Marketing for Hedge Funds and Funds of Funds

With an estimated 4,100 unique single manager hedge funds and more than 1,200 funds of funds, the atmosphere for raising capital perhaps has never been so competitive. Banned from advertising by the Securities and Exchange Commission, emerging hedge funds and funds of funds must find other avenues for acquiring assets. Luckily, there are four strong avenues for smaller funds to find investors: commercial and proprietary databases, industry publications, internal or third party marketing agents and word of mouth. With the proper preparation, hedge funds and funds of funds can take advantage of these capital-raising opportunities and steadily grow their assets under management.

Commercial and Proprietary Databases

Perhaps the easiest way to widely disseminate information on your hedge fund is the data vendor. Hedge fund databases first burst on the scene in 1990, when Antoine Bernheim started publishing the U.S. Offshore Funds Directory. In 1994, MAR and HFR began printing their own directories. But on May 29th, 1997, what is arguably one of the most important events in hedge fund history took place. That day the SEC issued its no action letter to Lamp Technologies, Inc., giving Lamp and others that would later rely on this letter the ability to disseminate information on 3(c)1 and 3(c)7 SEC exempt entities on password protected internet sites. Alex Shoegren launched soon thereafter, and was followed by Tass, Altvest, HFR and others. Below, you will find a list of the major commercial and proprietary databases.

Hedge Fund Data Vendors

Company Web Site
Barclay's Global HedgeSource
CISDM (formerly MARHedge )
Eurekahedge Asian Hedge Fund Database
Hedge Fund Intelligence(Bank of Bermuda/AsiaHedge, InvestHedge and EuroHedge databases)
Hedge Fund Research (HFR)
Morgan Stanley Capital International
U.S. Offshore Funds Directory
Van Hedge Fund Advisors is perhaps the most widely used database currently available. In fact, in a survey conducted by PerTrac in 2002, more than 70% of alternative investors responding subscribe to the However, many investors recognize that one data source isn't sufficient to capture the entire hedge fund universe. In the same survey, more than 67% of respondents used one or more pay databases, available for between $3,000 and $7,000. However, few investors subscribe to more than 3 databases. This makes it imperative for managers interested in capital introduction to make their data available to as many data vendors as possible. In addition, you should not overlook proprietary databases like those of Van Hedge Fund Advisors, LJH and the Hennessee Group. These organizations, and others like them, maintain internal databases for their consulting clients and proprietary products. Inclusion in a company's proprietary database may the only way to be considered for an investment from that company or their clients.

Once you have elected to make your data available, it is crucial that you keep it up to date and complete. Most investors will screen a database based on a set end-date. For example, an investor screening for new funds in early February may screen only those funds whose data is up to date through December. If you information is not updated, you are out of the game before it even begins. You should also attempt to include as much information as possible in the database. Do not assume that investors are not interested in information such as assets under management, service providers, etc. Those could be important factors in their data screening process.

Industry Publications

Industry publications have also proliferated wildly since the early 1990s. Some of the more well-known publications include, Hedge Fund Alert, Infovest 21, Alternative Investment News, Albourne Village, HedgeWorld, EuroHedge and others. These publications often publish short articles on new fund developments and are read by hundreds of potential investors. If you are opening a new fund, hiring personnel, or moving to a new location, it might behoove you to make this information available to one or more of these publications. Some publishers, including EuroHedge and MARHedge, even list funds and performance in their monthly publications. Others, like Infovest21, have gone so far as to schedule regular mini-conferences to introduce managers to prospective clients.

Internal and Third Party Marketers

Given the competitive atmosphere for capital introduction, many hedge funds and funds of funds have elected to create a dedicated marketing staff. As direct employees of the company, these professionals provide both capital introduction as well as client servicing functionality. In return, most require both a base salary and a share of the performance fee. Additionally, the hedge fund or fund of funds manager must provide workspace, travel expenses and benefits to the internal marketer.

For managers who desire the services of a capital introduction professional, but who do not have the budget or space for an internal marketer, a third party marketing firm may be the solution. A third party marketer provides capital introduction, and more limited client service, in exchange for a percentage of the management and incentive fee or of assets raised. These fees range from 10% to 20% of fees or from 25 to 100 basis points of assets placed. The manager is not responsible for normal business expenses (travel, computer and office equipment, etc.), and therefore has no upfront or ongoing capital commitment until the third party marketer brings in an investor. Additionally, cap intro fees may sometimes be paid with soft dollars, which provides additional relief to an emerging manager.

Both internal and external marketers will be responsible for introducing new prospective investors to the fund. This may be accomplished by contacting current or past clients, or by networking at conferences and other industry events. In general, marketers will register potential prospects with the manager to "claim" them as clients. This guarantees that payment is made on appropriate clients, as well as to eliminate the possibility of duplicate effort.

Finally, many prime brokers offer capital introduction services for their clearing clients. These services range from the most basic marketing to full-blown conferences where managers can meet a significant number of potential investors at one time.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth, once the only way to find out about new managers, remains a mainstay of the industry today. Conferences afford great opportunities to network with investors, consultants and funds of funds in an attempt to find new investors and create a positive buzz. Some of the major conference organizers include the following:

Company Web Site
Information Management Network
Institute for International Research (also ICBI - Offshore arm of IIR) /

Many of these and other conferences offer exhibition opportunities, as well as speaking engagements, to hedge fund and fund of funds managers. Still others organize investor "roundtable" events, designed to bring managers and investors together. Investment in a conference can be steep, however. Unless you are invited as a "free" speaker, you can expect to pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for the pleasure of presenting your fund or manning an exhibit booth. In addition, you will be responsible for all travel expenses. Still, carefully selected conferences can be highly beneficial to new and emerging managers.

Building Performance Reports that Get Results

With competition keen, attracting the attention of investors is hard work. And, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Likewise, client retention is critical to the long-term success of your firm. For these reasons, it is imperative that marketing materials (particularly performance reports) are as attractive and informative as possible. They must be built to tell your story in the most compelling fashion and to highlight your particular strengths. To build a good performance report, it is crucial to understand the statistics you use, to showcase your competitive advantages, to select appropriate benchmarks, to include market and portfolio commentary, as well as important investment information. Finally, you must be willing to provide multiple delivery methods that suit every potential investor's style.

Understand the Statistics

The first stage of building a high quality performance report is to choose relevant statistics and to calculate them correctly. Most investors expect to see the following statistics on a performance report:

Monthly Returns
Annual Returns
Compound Annual Return
Annualized Standard Deviation
Sharpe Ratio
Drawdown Analysis
Correlation to Benchmarks

While this article is not intended to be a lesson on statistics, it is important that all of these statistics are calculated correctly and according to industry standards. For a voice-accompanied presentation on investment statistics, please visit In addition, you will also find formulas for calculating common investment statistics.

Once you have covered the basics in your report, you may want to consider showcasing your fund through the use of additional statistics. For example, many investors started their investment careers in the traditional world, where high standard deviation is always defined as "bad." However, as we all know, standard deviation is nothing more than a measure of predictability; a fund can have a high standard deviation and never post a losing year, or can have a low standard deviation and consistently lose money every year. If upside volatility has left you with a high standard deviation, and, as a result, your Sharpe ratio is not what you hoped, you may want to consider also including your Sortino ratio on your report. The Sortino ratio is based on downside deviation, or volatility below a certain minimum acceptable return, rather than your entire return spectrum. The figure below illustrates the basic concept of downside deviation. Using a minimum acceptable return of 10%, the downside deviation of this investment considers only those returns below the green line - our MAR.

Once you have calculated your downside deviation, you can then calculate the Sortino ratio of your fund by using the following formula.

Another statistic you may want to consider is your percent profitable months. Perhaps your fund has had some large drawdowns. To distract attention from this blemish, you might emphasize that you fund performs well in most months..Simarly, by displaying rolling return calculations, you can encourage investors to look at the entire track record, rather than arbitrary 12-month periods.

Although you cannot hide from the realities of your fund's track record, providing a variety of relevant statistics in a well-designed performance report will go a long way toward insuring that you make it to the second round of due-diligence.

Showcase Competitive Advantages

It is, however, important to remember that most statistics are intended to be used comparative measures rather than absolute numbers. For this reason, it is often helpful to put your numbers in perspective by incorporating thoughtful peer group analysis into your presentation. In its most basic form, peer group analysis is nothing more than percentile rankings. Using these percentile breakpoints, you can determine how your fund ranks against peers on a number of different statistical factors. Now, instead of simply saying that a fund has a compound annual return of 14.1%, you might be able to say that the fund is within the top 20% of the managers within your particularstrategy. This kind of analysis makes a much more powerful impression on a potential or current investor.

Be sure to run peer group analysis on a number of statistical factors. A fund may be at the bottom of its peer group for returns, but may rank among the most attractive funds with regard to volatility (as measured by standard deviation and downside deviation). This would make your fund a prime target for those investors who desire a cash management alternative. Another fund may rank at the bottom of its peer group for standard deviation and Sharpe ratio, but may lead its peers in annualized returns. There is an investor appetite out there for just about every return profile. It is up to you to understand your profile and use it to your best advantage.

Select Appropriate Benchmarks

Prospective investors want to know how your fund's performance history compares to relevant benchmarks. To that end, you do not want to benchmark a long/short equity fund to T-bills, an Asian fund to the S&P 500, or technology fund to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Take care in selecting your benchmarks, looking for those that provide the closest comparison to your fund, not just those with which investors may be familiar. Consider using a strategy specific hedge fund index (available from most of the major index providers), as well as a market benchmark and, if available, a long-only (mutual fund) benchmark.

Include Market and Portfolio Commentary

Statistics alone do not tell the complete story. No performance report is complete without market and portfolio commentary to put the numbers in perspective. Your market and portfolio commentary should include such information as:

  • What is your view of the market? Where has it been? Where is it going?
  • How has the fund been positioned to profit from market conditions? What changes (if any) will be made going forward?
  • What positions have worked well in the past month? What was done with those positions? Are they still being held? Were they pared back? What about the "losers" in the portfolio?
  • What are the largest positions within the portfolio? Why were these positions selected?

It is important to provide a certain level of transparency within your performance report so potential investors can get an accurate picture of your fund and strategy. However, it is incumbent upon you to determine how much transparency you are willing to provide. Many short sellers, for example, list industry breakdowns rather than individual positions in their reports, to avoid the possibility of a short squeeze. Others list positions only after they have been exited. You must make a decision on transparency early in the life of your fund, and then stick to it. If you change anything about the information provided, it should always be to provide more, not less.

Include Investment and Contact Data

It is alsoa good idea to provide an outline of the fund's structure and full contact data on every performance report. That means listing your entry and exit dates, lock ups, notice period, minimum investment, fees and service providers, as well as full contact details for primary personnel. Without this information handy, investors are forced to search through your confidential offering memorandum and other documentation, which can only lead to frustration and perhaps thwart investments.

Provide Multiple Modes of Delivery

Investors are curious creatures. They want maximum information with minimal effort, and each may define this differently. Some investors will always want hard paper copies of your performance reports physically delivered by mail. Others will demand Adobe .pdf versions in their email in-box. Still others may want to simply log on to a website to view information at their leisure. It is up to the fund manager to provide access to information in a variety of ways to meet every investor's demands.

Finally, marketing materials should look like they took time to produce. However, you want to minimize the time required to construct the template and refresh the materials with each month's updated information. Luckily, there are several software options available to make performance analysis and reporting very efficient.

Performance is important, but image is everything. How many times have you seen managers with superior performance fail to attract investor attention? Make no mistake; attractive, well-presented marketing materials are a necessary ingredient to the ultimate success of your fund's marketing efforts. These guidelines will help you tell your unique story in the most effective way. The rest is hard work and persistence on the part of your marketing representative.