Saturday, March 09, 2019


As we move further away from an equities oriented portfolio, I think that benchmarking against equity indices makes increasing less sense. We are also in a multi-year process of investing inherited cash, which means our portfolio is more cash and bonds heavy than it will be in the long run. As we near "financial independence" I am also becoming more risk-averse. This is the opposite of the usual textbook economics prediction that risk-aversion decreases with wealth. Part of it is that I feel like I should take less risk with the inherited money than with the money I saved myself. My goal is to pass on to my children at least as much as I inherited myself.

So, I am increasingly thinking that an index of hedge fund returns makes more sense as a benchmark. Hedge funds in general aim for lower volatility than equity indices. And hedge fund returns are after fees and so are a more realistic goal to aim at. This is why I have been researching hedge fund performance.

The returns of the typical hedge fund have declined over time and the typical hedge fund no longer produces alpha relative to the MSCI world stock index. Hedge fund returns are increasingly correlated with stock returns. Our own returns are converging towards those of hedge funds:

The graph shows rolling regression estimates of our alpha and beta relative to the HFRI fund weighted index. Our alpha is now around 0% and beta is 2. For a 1% change in hedge fund returns our returns typically change 2%. Mostly in the past we had a negative alpha to hedge fund returns. Comparing our actual returns (in USD terms) to those of the HFRI index, at times we have underperformed and at times outperformed the index:

The graph shows how many percent per year extra you would have earned by investing with me instead of in hte HFRI index starting in each month on the graph. So, if you invested with me in October 1996 you would have received about 2% per year less since then than investing in HFRI. But from November 2002 you would have been 2% per year better off by investing with me instead. By contrast, there have been few months in the last couple of decades where my subsequent cumulative return has been better than the MSCI World Index:

May and June 2003 was one such short period. I have outperformed the index since then. August 2015 and May 2017 were two other recent cases. But there are long periods where my subsequent performance was more than 3% p.a. worse than the index. On the other hand, perhaps the hedge fund index is too easy a benchmark to beat:

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