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Capital Markets

Structured products on hedge funds grow

Banks are trying, with mixed success so far, to interest institutional investors in structured products based on funds of hedge funds and hedge fund indices. For institutions that have been slow to obtain approval for alternative investments, structured products offer a quick fix. But suspicion abounds.

Averaging out excellence

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MOST BANKS ARE eager to hitch their wagons to the hedge fund gravy train. Many are building up prime brokerage services and some are considering following in JPMorgan's footsteps by buying hedge fund businesses. Another avenue for banks to profit from investors' continuing interest is to offer structured products based on funds of hedge funds and, more recently, hedge fund indices.

Traditionally, such products have been popular with high-net-worth individual investors but banks are increasingly looking to institutional investors. The high-net-worth market requires a third-party distributor, so the banks give up some of their margins. Selling to institutions cuts out the middleman.

Other banks are one large group of potential customers. But pension funds might be harder to win over. And consultants are suspicious that banks are trying to charge for protection on structured products that investors should not need.

Quick fix

Investment in structured products based on hedge funds, funds of hedge funds and indices is estimated at about $150 billion. Eynour Boutia, vice-president in the structured alternative investments team at JPMorgan, says: "We have seen strong growth in this area of the business."

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