09.24.2013
By Terry Flanagan

Hedge Funds to Family Offices

The trend of regulation-wary hedge-fund managers converting to family offices may have legs.

“Regulatory oversight has been a tsunami, and it’s not going away,” said Bijesh Amin, managing director at Indus Valley Partners, a provider of services for hedge funds. “There’s a new ripple or wave every year.”

The shift to the family-office model has been a seismic one, as hedge-fund titans George Soros, Stanley Druckenmiller, and Carl Icahn have converted funds to family offices. Those quaint-sounding entities may manage billions of dollars just as hedge funds do, but the key difference is that family offices don’t invest on behalf of others, and are therefore not subject to the same requirements for disclosure and investor protection.

Hedge funds have faced tough sledding in the half-decade since the financial crisis, amid higher costs and scarcer alpha. For some funds, regulatory demands for more reporting and transparency are the last straw. “It may be better to liquidate and start something more parochial,” Amin told Markets Media.

Some investors who came into hedge funds as limited partners at inopportune times felt they’d been taken advantage of.  In a family office structure, “they’ll have a lot more control,” said Amin.

Soros, for one, will manage the capital they currently have after they’ve already made their money. Other managers may determine that in the absence of an exit mode, it will just be themselves, as Amin noted that a family office does not need an exit plan.

“I’ve got clients who need help with regulatory requirements in the U.S. and Europe asking, ‘if we manage $10 billion, and $6 billion is our own, is it worth it if no one will let us trade in peace?’” Amin said.

Indus Valley Partners’ clients include 15 of the top 50 global hedge funds, according to Amin. Of IVP’s sixty or so hedge fund and private equity clients, about 10% have indicated an interest in shifting to a family office structure, Amin said.

Besides the ability to run funds out of the public spotlight, other incentives are financial and operational efficiencies – compensation fee savings and the ability to leverage third party technology and data services in the cloud.

Amin offered several points for consideration for hedge fund operators “decomposing” into family offices. “Cherry-pick your best people from IT, operations and accounting – maybe not your hedge fund CTO,” because the operational scale is going to be much smaller in a hands-on family office enterprise, he said.

Leverage custodian and prime back relationships for better pricing and access and automated portfolio margin management, and depending on scale, the family office might be able to access the data warehouse and achieve better financing rates and rebates, he added.

“Keep multiple prime-broker relationships,” as they offer better rates, though proper infrastructure will be needed by the family office team for multiple feeds. “Go from six or seven prime broker relationships to maybe three or four – make sure you have control in order to compare rates and balances,” he suggested.

And, a family office needs an enterprise-ready accounting system to rely on its own net asset value and other accounting and record-keeping activities. Hosted, cloud, or remotely-deployed services can be brought to bear, and a turnkey-ready system can help keep the operational overhead in check, Amin said.

 

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