Friday, October 19, 2012

Travers, Hedge Fund Analysis

Investors who are thinking about handing over a portion of their assets to a hedge fund manager are often at a loss about where to turn. Some of the legendary funds have either closed or are not accepting new outside money. A lot of funds are underperforming duds. A few are frauds. New funds that often outperform are unknown quantities. What is an individual investor (admittedly, one with a fair amount of time on his hands) or a professional responsible for allocating institutional money to do? For starters, he can read Frank J. Travers’s Hedge Fund Analysis: An In-Depth Guide to Evaluating Return Potential and Assessing Risks (Wiley, 2012) and learn how to become his own due diligence analyst.

The first step is to troll through hedge fund databases, some available at no cost, screening for potential candidates. Let’s say you want an equity long/short fund in the U.S. with a minimum three-year track record, annualized return in the top quartile of its peers, minimum assets under management of $250 million, and reasonable liquidity terms. You can narrow the field substantially with just these parameters. Making some qualitative judgments here and there, let’s assume that you manage to whittle the funds down to just five for further review. Your real work is about to begin as you evaluate which fund is the best fit with your total portfolio of investments.

Travers chooses one of these funds, which he dubs Fictional Capital Management, as his case study. He analyzes it from start to finish, including mock interviews with key investment personnel and an operational review. The analysis is exhaustive.

In fact, the book is so detailed that I’m sure even the least astute analyst could successfully use it as a complete cheat sheet (or, the less tainted word, template) in performing his own due diligence. Travers has performed a real service for anyone who is trying to find the right hedge fund to add to his portfolio.

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