“2 And 20” Fading, Managers Need Big Assets Or Performance To Profit: Citi Prime Finance Survey

The business of hedge funds is caught between rising costs and falling management fees, holding little profit for managers who don’t perform. That’s one key finding from the second annual global survey of the economics of hedge funds in the just-released Citi Prime Finance 2013 Business Expense Benchmark Survey.

According to the survey, the traditional “2 and 20” model of investment manager compensation – 2% management fee and 20% of the profits -- has declined to fee levels as low as 1.58% of assets under management for all but the largest managers. As a result, hedge fund managers, unlike their counterparts in traditional, long-only funds, barely break even simply collecting fees. For example, after paying expenses, funds with $500 million in AUM realize operating margins of 69 basis points, rising to 82 basis points for a manager overseeing $900 million, survey data show.

“Fee compression continues to reshape the business of hedge funds, lowering fees even as expenses rise, all but eliminating fee-only operating margins, and raising the level of assets needed for a hedge fund business to succeed,” said Alan Pace, Global Head of Prime Brokerage and Client Experience. “And while it’s clear that there is little room for additional downward pressure on management fees, at current average fee levels, investor-manager interests are well aligned – both parties are focused on performance.”

“Our latest survey takes a deep dive into the business challenges of running a hedge fund,” said Sandy Kaul, Global Head of Business Advisory Services for Citi Prime Finance. “Today, a hedge fund needs at least $300 million in assets just to break even. The survey also uncovers dramatic regional differences in business and regulatory expenses.”

In this latest survey, Citi Prime Finance surveyed 124 hedge fund firms in North America, Europe and Asia representing $465 billion, more than 18% of total industry assets. Select findings of the new survey:

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