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