As y’all recover from the excesses of fried turkeys, stuffed stockings, too much ‘nog and an overdose of family time, it seems like a good time to catch up on some light reading. So, in case you missed them, here are my 2015 blogs arranged by topic so you can sneak in some snark before you ring in the New Year.

Happy reading and best wishes for a joyous, profitable, and humorous 2016.

 Happy Holidays from MJ Alts!

Happy Holidays from MJ Alts!

HEDGE FUND TRUTH ANIMATED SERIES

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/6/29/hedge-fund-truth-series-hedge-fund-fees

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/6/1/the-most-hated-profession-on-earth

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/3/2/the-hedge-fund-truth-launching-and-running-a-small-fund

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/1/19/savetheemergingmanager

WOMEN AND INVESTING

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/12/13/dear-santa

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/11/16/not-so-fast-times-at-hedge-fund-high

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/9/25/doing-well-doing-good-improving-investment-diversity

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/7/26/the-evolution-of-a-female-fund-manager

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/6/10/advice-to-the-future-women-of-finance

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/4/27/diversification-and-alpha-by-the-book

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/4/20/excusa-paloosa-the-sad-excuses-we-give-to-avoid-small-funds-gender-diversity

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/3/8/whats-in-a-name-what-manager-names-tell-us-about-diversity

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/1/26/dont-listen-to-greg-weinstein

EVERYONE HATES ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENTS (ESPECIALLY HEDGE FUNDS)

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/12/7/keen-delight-in-the-misfortune-of-hedge-fundsand-me

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/2/2/mfp1glk0exk0vlnqtpx6lby2ba9z8n

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/11/23/babelfish-for-hedge-funds-1

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/11/8/hedge-funds-bad-reputation

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/10/5/dear-hedgie

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/9/9/investment-professional-fact-fiction-the-business-trip

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/5/17/hedge-funding-kindergarten-teachers

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/4/14/are-hedge-clippers-trimming-up-the-wrong-tree

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/3/28/hedge-fund-high-entertainment-an-open-letter-to-showtime-about-billions

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/3/13/venn-dication-what-simple-relationships-do-dont-tell-us-about-alternative-investments

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/2/16/rampallions-scullions-hedge-funds-oh-my

FUND RAISING & INVESTOR RELATIONS

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/6/22/swingers-and-the-art-of-investor-communication

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/4/5/7-secrets-to-a-successful-fund-elevator-pitch

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/2/9/what-how-i-met-your-mother-can-teach-us-about-hiring-fund-raising-staff

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/10/26/founding-funders

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/8/28/crisis-communication-for-investment-managers

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/7/20/trust-me-im-a-portfolio-manager

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/5/4/the-declaration-of-fin-dependence

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/1/11/new-years-resolutions-for-investors-and-managers-part-deux

EMERGING MANAGERS

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/8/17/people-call-me-a-skeptic-but-i-dont-believe-them

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/10/19/are-you-the-next-blackstone-dont-count-on-it

DUE DILIGENCE

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/11/1/the-evolution-of-due-diligence

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/8/6/a-little-perspective-on-the-due-diligence-process

GENERAL INVESTING INSIGHTS

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/9/19/misusing-these-popular-alternative-investment-terms-inconceivable

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/10/11/investment-wisdom-increases-with-age-dance-skills-dont

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/8/24/the-love-of-the-returns-chase

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/8/2/slamming-the-wrong-barn-door

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/6/8/the-confidence-hubris-conundrum

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/5/10/the-crystal-ball-in-the-rearview-mirror

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/3/19/fun-with-dots-visualizing-bifucation-in-the-hedge-fund-industry

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/2/23/pattern-recognition-may-make-you-poorer

http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/1/5/new-years-resolutions-for-investors-managers-part-one

What do you want to read about in 2016? List topics you enjoy or would like to see more of in the comments section below.

In the meantime, gird your loins for the blog that always parties like it’s 1999, even when it’s 2016.

And please follow me on Twitter (@MJ_Meredith_J) for daily doses of research, salt and snark. 

I couldn’t face the same old Thanksgiving this year. Another tryptophan-laced orgy of food combined with marathon cleaning sessions before and after the big event, someone arriving with undisclosed food allergies, red wine on the carpet, cats eating the centerpiece and leftovers I have to look at with the dull eyes of the long married for weeks after the main event. No thank you!

So I did what any sane person would do: I went to Hawaii instead.

There, Thanksgiving was a Pina Colada-fueled homage to my ever present "SPF Burqa", sandy beaches and folks that unironically say “Brah.” I even tried surfing for the first time. And despite my deep-seated pleasure at a) not dying, b) not wiping out a la Greg Brady and the cursed tiki necklace, and c) standing up on at least one North Shore wave, I quickly learned after posting this picture that people did not necessarily share my enthusiasm or revel in my surfing accomplishments.

No, the most popular picture I posted was instead this gem, where a legion of people could see me wiping out like a boss. 

I can’t claim to be particularly unique in this regard. In fact, it seems like the whole world likes nothing better than a deep dose of what the Germans would call schadenfreude, or “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.” My full-on, Pacific Ocean-surfing-netti-pot photo was an exhibition of this lovely phenomenon writ small, reserved for those brave enough to call me “friend” on Facebook.

For a larger scale demonstration of schadenfreude, we had only to look as far as the hedge fund headlines in the last ten days or so.  Some of my personal faves include:

“Hedge Funds Lick Wounds After Tough Year”

“Another Humbling Year For Hedge Funds”

“Hedge Funds Brace for Redemptions”

“Hedge Fund Giant Laments Profitability, Will Return $8 billion”

“Surprise! Hedge Funds Aren’t That Bad At Picking Stocks”

“The Incredible Shrinking Firms of Hedge Fund Billionaires”

Yeah, yeah, yeah…let’s all agree 2009 to present hasn’t been the easiest time to be a fan of alternative investments.

But let’s take a moment to put our keen delight in the misfortune of hedge funds into perspective.

Hedge funds aren’t exactly wiping out Greg Brady-style, either.

1)   Yes, there have been closures & return of capital from some hedge funds, including a few large enough to be household names. BlueCrest opted to return outside investor capital, transitioning to a private investment partnership due to redemptions, fee pressure and its impact on recruiting. Avenue shuttered its hedge fund in favor of longer duration investments. Blackrock closed a macro fund that was down single digits for the year. Seminole returned $400 million of investor capital to better align the trading strategy with the markets and protect profitability, after returning 16% on average for the last 20 years. None of these are the spectacular, cry-during-an-MTV-performance, Justin Beiber-style meltdown, but rather strategic decisions we expect business owners to make daily.

2)   Yes, hedge funds haven’t exactly set the world on fire with 2015 performance. Or 2014 performance. Or 2013 performance…well, you get the picture. However, we have to remember, yet again, that the comparisons we’re making are average performance. If you look at return dispersion (here from Credit Suisse) even within single strategies of hedge funds, it is easier to remember that there are funds performing much better than the “average.”

 (c) Credit Suisse Asset Management

(c) Credit Suisse Asset Management

3)   Yes, hedge fund managers are losing money, but perhaps so are you. Given the explosion of institutional assets in hedge funds, celebrating the losses of a hedge fund could be tantamount to celebrating the losses of your favorite school teacher, fireman, police officer or other “main street” investor. And if that don’t take the wind out of your sails, I don’t know what will. 

However, even with these clarifications, I am perhaps a little overdue in providing some hedge fund “tough love.” So here goes:

Hedge fund managers: Fee pressure is a pain. Expenses are up, regulation is increasing, the markets are more difficult to navigate and profitability is down. It’s unlikely that many of you will be able to weather a protracted double-digit or high single digit drawdown given the economic realities of managing a fund today and you’re less likely to be given the benefit of any doubt now than at perhaps any other time in hedge fund history.

But what protects fee structures and prevents increased regulation? Generating returns for your investors and doing the right things (disclosures, filings, investor relations, any and all regulatory filings) and doing it in a way that lets you sleep at night. This could be a watershed moment for hedged asset management. I wish I had a magic wand that would make it all easier but instead I can only say, for the love of all that’s holy, get ‘er done.

Posted
AuthorMeredith Jones

Writing headlines is hard. 

Coming up with something appropriately attention grabbing without veering off into purple prose is a serious skill. I, myself, occasionally have moments of headline genius, but often times wind up more in the land of "huh?" 

And I know it's not just me. After all, the Washington Post just gave us this headline gem last week.

 Best. Headline. Ever.

Best. Headline. Ever.

But really, the world of hedge funds deserves their own set of headline awards. The headlines about the hedge fund industry are often incendiary, divisive and generally geared to just stir stuff up. 

In order to help casual readers of hedge fund press wade through the copious and inflammatory rhetoric, I've created a handy-dandy hedge fund babel fish for y'all below. 

May this little translation tool reduce your drama factor exponentially this Thanksgiving, even if you use it while hiding away from kids/in-laws/friends/siblings/spouses or dishwashing duties.

Hedge Fund BabelFish

 (c) MJ Alts

(c) MJ Alts

Happy Thanksgiving to those that celebrate it, and may everyone find something this week for which to be grateful, whether there's tryptophan involved or not. 

Posted
AuthorMeredith Jones

Those of you that have heard me speak on more than one occasion have probably heard me utter the phrase "Investing in emerging managers is like sex in high school. Lots of talk, very little action." In full disclosure, Jim Dunn of Verger was the first to utter those words, but they are so apropos that I have sense borrowed them for myself once or twice. (Thanks Jim!)

This week, I had the opportunity to informally poll investors and emerging managers, this time in the form of women-run funds, and that wonderful turn of phrase proved apt once again. In fact, I could almost hear Mike Damone saying "I can see it all now, this is gonna be just like last summer. You fell in love with that girl at the Fotomat, you bought forty dollars worth of [freakin'] film, and you never even talked to her. You don't even own a camera."

Indeed, it does seem as if investors often spend a lot of time stalking the camera store, but never getting the picture. So I decided to ask the audience of managers and investors at last weeks 100 Women in Hedge Funds Senior Practitioner Workshop where we stand and what could help the situation. Here's what I learned.

1) Some women-run funds may be getting lucky, but action is still sparse. 

 (c) 2015 MJ Alts

(c) 2015 MJ Alts

2) Managers feel that a number of things impede their ability to raise capital, but investors are focused primarily on only two issues: supply and size. 

 (c) 2015 MJ Alts

(c) 2015 MJ Alts

 (c) 2015 MJ Alts

(c) 2015 MJ Alts

3) And the answer to what would make investing in women-run funds easier? Three words: Binders of Women. Just kidding, but better data sources for women-run funds, better consultant buy-in and the mysterious answer "other" all ranked pretty high. Some of the suggestions for "other" included more seed capital to help overcome AUM objections and more networking with managers you don't already know. 

 (c) 2015 MJ Alts

(c) 2015 MJ Alts

And, while these responses were specifically geared towards women owned and women run funds, in my conversations with investors, the issues are not entirely dissimilar for minority owned and run funds, or really any other emerging manager. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, let's work the problem and see if there aren't good solutions to these issues. It will be healthy for me to have to come up with a new, creative and vaguely offensive way to describe the industry. 

And please take a moment to support 100 Women in Hedge Funds as they are part of the solution and the reason I could run this quirky poll in the first place!

Posted
AuthorMeredith Jones

During an unbelievable number of meetings with investors and managers, I hear the same two refrains:

“We’re looking for the next Blackstone.”

Or

“We think we’re the next Blackstone.”

It’s enough to make you wonder if such success is commonplace or if we’re all overreaching just a teeny bit.

Well, I’ve shaken my Magic Eight Ball and the answer is this, at least for newer funds: “Outlook Not So Good.”

Recently, on a boring Sunday afternoon, I decided to go through Institutional Investor’s list of the 100 largest hedge funds and figure out when each fund company launched.

Yes, clearly I need more hobbies.

But the results (as well as my lack of social life) were pretty shocking. There are no funds within the top 100 that launched during the last 5 years. There are only 4 funds in the top 100 that launched within the last 10 years. In fact, nearly 70% of the top 100 hedge fund firms launched before the first iPod.

Obviously, this begs a question: Where are all the new Blackstones?

 (c) 2015 MJ Alts

(c) 2015 MJ Alts

Whatever complaints can be lobbed at hedge funds, I do find it hard to believe that the talent pool has deteriorated to such a degree that there just isn’t a supply of skilled fund managers available. On the other hand, I do have a few theories on what forces may be at work.

  1. Change In Investor Dynamics: For a long time, hedge funds were the investment hunting ground of high net worth individuals and family offices. In fact, pre-1998 saw little to no meaningful investment of institutional capital into hedge funds, and investment activity into hedge funds didn’t accelerate markedly until after the Tech Wreck. But by 2011, 61% of all capital in hedge funds was institutional capital. But why should this matter? Imagine you’re an institutional investor with $1 billion or more to invest into hedge funds. Imagine you have a board. Imagine you have headline risk. Imagine you are hit on by every fund marketer known to man if you go to a conference. Imagine you have policies that dictate the percent of assets under management that your allocation can represent. Now, try to put that capital to work in a reasonable number of high-performing hedge funds. It seems reasonable to assume that the investing constraints of being a large institutional investor would drive allocations towards larger funds with longer track records. Just like you never get fired for buying IBM, it’s unlikely you’ll be canned for investing with Blackstone, AQR, Credit Suisse or other big name fund complexes.
  2. Market Timing: According to HFR, assets in hedge funds grew from $490.6billion in 2000 to nearly $1.9 trillion in 2007, or more than 287%. One of the reasons for this surge in assets is, I believe, prevailing market conditions. Having just exited one of the greatest bull markets in history and entered two of only four 10-year losing streaks in the history of the S&P 500, hedge funds had an opportunity to well, hedge, and as a result, outperform the markets. Unlike the last 6-ish years (recent months notwithstanding), where hedge funds have been heavily criticized for “underperforming” during an almost unchecked market run-up, market conditions were more favorable to hedged strategies between 2000 and 2008. This allowed managers with already established track records and AUM to capitalize on market and investor demographic trends and secure their dominant status going forward.
  3. Evolving Fund Management Landscape: Let’s face it – the financial world was a kinder and gentler place before 2008. Ok, that’s total BS, but it was less regulated. Hedge funds were not required to register with the SEC, file Form PF, hire compliance officers, have compliance manuals, comply with AIFMD, FATCA and a host of other regulatory burdens. As a result, firms formed prior to 2005 did perhaps have an overhead advantage over their newer brethren. Funds today don’t break even until they raise between $250 and $350 million in AUM, and barriers to entry have certainly grown. Add to this that more than 90% of capital has gone to funds with $1billion+ under management post-2008 and a manager would practically have to have perfectly aligned stars, impeccable performance and perhaps have made some sort of live sacrifice to achieve basic hedge fund dominance, let alone titan status.

This is not to say that newer funds haven’t made it into the “Billion Dollar Club” or that rarified air of 500 or so hedge funds that manage the bulk of investor assets. It is, however, a stark look at how we define expectations and success on both the investor and manager side of the equation. If 40 is the new 30 and orange is the new black, is $500 million or $1 billion in AUM the new yardstick for hedge funds? Time will tell, but I’m wondering if the Magic 8-Ball isn’t on to something. 

Posted
AuthorMeredith Jones

As a relatively new Tweeter (Twitterer?), I sometimes get questions from followers on a host of topics. In case you were also wondering, here are a few recent answers: Yes, there are almost always song lyrics hidden in my blogs. Actually, my hair is naturally large & no outside intervention is required. And yes, creating this much snark and sarcasm is exhausting.

Last week, I got the following question Tweeted in my general direction:

And while I can’t guarantee maximized profits, dear Tweeter, I can offer a few suggestions to enhance your first foray into alternative investments:

  1. Take The Red Pill – The press loves, loves, loves them some alternative investments. And by loves, loves, loves I mean loathes, loathes, loathes. You’ve probably seen articles talking about excessive fees, billion dollar salaries, poor performance, insider trading, Ponzi schemes and other shenanigans and, I’m here to tell you, just because someone scribbled it on newsprint or online, doesn’t make it true. 

Take hedge funds, for example - they aren’t all gypsies, tramps and thieves, whatever you may have read. Fees are closer to 1.5% and 18% than to 2% & 20%. The vast majority of hedge fund managers make nowhere near the $11.3 billion that the 25 largest funds rake in, and are much more sensitive to reductions in fee income than you may think (see also http://www.aboutmjones.com/mjblog/2015/6/29/hedge-fund-truth-series-hedge-fund-fees). Insider trading happens, but is remarkably consistent at about 50 enforcement actions per year (across all miscreants, not just hedge funds). Ponzi schemes have happened but rarely at serious scale (and no, Madoff was not a hedge fund). Average performance of hedge funds has been lackluster but the top performers (who I’m pretty sure are the folks you want to invest with anyway) have generated some outstanding returns, even in the last few years. Don’t believe me? See the distribution of return graphics from Preqin’s latest study. 

Finally, there is no proof that hedge funds cause cancer, despite what the Hedge Clippers may say.

2.   Get a good data sample – One of the key mistakes I see from new investors in alternative investments, especially hedge funds, is the lack of a good data sample. The thing about hedge fund data is there is no requirement for any fund to report any information to any commercial hedge fund database. Period. As a result, the data is fragmented and incomplete. The only incentive for a fund to report to a database is to pursue assets. If a fund isn’t in asset raising mode, has a hearty network of prospective investors, or if the performance of fund is unlikely to attract assets, many funds simply won’t report. In addition, many funds report to only 1 or 2 databases, and if those don’t happen to be the ones to which you have access, well, that’s just tough cookies. The moral of the story? Invest in data. Buy data and gather information on your own by networking, going to conferences and talking to other investors about what and who they like. The only way to ensure you make the best investment decisions is to know what your options are in the first place.
 

3.   Think about what risk means to you – All too often, we try to boil risk down to a single data point. Whether it’s drawdown or standard deviation, we attempt to quantify risk because we feel like what we can quantify we can understand and control, right? Wrong. Risk means different things to different people and each investor will maximize different aspects of risks. For example, one investor may feel their biggest risk is not achieving a certain minimum acceptable return. Another may feel their biggest risk is losing a substantial amount of their investment. Yet another may feel headline risk is their biggest concern. And still another may worry about liquidity. The list is endless. The important thing for investors is to think about their personal (or organizational) definition of risk before making an investment, then identify the risks in any investment strategy as thoroughly as possible and finally determine if the potential upside is worth taking those risks. All investments involve risk. Period. Deciding whether the risk you’re taking is worth taking is up to you.

4.   Get your nose out of your DDQ – Get to know a manager and his or her team not just by grilling them with a long due diligence questionnaire, but by having a real conversation. If you know what’s important to a manager, what drives them, what keeps them up at night, how they got to where they are, what influences them, and how THEY perceive risk you have a much better chance of developing the rapport and trust that is necessary to any successful investment.

5.    Look ahead, not behind – If you’re chasing returns, you are already behind.

6.   Watch out for dry powder and Unicorpses – There is an awful lot of money flowing into private equity and venture capital and a finite number of reasonably priced deals, great management teams and fantastic business plans. Ensure any GP you plan to LP has the DL on deal flow.

7.   There is no I in TEAM – Actually, there is – it’s in the “A” holes. But I digress. My point is there is a lot of work associated with finding and doing due diligence and ongoing monitoring on alternative investments. If you don’t have a robust team, it’s ok to go to folks for help. Funds of funds, outsourced due diligence, OCIO, multi-family offices, operational due diligence firms, and other providers can be a lifesaver to a new or small investor in alternatives. It may not be cheap, but neither is recruiting, training and providing salary, bonus and benefits for an entire specialized team. Weigh what you can do in house against what you can easily outsource and spend the most effort on the voodoo that you do so well and money on the stuff that isn’t the best use of your time or expertise.

So there you have it: A small list of tips to help with first (or continued) forays into alternatives. Got a tip of your own? Put them in the comments section below.

I learned two important lessons from writing my book: Women of The Street: Why Female Money Managers Generate Higher Returns (And How You Can Too).

  1. You can make hundreds of dollars writing a book, and,
  2. Writing a book makes you (at least) temporarily insane.

At the height of my book-induced anxiety, I decided to try an experiment. I decided that I would stop focusing on typos, PR, and what people would think of my research and that I would instead focus on other people. Hopefully, by doing good deeds for others I could do good and do well at the same time.

I kept a running list of my daily good deeds. I bought a massage gift certificate for my hair stylist (if you had to mess with my hair, you’d deserve one, too). I took a milkshake to a friend in the hospital. I bought Starbucks for 3 strangers behind me in line. I chased a neighbor’s loose dog down the street and brought it back to its fenced-in yard. I worked with charities and stray animals. I donated to good causes and I gave folks home-grown tomatoes (as every good southerner should do).

And guess what? At the end of the day, I knew I had made a difference. And I felt better. The folks around me felt better and, although the impact was, I’m sure, small, it was something.

Because of the research that I’ve done around diversity and investing, I often get asked how we can increase the number of women (and minorities) in the investment ranks, and I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the solution.

As I was reflecting recently on my own mission to create positive change, I realized that the answer to the diversity conundrum may not be that dissimilar.  Perhaps we can effect change with a basic concept that we’re all extremely familiar with. Let’s Compound Diversity.

We all know how critical mentoring is to success in this industry. There isn’t a single interview in my book that doesn’t at least mention the presence of at one significant (male or female) mentor. But we also know that mentoring is a time consuming task. And that often, the process starts too late, after the diversity funnel has already begun to narrow.

So instead, let’s focus on what I like to call “Mentoring Moments.” These are opportunities for you to help a women advance that don’t require a year-long (or life long) commitment, but which still can have an enormous amount of impact within your firm and across the industry.

 (c) 2015 MJ Alts

(c) 2015 MJ Alts

What is a mentoring moment you may ask?

It’s when you can include a junior woman in on a sales pitch, due diligence, or board meeting they might otherwise not be invited to.

It’s when you email a job description to your network to help ensure that at least one woman has a seat at the interview table.

It’s getting an extra pass to a conference and giving it to a junior colleague who might not otherwise be selected to go.

It's ensuring that diverse firms have a seat at the table when competing for investment mandates, and awarding that mandate if that firm is the best fit. 

It’s when you send a firm-wide email about someone’s great work that might otherwise go unnoticed or unsung.

In short, it’s the million little ways you can help advance women and minorities in finance and build diversity in the industry.

But mentoring moments don’t end at work – they can and should happen outside of the office as well so that we increase the number of girls and women that are potentially interested in finance and investment to begin with.

In a prior blog, I discussed how girls are less likely to get an allowance than boys and that girls are less likely to be paid for chores than boys.

I showed statistics that pay disparity starts early, with girls making less for the same chores. Boys even make more for babysitting, despite the fact that 97% of all babysitters are female.

Girls also report that they are less likely than boys to be talked to about how to finance college or budgeting or other money matters.

So start your mentoring moments early. With allowances, and discussions about what you do at work and college funding and career progression. My mom made me do little pop quizzes in math (Quick! Convert that mile marker to kilometers!) when I was a girl to ensure I was never intimidated by numbers.

Picture this: A fellow panelist at the CFA Women’s Conference in San Antonio caught her daughter and her friend playing dress up and asked what they were getting ready for. Her daughter’s answer? “We’re going to a board meeting.”

Amen.

It’s our job to help future financial professionals that may not look like the ones you normally see on CNBC know that investing is cool, and that because you’re helping other people achieve their financial goals, can be also looked at as doing well while doing good.  

And if everyone (male and female!) who reads this blog commits to just five mentoring moments over the course of the next year, think of the difference we can begin to make. Your five mentoring moments will compound, and 200 mentoring moments, and, with luck, those moments will continue to compound as those women and girls embark on their own mentoring moments. And thus, the Compound Diversity movement takes hold.

We can make a difference. One moment at a time.

If you’re willing to take the challenge I’ll even make it easy for you. Here’s a form you can print and fill in as you accomplish your five mentoring moments. First one that fills it in and sends me a copy gets a copy of my book and a bottle of small batch, super tasty Southern bourbon, on me. 

 (c) 2015 MJ Alts

(c) 2015 MJ Alts

Posted
AuthorMeredith Jones

One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. Those of you that know me and my sense of humor probably aren’t surprised by that, but seriously, how can you NOT love a movie with R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size), Miracle Max and a mysterious six-fingered man?

In fact, one of the best movie exchanges ever written probably appears in that movie. In it, the Dread Pirate Roberts is following Vizzini, Fezzik, and Inigo Montoya as they kidnap the titular princess, intent on malfeasance. 

Even as the Dread Pirate Roberts pursues them across an ocean of screaming eels and up the Cliffs of Insanity, Vizzini cries repeatedly that such actions are “Inconceivable!” Finally, Inigo Montoya declares: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Comic gold? Absolutely.

Applicable to the alternative investment industry? Curiously, yes.

Recent interactions with various folks in the investment industry have led me to believe that Inigo may well have been speaking to us as well. In a number of cases, the words we use don’t mean what we think they mean. Perhaps we’ve selected them because they’re particular sexeh or they represent what we wish were true, rather than what is true, but regardless, we’re all sometimes guilty of creating a little linguistic anarchy by misusing investment terminology.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top five investment terms that do not mean what we sometimes think they mean.

  1. High Conviction and/or Concentrated– There is a growing body of research that supports the theory that high conviction portfolios generate higher returns. For example, a 2008 study from Harvard, the London School of Economic and Goldman Sachs found that, within U.S. Equity Mutual Funds, the highest conviction stocks outperformed the broad U.S. stock market and lower conviction stocks between 1 and 4 percent per quarter. Not too shabby. As a result, many investors like to see high conviction managers and many managers like to say they manage high conviction portfolios. But here’s a hint, it’s hard to have a portfolio of 50 high conviction positions. High conviction doesn’t just mean you LOVE your investments, it means you have fewer, larger positions, period. Which leads me to concentrated portfolios. As part and parcel of the High Conviction theme, I’ve come across an increasing number of managers who boast concentrated portfolios. Again, more than 50 positions does not a concentrated portfolio make. Take Warren Buffett for example. He usually has about 10 names in his book. Those keeping track, that’s conviction and concentration.
  2. Unicorn – Merriam Webster defines a unicorn as “a mythical animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion, and a single horn in the middle of the forehead.” The fact that it’s mythical means that the average Joe isn’t going to find a unicorn on his back porch eating the cat’s food anytime soon. In investing, a unicorn is a private company valued at $1 billion or more. As of March 2015, there were more than 80 unicorns according to CB Research, or just under the number from the prior three years combined. There are animals on the endangered species list with less population density. Perhaps we need a new term.
  3. Emerging Manager – If you have a billion in AUM, and you’re not women, minority, or veteran owned, you are not an emerging manager. If you have $500 million in AUM, and you’re not women, minority, or veteran owned, you are not an emerging manager. If you have $250 million in AUM, and you’re not women, minority, or veteran owned, you are on the cusp (the top end) of being an emerging manager. If you are on Fund III, IV or V, and you’re not women, minority, or veteran owned, you are not an emerging manager.
  4. Poor Performance – Underperforming an arbitrary and/or unrelated index is not an appropriate measure of performance. For example, comparing credit investments to the S&P 500. Comparing long-short equity investments to long only managers or long-only indexes. Determining whether something is good or bad relative to something else requires that the things being compared be largely similar to begin with.
  5. Bottoms Up – “Bottoms up!” is a toast. Bottom-up is a way of analyzing information during the research process.

Seeing and hearing these terms misused in the investment industry makes my left eye twitch. Help save me from a lifetime of folks asking “Are you looking at me?” and start using these frequent used, but often abused, terms correctly.

Sources: http://www.globaleconomicandinvestmentanalytics.com/archiveslist/articles/499-the-case-for-high-conviction-investing.html, Merriam Webster, CB Insights

Posted
AuthorMeredith Jones

It’s funny, but I have a lot of conversations about all the travel I, and my fellow investment professionals, do in the course of our daily lives. For some reason, telling people that you “have” to go to New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Monaco or some other “sexeh” locale puts all sorts of weird ideas into people’s heads. It’s like they think business travel turns you into P-Diddy or something. You’re big pimpin’ and you spend the cheese because you go to New York and stay at the W Hotel in Times Square for a night (Starwood whore!).

So, for those of you who wonder what all us lonely travelers do when we’re out on the road, I thought I’d sum it up for you. If either scenario sounds familiar to you, sound off in the comments section.

How Folks Picture My Business Trips

My (first class) flight leaves at a completely reasonable daylight hour. I was able to pack during work hours and therefore had no encroachment upon my “personal life.”

I arrive at the airport and whisk through security ‘cos, you know, frequent flyer street cred.

I board the plane and drink champagne or my alcoholic beverage of choice all the way to my destination, where I am picked up by a helicopter or limousine and deposited at my uber-chic hotel.

My first meeting is always a lunch meeting, which is somewhere swanky and leather and where martinis are swilled until it’s time for my next meeting, which, curiously, is also over drinks.

After that meeting I return to the hotel to return a few calls. Or nap. Or get a massage. You know…”work.” Maybe I even take time to sightsee or catch a show.

My dinner meeting is always somewhere fabulous that the average mortal can’t get into and where my meal costs more than a mortgage payment.

Everyone then adjourns somewhere similarly hip/swanky (depending on the friend) and then finally return to the hotel around midnight.

The next morning starts no earlier than a brunch meeting before I head to the world’s largest board room to make a presentation about how everyone secretly makes money but doesn’t tell “the little people” about it.

I then go to another lunch meeting, knock back a couple of drinks before collecting checks totaling eleventy-million dollars and boarding my (first class) flight home, having skipped security entirely because, let’s face it, I’m me.

How My Business Trips Actually Go

I almost never get a flight that leaves when it’s daylight. Whether that means I get up at the absolute crack of dawn or whether that means I schlep my bags to the office and work all day before racing to the airport to catch a flight that night, I rarely see the outside of an airport while the sun shines.

The whole time I’m en route to the airport, I am checking to see where I am on the upgrade list. However many first class seats are left, there is at least a 50% chance that I am that number plus one.

I do have TSA Pre-Check, but I seem to have a high “hit rate” for random extra screening. So I get often get felt up before boarding the plane. And it’s Nashville, so there’s often someone with a gun in the pre-check line. After security I rush to take my seat and put my earphones in (and/or feign sleep) before my seatmate can strike up a conversation about insurance, actuarial work, healthcare or some other topic I could care less about.

I arrive at my destination city and get in a cab. It usually smells like Fritos. Unless it’s been raining in which case it smells like O that didn’t stay with the B. And Fritos. (C’mon y’all, that helicopter thing was like TWO TIMES and it only happens for GAIM Monaco).

I drop by the hotel (which is either corporate or points-grabbing approved), but my room isn’t ready because it’s still WAY early to check in. I store my bags and run to my first meeting.

(Full disclosure: Sometimes I check in so late that the only rooms left are “accessible”, so I get to hang my clothes 3 feet off the floor…almost equally fun).

I generally have meeting scheduled back to back. A full day will have no fewer than 5 meetings, which is just doable if you don't have more than 30 minutes travel time in between each. My last meeting of the day may include a glass of wine, but otherwise, weirdly, there is no adult refreshment during the course of my day. 50% of the time I have a dinner to go to, and 50% I have a date with room service while I work on all the stuff that didn’t get done while I was flying around like a buzz saw all day.

At some point, either really late at night or super early the next morning, someone calls who has forgotten I’m in another time zone. I tell them it’s fine while wiping sleep out of my eyes and firing up my computer. Hint: I sound unusually perky when you wake me up.

The next day starts with breakfast at 8:00 where one or both people don’t really get to eat because they are trying to do work during the meal. I generally check out of the hotel before this meeting so I’m essentially homeless from now on, and schedule meetings back to back until I get back into a Frito-esque cab to return to the airport.

Flights home seem to have some sort of karma attached that makes them more likely to be delayed. I hang out in the Admiral’s Club doing work that I didn’t get done during the day and listening to other business people talk too loudly into their phones. I eat too many pieces of square cheese and brownie bites.

I finally get home (after dark) and go to bed. The next workday happens 8 hours or less later.

The moral of the story: Business travel? Super sexy. Sorry to spoil your fantasy. 

Posted
AuthorMeredith Jones

It's kind of weird, you have to admit, that we don't work on a day called Labor Day. But, hey, I'm not one to buck this particular tradition, so there's no blog today.

I'll be back next week with new content, but in the meantime, enjoy the last official day of summer. Have some hot dogs and burgers and raise a glass or keg to one of your favorite alternative investment industry bloggers, even it it's not me. :) 

Posted
AuthorMeredith Jones