Europe's latest television export features an accented Austrian discussing his financial acumen while warning that the government is listening in.
"The Viennese Bachelor?" No, it's
Quadriga Investment Group
bringing its Superfund advertisements to U.S. television. While the spots are moody and alluring, cable viewers shouldn't expect to learn much about the business of the fund's manager from the commercials.
For Quadriga, a firm that has aggressively courted retail investors in Europe, the new advertisements are a sort of d¿tente with the U.S. regulations that ban hedge funds from advertising themselves -- or even mentioning their performance figures.
Quadriga wants to bring hedge fund strategies to the little guy, and will take them into their Superfund managed futures fund with a $5,000 minimum investment. The fund is sold as shares in a limited partnership, registered with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
. It's a big contrast from most U.S. hedge funds, which are lightly regulated private investment partnerships restricted to the very wealthiest investors. Minimum investments generally range between $250,000 and $1 million.
The Quadriga fund is not subject to the same restrictions, but does impose "suitability requirements." Investors need a minimum liquid net worth of $150,000 and an annual income of $45,000, though these requirements vary among states. California, for example, requires a net worth of $500,000 and a $150,00 annual income for investing in a futures traded limited partnership.
While the fund is called a managed futures fund in the United States, it uses the same "black box" computer trading model as Quadriga's other 17 hedge funds. The firm trades currencies, commodities, bonds and indexes, though investors will need to do a bit of work before they find that out.
The black and white, 30-second spots began airing today on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and ESPN. Far from breaking ground, the commercial will probably make their strongest impression for what they can't say.
Rather than describe the Superfund, firm founder Christian Baha spotlights its mystery, and sends potential investors to the Internet to learn more.
"My name is Christian Baha," he observes. "I am the founder of the Superfund, a managed futures fund. You probably have no idea what a managed futures fund is, or any idea it's available for American investors. I would love to tell you more about Superfund, but regulations prevent me from describing it on television."
Last December, the SEC told Quadriga to remove the words "hedge fund" from its Superfund prospectus.
National Association of Securities Dealers
prohibits fund management companies from listing their performance in advertisements, which explains why Quadriga had to redo its campaign for the U.S. market.
Its European ads show a Formula One racecar sporting the company logo, a pit crew member holding a sign that reads 23% (a recent performance figure for the European version of the Superfund), and a soothing voiceover that promises "You can always win with Quadriga."
Baha said it took more than a year to find ad language that would satisfy U.S. regulators, but that a successful advertising campaign would help bring more money into the $30 million fund, which launched last November with seed capital of $2 million.
Quadriga has about $1.1 billion under management worldwide, with about 30,000 investors. It's not cheap -- Quadriga charges a 25% annual performance fee and a 1.85% annual management fee.
Last year, the Managed Futures Association, a lobbying group for the hedge fund industry, asked the SEC to allow hedge funds to run "tombstone advertisements," which would give the name of a fund, the type of securities it trades and contact information. The SEC has taken no action on the matter to date.