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Hedge fund assets to grow faster in 2014, says Credit Suisse survey

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Institutional investors are predicting increased rates of growth in hedge fund assets in 2014, according to the Credit Suisse’s sixth annual Hedge Fund Investor Survey.

“Onwards and Upwards”, which presents the views of some 500 respondents representing USD1.16trn of hedge fund investments, analyses a number of topics including growth and return prospects for the industry; strategy preference and allocations plans; and appetite for day one Investments and new launches.
Robert Leonard, managing director and global head of capital services at Credit Suisse, says: “Institutional investors predicted hedge fund industry assets under management to grow even faster this year by an average of 12 per cent, to reach an all-time high of USD2.8trn, with an upper quartile forecast of USD3trn. If accurate, this updated forecast would mean at least an additional USD300bn for the industry in 2014, coming from both performance and new capital inflows.  Investors were also more optimistic about performance of the overall hedge fund industry, increasing their expectations for returns this year.
“In this year’s survey we witnessed some dramatic swings in investor preferences, such as the increase in appetite for event-driven strategies, while interest in emerging markets strategies declined.  Additionally, there were also strong shifts along regional lines, as investors indicated a higher level of interest in both Europe and Japan.  At the same time, investors are also cognizant of potential issues such as capacity constraints and a crowded trading environment that could affect the industry in the coming year.”  
Interest in event driven strategies reflected the greatest year-on-year increase in demand, nearly doubling from the prior year. More strikingly, none of our respondents expect to decrease their allocations to the strategy, reflecting a unanimous vote of confidence. This level of increased interest was matched in magnitude only by the drop in appetite for emerging markets, which fell precipitously.
The notably positive momentum for equity long/short continued for a second year as investors cite significant ongoing interest, pointing to an environment ripe for stock selection with decreased correlations and higher dispersions of returns.
Despite modest returns for the past two years, global macro continues to remain relevant. It was forecast to be among the top three best performing strategies in 2014 and demand for discretionary macro stood out in particular as an area of focus for investors this year.
When asked about the impact of fee reductions, investors cited a strong preference for management fee discounts to incentive fee discounts by a magnitude of 3:1. The inclusion of hurdle rates was also highlighted by a third of investors as their preferred fee structure incentive.
In terms of regional preferences, developed Europe (43 per cent) and Japan (33 per cent) were the clear winners, with the largest net demand from investors going into this year.  North American strategies also enjoyed a positive view from investors with 15 per cent net demand, up marginally from the 2013 survey. The view on emerging markets was less positive, with only 10 per cent net demand, reflecting a notable decline from the 42 per cent demand cited in last year’s survey.
Additionally, equity long/short sector funds made a strong showing in this year’s survey.  In particular, both TMT and financials appeared in the top 10 strategies ranked by net demand.  Other sectors showing positive, though lesser, net demand included consumer/retail, real estate and utilities.    
Investors continue to show strong, though selective, appetite for those new hedge funds launches deemed to be of institutional quality.  Terms appear to be real game changers in this space as 40 per cent of investors are open to investing in a new fund with a Founder’s Share class, while only 11 per cent indicated interest in a seed investment with economic interests and a fewer six per cent would be a day one investor without any economic concessions.
Investors anticipate potential capacity constraints to develop, as some fund managers return money and/or close to new capital, while others decide to leave the business completely.  Some respondents also indicated that this could be an opportunity for newer and mid-sized funds to raise additional capital this year.
There has also been a shift in Investors’ top concerns – regulation dropped from a top two concern last year to fifth this, perhaps in part because investors feel managers have incorporated many of the recent regulations into their business models.
Taking its place this year, investors cited crowded trades/herd behaviour, risk complacency and funds chasing equity markets as being their top three concerns. Crowded trades retained its place as the top concern of investors from last year, and investors appear to be indicating that market measures of risk may not reflect true risk, having added risk complacency this year.
The size of funds continues to be a factor in allocations – with the percentage that can invest capital to funds over USD100m twice those who can allocate to those under USD50m.  Therefore, USD100m still seems like a key benchmark, at least for many investors.

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