San Francisco Hedge Fund Industry Event

BAHR Panel Discussion on Global Investing Trends
By Bart Mallon of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP

The Bay Area Hedge Fund Roundtable convened again today at the Sens Restaurant in San Francisco to discuss the global investing trends and how those trends are affecting the hedge fund industry. The presentation was moderated by Ron Resnick (ConselWorks LLC) and included the following panel participants:

John Burbank (Passport Capital LLC)
John Shearman (Albourne America, LLC)
Matt Kratter (Kratter Capital LLC)
Patrick Wolff (Clarium Capital Management, LLC)

Overall the panel discussion was very interesting and I think that Ron did a very good job of moderating in a kind of “Meet the Press” type of way. The speakers all had interesting viewpoints and were able to keep the audience interested in the topics. Below I will give a very high level run-down of the major topics discussed – if anything does not make sense, it is likely a mistake in my hearing so please do not hold that against any of the speakers.

Additional note: this is not in any way an advertisement for any hedge fund and is not an offering of any interests in a hedge fund. I have never talked to any of the named speakers and everything I am writing below is on my own volition.*

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John Burbank

The discussion was started when Ron asked John was his fund was investing in. John said that he is now investing in the United States in the same stuff as he was before. However, he spent a good deal of time discussing liquidity and how it will affect investment decisions going forward. Central to his discussion were his views on deflation. He ended this part of the discussion by noting that governments (especially the U.S. government) has so many tools to effect the financial markets (in addition to simply printing money) and that many actions are driven by the current liquidity situation.

Matt Kratter

I infer that Matt started his own hedge fund last year because he was asked whether it was a good or a bad time to start a hedge fund within the last twelve months. He noted that it was not the best time to be on your own but that the times serve as a good proving ground that a manager can withstand market downslides. Matt talked about variability of inflation going forward and that he is currently net short. He thinks that multiples are likely to retract in the future.

John Shearman

John was asked whether investor’s hedge fund expectations have changed. He said that investor expectations have come down a bit, but beleives that the forcase for the future has never been better. Post 2008 he sees that there has been a shifting of power back to hedge fund investors and he mentioned two buzzwords – lower fees and transparency. While fees have not really come down recently, there have been huge gains made in expectations of transparency. This is especially true with regard to valuation and verification of assets. Hedge funds have made these changes and it is relatively easy for them to say yes to such requests (as opposed to requests for fee decreases).

John seemed to indicate that there is more opportunity for investors to come together and present a united front with regard to what they want to see in these vehicles, but it has just not happened. A central reason is that foundations and endowments (two of the largest groups of hedge fund investors) are not really in a position to be an agent of change because they are examining the funds they are already invested in. He also mentioned a general increase in separately managed accounts noting that the central driving force is the investor’s need for control of assets – liquidity without conditions.

Patrick Wolff

Patrick was asked point blank while his group did not do as well this year. He said that, unfortunately, they had the wrong investments this year and that the drawdown was not a result of their risk management policies and procedures. Patrick talked about macro themes including China, volitility, carry trades over the last year and the fundamentals of major government players (centrally China and the U.S.). He feels there is a current bubble in China which is likely to last in the near term. He thought that a major macro issue moving forward will be how the governments will continue to be involved in the credit markets. Patrick believes that the U.S. has huge off balance sheet liabilities.

Other Question and Answers

What are the major trends moving forward?

John Burbank – governments changing the rules of the game as it is being played. What is going to happen will be driven by governments subject to: the price of the dollar, commodities, or China.

Why did gold hit an all-time high today?

Matt Kratter – I don’t know, but this is a question which everyone is asking – even the garbageman.

How is capital flowing?

John Shearman – there are a lot of opportunities in hedge funds – lots of alpha and distressed assets. Macro discretionary is a good play right now and there is a lot of interest in commodities.

How is fund raising in this environment?

Matt Kratter – fundraising has been slow since last year but there is more activity at the margins. Fundraising will probably stay difficult for awhile.

Are investors more interested in the investment side or infrastructure side during due diligence conversations?

John Burbank – all investor due diligence is taking longer. Current investors are coming back and asking questions they should have asked earlier. It is now similar to 2003 – there is a lot of excitement. Which makes sense because investors essentially have three choices: mutual funds, do-it-yourself, or hedge funds.

[Someone mentioned that capital is not there for a start up and the question arose as to whether two guys and a Bloomberg really had a chance to raise capital in this environment. John said that start up managers should not be afraid to start out small – he started with about $1MM in AUM and slowly grew to $12MM after three years (his firm now manages over $2 billion). John emphasized that over time good managers will be able to demonstrate their strategy and if the numbers are good, investors will eventually find such managers.]

What about hedge fund regulation?

Patrick Wolff – over hedge fund regulation is not a huge deal. If you are registering with the SEC you are going to be required to do things that, as a good business, you should be doing anyway. The key to regulation is that it needs to be sensible. Regulation itself is not bad.

Questions from the audience

When Ron asked the audience if there were any questions there was a long pause. I eventually asked the panel what they thought about the headlines recently regarding the U.S. dollar and whether it would remain the world’s reserve currency. Patrick responded first that worry about the dollar is overhyped. However, he did note that his fund has had some investors request share classes in a different currency.** John noted the practical limitations of moving toward another currency and noted that if a government needs to get a billion U.S. dollars it can happen, but that wouldn’t be the case with other currencies.

Note on People Who I Met

After the panel there was time to discuss the presentation and do some networking. I had the distinct pleasure of talking with a number of people at the event, including:

  • Jenny West of Probitas Partners (fund placement services)
  • Mason Snyder of Catalina Partners (risk advisory to investment management industry)
  • Rosemary Fanelli of CounselWorks (regulatory consulting for financial institutions)
  • Ron Resnick of CounselWorks(regulatory consulting for financial institutions)
  • Maria Hall of M.D. Hall & Company (CPA services for small funds)

* If you are a named speaker and would like your name and information taken out of this article, please contact me.

** I am in the process of writing an article on this topic – if you are a hedge fund manager who wants to create another class of fund interests denominated in another currency, please feel free to contact me to discuss.

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Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP runs Hedge Fund Law Blog and has written most all of the articles which appear on this website.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund or register as an investment advisor, please contact us or call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-868-5345.  Other related hedge fund law articles include:

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