Shadow banks benefit from Wall Street’s red glare

September 27, 2010

Hedge fund types don’t have much to complain about. The latest evidence is Blackstone’s seeding of a new fund for commodity traders, led by George “Beau” Taylor, who are leaving Credit Suisse . With even foreign financial institutions in the U.S. wary of breaching the Volcker Rule, opportunities are coming the way of the non-bank system.

The writing is on the wall for the small groups of people who make bets with banks’ capital. Exploiting arbitrage opportunities in the commodities markets is an especially obvious form of proprietary trading. From Goldman Sachs down — or up, depending on how Wall Street’s top dog is viewed — prop traders, uncertain of their career paths thanks to the new U.S. rule, are on the lookout for fresh pastures.

Enter Blackstone, the private equity powerhouse which also operates advisory, real estate and hedge fund businesses. The epitome of what’s known as a shadow bank, the firm’s big fund of funds unit has “strategic alliance” funds for seeding new hedgies. Though private equity and hedge funds haven’t entirely escaped tighter controls, the regulatory spotlight on banks is making talent more readily available to alternative asset managers like Blackstone.

There’s even still the odd case of banks bringing hedgies new riches. The asset management division of Credit Suisse, ironically enough, recently forked out $425 million for a 30 percent stake in York Capital, headed by Jamie Dinan. The Swiss bank carefully noted that the deal was consistent with the Volcker Rule, which allows banks to own hedge fund management firms while limiting the investment of bank capital in the funds themselves.

It’s not all plain sailing. Ex-bank traders trying to start hedge funds on their own are struggling to raise capital. That means existing large funds and the likes of Blackstone are best placed to pick up talent fleeing Wall Street. And returns aren’t so easy to come by in the current directionless markets. For example, the poster child for commodities traders pushed out of banks, Andrew Hall — whose Phibro unit was hived off by Citigroup a year ago amid furor over his $100 million bonus — has seen his fund lose money this year.

Overall, though, the complaints during a town hall-style meeting this week of one hedge fund manager, Anthony Scaramucci of SkyBridge Capital, about being “whacked” by President Barack Obama just don’t wash. Hedge fund types should count their regulatory blessings.

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/