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Hedge funds turn to relative values

As alternative managers struggle to make absolute returns in difficult markets, they’re trying to get their investors to judge them on relative performance measures. It’s a fundamental change for the industry, but can it halt an expected flood of redemptions?

Hedge funds have been accused of lots of things over the years. Being too open and honest is rarely, if ever, among them.

But with investment returns proving hard to come by, many hedge funds are being forced to placate nervous investors by giving them more information than ever before about exactly how they go about making money.

In conversations with leading figures, a picture emerges of a business populated with a depressed group of former high-flyers who are as uncertain about the future as everybody else.

The stereotype of the brash, hard-charging hedge fund manager, investing with flair and verve, has seldom seemed as flawed.

Dwindling performance as a result of geopolitical and market volatility means that absolute returns, for so long the holy grail for hedge funds – not to mention their promise to investors – are rare.

Instead, managers and their investors have had to settle for relative returns. The question then is how long before investors conclude that a hedge fund posting anything other than absolute returns – those uncorrelated with the wider market – is no longer worth the outsized fees they charge compared with more traditional investors.

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