After Years of Cutting Fees, Hedge Funds Say Enough is Enough

Investors have brought hedge fund fees down to record lows — and managers are pushing back against further discounts.

Illustration by II

Illustration by II

The decline of hedge fund fees may have reached a plateau.

Hedge fund managers overwhelmingly indicated that they were done with fee reductions in a new survey by the Alternative Investment Management Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Asked whether they would lower the management and incentive fees paid by their investors, close to 80 percent said they had no intention to do so.

This unwillingness to offer cheaper fee structures follows a years-long downward slide for hedge fund fees, which are currently at their lowest levels ever, according to Hedge Fund Research. The industry tracker reported in June that management fees had declined to an average of 1.43 percent in the first quarter, the lowest since the firm began tracking fees in 2008.

[II Deep Dive: Hedge Fund Management Fees Fall to Record Low]

Performance fees, meanwhile, averaged 17.11 percent during the first quarter, a slight uptick from the previous quarter but a far cry from the 20 percent incentive fees historically associated with hedge funds.

That 2-and-20 structure is now all but a “relic,” according to the report from AIMA and PwC.

“Investors are hyper-sensitive to value for money, and keenly aware of paying only for alpha, not for beta,” said Mike Greenstein, PwC’s U.S. and global alternative asset management leader, in a statement Tuesday. “And they want this at fee levels that many in the alternative investments industry would not have considered a decade ago.”

Although hedge funds have made concessions up until this point, rising costs associated with investment talent and technology mean that fees are “not likely to move much further in the near term,” according to AIMA and PwC.

“Alternative fund managers have reduced their fees over the course of the equity bull run and some may feel that they have given enough ground,” the report stated.

Among those survey respondents still planning to lower fees, the continued discounts were largely motivated by the desire to attract new investors, with the majority saying they would also lower fees to retain existing investors.