Historically, prime brokerage was relegated to a few of the very large Wall Street investment houses – the Goldmans, Merrills, Bears and Lehmans. Many of these firms provided prime brokerage services to the very large hedge funds. However, these firms could not provide the comprehensive trading services required by smaller hedge funds because the relationships were not as profitable as the relationships with larger hedge funds. Eventually the large prime brokers began to neglect the smaller hedge funds (those with less than $50 or $100 million in assets) which made way for the “mini-prime brokers.”
Mini-prime brokers are registered broker-dealers that essentially act as introducing firms to the prime brokers and handle the front end relationship while the trading, execution, clearing and custody are handled through the back end of the large prime brokerage firms. Mini-prime brokers fill an important niche for smaller hedge funds who desire better support services than the discount or online brokerages provide, but who are not yet big enough to get the very personalized services that bigger funds receive from the large prime brokers.
Types of Instruments
Mini-prime brokers have access to the same investments as the large prime brokerage firms, including stocks, bonds, options, futures and foreign exchange. Additionally, mini-primes have access to the executing primes short box so that managers can short as well as go long.
Access to Soft Dollars and Trading Platforms
In addition to brokerage and custody, many mini-prime brokers also provide small and start-up managers with many additional services. Such services may include soft dollar services, operational services, back office services and potentially even capital introduction services. Many of the mini-prime brokers will also provide their customers with complementary access to many of the most popular trading platforms like REDIPlus, Bloomberg and Neovest. Each mini-prime will be able to provide different services and execution prices and a hedge fund manager should talk with a few before making a decision.
For a start-up or small hedge fund manager, a mini-prime will be a better choice than the large prime broker. In general, a mini-prime can provide all the same services that a large prime broker can, and the mini-prime will probably be able to better respond to a small manager’s needs. Fund investors are also more comfortable with the fact that custody of the hedge fund’s assets will also be maintained at the large brokerage firm.
A hedge fund attorney will be able to provide a start-up manager with referrals for prime and mini-prime brokerage services. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like recommendations for hedge fund mini-prime brokers. Other HFLB articles: