Should a start-up hedge fund have an audit?

Question: Should a start-up hedge fund have an audit?

Answer: This is a question which we will get very often for funds that aim to launch on July 1 or later.  While there is generally no legal requirement for a hedge fund to have their performance results audited, a vast majority of hedge funds have their returns audited because it will aid in the marketing efforts by lending credibility to performance results.

With regard to this question, and as with most business-issue oriented hedge fund questions, the answer is going to depend on the manager’s program and what the manager plans to accomplish during the first 6, 12 and 18 months of operations.

Generally, first year hedge fund manager’s are going to need to focus on costs. Not only from a cash flow perspective, but also from a return perspective. Any costs (which the fund bears) affect performance. Accordingly, many start-up hedge fund managers may forgo an audit of the fund’s track record during the first year. The manager then may have the fund audited after the end of the fund’s second year. A manager might consider doing this in a couple of situations. The first situation is when the fund starts trading during mid-year or later. In this instance it will probably not make a lot of sense to have an audit for fund operations of less than one year. An exception to this generality is if you have a decent amount of AUM and you are looking to begin courting institutional investors. If this is the case, then it will generally be a good idea to have an audit.

The second situation when a start-up hedge fund manager might not choose to have an audit after the first year is if the manager has a longer term hedge fund incubation program. This might be the case if the hedge fund manager has a longer term trading strategy (buy and hold) or when the manager does not plan to seek institutional money during the second year. Many managers will go with this slow and steady approach to asset raising in order to understand the back end operations of their fund. As noted in numerous places, one of the main reasons why hedge funds fail is inadequate back office operations.

If a start-up hedge fund manager plans to start with a larger asset base, say $10 million or more, and plans to aggressively court the institutional market during the first half of the coming year, then it might be wise to think about an audit. While the decision to forgo a first year audit is strictly a business decision, it is recommended that you discuss this decision with both your legal team and your potential auditor.  Additionally, if you will be using the services of a third party marketer, you will want to discuss this decision with the third party marketer.

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