Money managers under the microscope
It’s fashionable now for leading economists and financial wizards to claim that they saw the credit crunch coming and the kind of dislocation it would create. But how many have predicted where the next implosion will occur?
Dr Andrew Lo, founder of hedge fund firm AlphaSimplex, and director of the MIT laboratory for financial engineering, has spent his career studying market behaviour, publishing papers examining why quant funds imploded in August 2007, and trying to reconcile behavioural economics with efficient market theory.
He sees the next big meltdown in commercial mortgages, but this time it’s pensions funds that will bear the brunt of the losses rather than banks. Lo points out that commercial mortgages have been packed and sold in the same way as residential mortgages – different levels of risk exposure sliced and diced and wrapped up together in one package with a triple A rating slapped on top.
But commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS) are facing the same liquidity problems as RMBS following the sub-prime meltdown. When mortgages start to reset at higher rates this year the defaults will pile up and the losses will hit the end-investor – in this case, large pension funds in the US, Europe and Japan, says Lo.
The worst financial crisis in 80 years has tarnished many previously sparkling reputations.
In fund management, as in banking, many managers who previously looked like the shrewdest around were left looking like investors who could profit well enough in a bull market, or even during the dotcom bust, but just couldn’t deliver the goods when times got really tough.
Most hedge funds agree that the credit crisis has thrown up some interesting assets at bargain-basement prices, particularly in credit markets.
The timing of the Alternative Investment Management Association’s hedge fund disclosure initiative indicates just how strong the winds of change are blowing in hedge fund land.
Coming just a day after ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet called the credit crisis “a loud and clear call” for extending hedge fund regulation, the move shows the hedge fund industry feels it must be more active in deciding the future shape of regulation.
Ladies and Gentlemen: you may leave your ball gowns and tuxedos at home tonight.
That’s the message the badly battered hedge fund industry is sending its managers, lawyers and accountants who are planning to attend Hedge Funds Care, one of the industry’s most successful charity events in New York on Wednesday evening.
In the wake of the industry’s 19 percent loss last year, organizers scrapped the annual black-tie dinner in favor of a cocktail party, Kathryn Conroy, the charity’s executive director said.