Why Do Hedge Funds Fail? (2024)

Why Do Hedge Funds Fail? (1)

Near the end of 2022, total hedge fund assets under management was below $5 trillion, coming off an industry all-time high of $5.136 trillion earlier that year.

Despite historical trends of growth long-term, it’s been a rough patch for many funds in the last 12-18 months.

Despite the losses, it’s not all bad news:

There will be ups and downs, good days and bad days, and hedge funds will come and go.

And to avoid the fate of those that have fallen, you must learn from others’ mistakes of others.

4 Reasons Hedge Funds Fail

1. Poor Operations Management

Why Do Hedge Funds Fail? (2)

According to a Capco study, 50% of hedge funds shut down because of operational failures.

Investment issues are the second leading reason for hedge fund closures at 38%.

When breaking down everything that can go wrong, operations makes its case for number one.

Think about everythinginvolved in day-to-day affairs:

  • Costs (labor, software, technology, insurance, benefits, taxes, legal, regulatory)
  • Legal and compliance matters (audits, reporting, taxation)
  • Employee staffing (human resources, recruiting, hiring, and training)
  • Monitoring efficiencyin themiddle- and back-office

Now think of everything that can go wrong:

  • Rising operational costs / Failure to monitor and manage costs
  • Lack of transparency / Failure to comply with legal and regulatory agencies
  • Poor hiring and training practices
  • Being understaffed or overstaffed
  • Unethical and dishonest employees (embezzlement, fraud, misrepresentation of assets, unauthorized trades, conflicts of interest)
  • Inefficientuse of technology and labor
Improving investment management operations is what we do

Empaxis has helped hedge funds like yours outsource repetitive tasks, enhance operational workflows, and scale appropriately.

Learn more

Some of the biggest hedge fund failures are operations-related.

Why Do Hedge Funds Fail? (3)

Bernie Madoff might be the most egregious offender through hismulti-billion dollarPonzi scheme. Proper audits and oversight would have caught criminal behavior like this earlier.

The Bayou Group defrauded investors worth more than $400 million through false accounting and creation of aphonyauditing firm.

Wood River Capital Managementfailed to disclose to the SEC a conflict of interest with its investments. The firm invested 85% of its funds in a company that Wood River’s founder had a stake in, and that company’s stock crashed, wiping out the bulk of WRCM’s assets. Instead of having a more diversified set of investments, in addition to risk-mitigatingmeasures, Wood River misled investors andthe SEC.

It’s clear, yet startling, how a hedge fund fail can purely from operations. Even some investment decisions are the results of operational failings, as some of thetrades are either unauthorized by the investors or downright illegal.

What you should do:

Fund managers haveenough ontheir plate dealing with investment management; operations management is another beast.

Due diligence beingyourguide, invest in a strong operations and compliance team, hiring ethical staff who wants what's best for the investors. Assign a chief operating officer andcompliance director to ensuremonitoring of the day-to-day activities. Document all processes.

When working with third parties, partner with groups that also take compliance seriously, like Empaxis.

Transparent and easily accessible, our outsourcing services for hedge fund operations allow firms to streamline their workflows and cut costs. We are also ISO 22301 compliant.

2. Bad Investments & Too Much Risk Exposure

Why Do Hedge Funds Fail? (4)

Firms that trade heavily on margin run a severe risk when the markets head south.

Putting too many of your clients' eggs in one company, industry, or asset class basket is flirting with disaster.

Hedge funds that bet the farm on cryptocurrency, as an example, suffered greatly in 2022. Singapore-based hedge fund Three Arrows Capital was one of them, and the crash ultimately took their firm down. The two founders, Kyle Davies and Su Zhu, then “ghosted” their investors, avoiding those unpleasant conversations.

What you should do:

To avoid trouble, your firm should:

  • set leveraging limits
  • maintain a standard minimum level of liquid assets
  • have a healthy mix of high- and low-risk investments
  • perform stress tests
  • be transparent with investors and governing bodies.

Be upfront about risks and conflicts of interest, even though you might lose investors or receive a smaller share of assets, but your career and reputation are more important than a short-term gain with long-term consequences. Also, never ghost your investors.

3. Underperformance

Why Do Hedge Funds Fail? (5)

To be sure, there have been some hedge fund winners recently, but the reality is many funds have been unable to outperform traditional benchmarks.

The Global X Guru Index ETF (NYSE:GURU) is a fund that invests in the highest conviction ideas from a select pool of hedge funds. As of April, GURU has underperformed the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) Trust ETF by 6%.

On top of that, GURU has an expense ratio of 0.75% versus SPY’s 0.09%.

And actually many hedge funds have underperformed the previous decade.

At a certain point, dissatisfied investors will move their assets to better performing managers or go to passively managed index funds.

What you should do:

Spend more time on investment research and leverage tools.

In a survey of the top 50 hedge fund traders, 9 out of 10 plan to use artificial intelligence this year to generate portfolio returns.

And in this inflationary environment with heightened geopolitical tensions and fears of a recession, this is a time to improve your ability to identify trends and opportunities before others see them. Know when to jump on and jump off any “bandwagon.”

If non-investment related work is preventing you from fully focusing, then delegate tasks to competent third parties. This will free up capacity to allow for more time on research, and with this extra capacity, it may be helpful tolet your investors know you're outsourcing.

Outsourcing is no longer seen as a "dirty word" among investors, according to Mark Yusko, a hedge fund manager at Morgan Creek Capital Management.

"Many of the things that we as an industry all believed had to be done in-house, on-site, now can be done remote."
- Mark Yusko, Hedge Fund Manager, Morgan Creek Capital Management

4. Fee structures

Why Do Hedge Funds Fail? (7)

While the 2-and-20 model is largely a thing of the past and hedge fund management fee have been falling, investors have less tolerance for underperformance, and fee structures will come under scrutiny.

It may not be a favorable situation for fund managers on the fee front, but this is the reality.

What you should do:

Talented fund managers can make a case to justify their fees, but whatever your structures are, make sure your interests align with the clients'.

Stay focused on performance, and let the performance do the talking when attracting assets. Do well enough consistently, and you’ll command higher fees.


Hedge funds don't have to fail, but they often do because of operational issues.

Competent and ethical individuals, whether in-house or third-party, will do what’s best for their firm and not succumb to the misdeeds of a Bernie Madoff, Bayou Group, or Wood River.

Poor investment choices and excess risk exposure can lead to underperformance like a Three Arrows Capital, thus additional reasons hedge funds fail.

Fund managers need to free up their capacity to focus on research, increasing their investing acumen and foresight. Take advantage of technology to aid in these efforts.

Furthermore, put yourself in the investors' shoes. Are your fees justified? To what extent is your success as a manager determined by the performance of the assets, as opposed to attracting assets to the fund?

All in all, it pays to play by the rules.

Why Do Hedge Funds Fail? (2024)


Why Do Hedge Funds Fail? ›

Some strategies, such as managed futures and short-only funds, typically have higher probabilities of failure given the risky nature of their business operations. High leverage is another factor that can lead to hedge fund failure when the market moves in an unfavorable direction.

What is the biggest hedge fund failure? ›

1. Madoff Investment Scandal. Madoff admitted to his sons who worked at the firm that the asset management business was fraudulent and a big lie in 2008. 2 It is estimated the fraud was around $65 billion.

What is the fail rate of hedge funds? ›

A surprisingly low 38 per cent of hedge funds failed as a result of investment risk alone. It is estimated that there some US$600 billion is invested in approximately 6,000 hedge funds worldwide.

Why are hedge funds performing poorly? ›

So one explanation for the sluggish performance of hedge funds this year has been a kind of "perfect storm" where everything has gone wrong at one time: rising interest rates, sluggish equity returns, low volatility, lack of new issuance and so on. Such an unfavourable combination is unlikely to recur.

What percentage of hedge funds survive? ›

Goldman, which has helped launch and finance thousands of hedge funds, said almost all newcomers survive their first year but that only 62% of all funds remain in business after five years.

Why are hedge fund owners so rich? ›

Hedge funds seem to rake in billions of dollars a year for their professional investment acumen and portfolio management across a range of strategies. Hedge funds make money as part of a fee structure paid by fund investors based on assets under management (AUM).

Are hedge funds for the rich? ›

A hedge fund investment is often considered a risky, alternative investment choice and usually requires a high minimum investment or net worth. Hedge funds typically target wealthy investors.

What is the average lifespan of a hedge fund? ›

As a quantitative researcher who previously worked in the hedge fund industry, Farnsworth has been studying hedge funds for quite some time. Over the years, he noticed that the average lifespan of a hedge fund is quite short – less than five years.

Do hedge funds hurt the economy? ›

Hedge funds can pose a risk to financial stability when they use excessive leverage, adopt highly speculative strategies, or have a strong correlation with other market participants.

Do hedge funds do well in a recession? ›

Additionally, markets can be unpredictable at any time, but certain stocks, funds and strategies may be able to assist your portfolio to perform better during a recession. Hedge funds are a good choice if you desire higher risk with a chance of higher returns.

Why do people invest in hedge funds if they don't beat the market? ›

There are two basic reasons for investing in a hedge fund: to seek higher net returns (net of management and performance fees) and/or to seek diversification.

What happens if hedge funds collapse? ›

For investors, credit and trading counterparties, a hedge fund failure constitutes a loss on their investments and credit exposures, whereas for the hedge fund manager, who has not committed own capital to the fund and does not manage other funds, it represents a failed asset management venture that culminates in the ...

Will hedge funds exist in 10 years? ›

Overall, the consensus is that hedge funds will continue to grow but will adapt to lower fees, greater use of technology, and increased access to retail investors.

What is the 2 20 rule for hedge funds? ›

The 2 and 20 is a hedge fund compensation structure consisting of a management fee and a performance fee. 2% represents a management fee which is applied to the total assets under management. A 20% performance fee is charged on the profits that the hedge fund generates, beyond a specified minimum threshold.

How much money do you need to be considered a hedge fund? ›

3 In exchange, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires a majority of hedge fund investors to be accredited, which means possessing a net worth of more than $1 million and a sophisticated understanding of personal finance, investing, and trading.

Are hedge funds worth the risk? ›

Investors must be able to bear certain risks not always experienced in stocks and bonds. But adding hedge funds to a portfolio can reduce risks to overall wealth. Hedge funds can help smooth portfolio returns, add diversification, and grant access to parts of the market that are often off limits to many investors.

How many hedge funds fail every year? ›

One of the reasons for the perceived high failure rate of hedge funds is that their attrition rate is known to be high, approximately 9% per annum. The latter rate is generally estimated by counting the number of defunct funds in hedge fund databases.

What hedge fund blew up? ›

What Was Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM)? Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) was a large hedge fund, led by Nobel Prize-winning economists and renowned Wall Street traders, that blew up in 1998, forcing the U.S. government to intervene to prevent financial markets from collapsing.

Did hedge funds cause the 2008 financial crisis? ›

Although hedge funds worsened the financial crisis in certain ways, the industry did not play a pivotal role compared to other agents, such as credit rating agencies, mortgage lenders and issuers of credit default swaps.


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