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New Hedge Funds Offer Lower Fees but Hold Investments Tighter: Study

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Hedge funds that rolled out in 2015 offered investors discounted fees, and sometimes tiered management fees, as incentives to join their founders classes, Seward & Kissel, a law firm with offices in New York and Washington, reported this week.

At the same time, the new funds made it tougher for investors to redeem their assets.

“The 2015 study reveals a more even balance of power between hedge funds and investors,” lead author Steve Nadel, a partner in the firm’s investment management group, said in a statement.

“More funds found it necessary to lure initial investors with reduced fees, but at the same time, investors understood that many strategies warranted a longer redemption cycle.”

The study comprised 2015 hedge fund launches sponsored by new U.S.-based managers who were Seward & Kissel clients. The firm said the number of funds under consideration was large enough to extract a representative sample of important data points relevant to the hedge fund industry.

The study found that 35% of funds using equity-based strategies — but none of the non-equity funds — offered tiered management fee discounts, whereby fees decrease as assets increase, in their founders classes, up from 25% in the 2014 study.

This may be a nod to investor concerns, it said, but funds also tightened their redemption restrictions, with 88% allowing quarterly or less frequent redemptions, compared with 81% in 2014, and only 12% permitting monthly redemptions, down from 19% in 2014.

In addition, 88% of all funds had some form of lock-up or gate, compared with 85% in 2014.

According to the study, 80% of hedge funds used equity-related strategies last year, up from 73% in 2014 and 65% in 2013.

Seward & Kissel said the increase has been a major story in the industry over the last three years.

“The jury is out on how the Federal Reserve’s historic interest rate increase will impact fund strategies moving forward,’ Nadel said. “However, anecdotally, we’ve begun to see an uptick in debt-driven funds starting in 2016, and we’re hearing chatter in the market that there is an increased appetite for credit-driven strategies.”

In another finding, the study showed that the disparity in management fee rates between equity and non-equity strategies, which nearly disappeared in 2014, had resurfaced last year.

The rates of equity strategies were some 12 basis points higher than those of non-equity strategies, a reverse of prior years, when non-equity strategies typically were found to be higher.

Seward & Kissel’s latest study also uncovered a new trend with respect to seed deals. Although 68% of new funds started with some form of founders capital, seed deals also grew in popularity among allocators.

Internal data and conversations with industry insiders indicated that between 35 and 45 seed deals were executed in 2015. Many of these, it said, were unpublicized, one-off, opportunistic plays by lower profile investors.

Among other findings, the study found that sponsors of both U.S. and offshore funds set up master-feeder structures more than 95% of the time, mainly in the Cayman Islands.

In addition, no fund in the study engaged in general solicitations and advertising, which are now permitted under Securities Act Rule 506(c) of the JOBS Act.

— Check out Investors Like Real Estate, Private Equity in First Half on ThinkAdvisor.