Inside Money

Business writer David Chaplin blogs on personal finance

Inside Money: More boutique for your bucks

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Warren Couillault. Photo / Supplied
Warren Couillault. Photo / Supplied

The return of ex Fisher Funds impresario Warren Couillault to New Zealand's funds management game has been long-awaited.

And here he is, albeit in an unexpected hook up with the well-known Spencer family to enter the exotic-sounding 'global fund-of-hedge funds' business.

It's an interesting choice. Firstly, because Couillault is more known as a NZ equities manager rather than a selector of arcane hedge funds. But also because the fund-of-hedge funds industry itself hit a rough patch in the wake of the global financial crisis (GFC).

According to this Financial Times story published in February, post GFC the fund-of-hedge funds share of the overall hedge fund market has dropped from 50 per cent to 40 per cent, with further falls predicted.

"Worse still, while the initial outflows from funds of funds in 2008 and the first half of 2009 were driven by the perceived failures of the sector - such as liquidity problems and substandard due diligence on the part of vehicles that invested with Bernard Madoff - the industry's continuing decline in importance is driven by a factor out of its control, according to S&P: the increasing incidence of large institutional investors investing directly," the FT story says.

Which is why, I suppose, more fund-of-hedge funds (let's call them FOFHs) are turning to the retail market, as research firm Eurekahedge has reported.

Couillault's new business, Richmond Investment Management, is certainly tapping in to this trend and there's little else of its kind in the New Zealand market.

But it is very specialised and has a high minimum investment of $25,000 (or US$25,000 for the US$ version of the fund). It follows the hedge fund tradition, too, of including a wide variety of fees: 1 per cent annual management; 1.5 per cent "redemption fee"; a 12.5 per cent performance fee; plus the usual bevy of extraneous fees - admin, trustee, custodian etc.

Not disclosed are fees paid by Richmond to the underlying hedge funds, and Couillault says the names of the funds themselves will also remain secret.

"That's our IP," he says.

One fund manager told me that "under mandated reporting of largest holdings" due to take effect next year, that secrecy may not hold.

But the tightly-held nature of the underlying investments is in keeping with the family money credo that Richmond is emerging from. Berridge Spencer, who along with Couillault supplies the investment research grunt to Richmond, has been running family money using FOFH strategies since 2000.

As I reported last month there's an underground hedge fund community in New Zealand that is slowly emerging from its hiding place.

Like those upmarket fashion shops that I never dare enter, however, these hedge funds are likely to remain boutique options for elite investors.

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