Hedge funds are seeking to capitalize on this year's rocky markets, if their hiring patterns are any indication.
New data from executive recruiter Context Jensen Partners revealed a sharp uptick in marketing and investor relations hires at hedge fund firms in the first three months of 2018, as the Chicago Board Options Exchange's VIX index — which measures near-term expectations for market volatility — climbed to its highest levels since 2015.
The headhunting firm counted 81 hires at hedge funds during the first quarter, more than double the 39 moves recorded at end of 2017 – the lowest number recorded by Context Jensen since it began tracking hires in 2013.
"Now that volatility is back, people are moving back to hedge funds," said Context Jensen Partners chief executive officer Sasha Jensen. "Even though it's been a rough first quarter, hedge funds can offer a different type of return through understanding that volatility and making the right moves around it."
After a positive 2017, hedge funds have just barely managed to stay in the black so far this year, according to industry tracker HFR. The research firm's composite index returned 0.35 percent for the quarter following losses in February and March.
By comparison, the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index lost about 1 percent in the first quarter.
According to Context Jensen, equity-focused hedge funds hired the most people, accounting for 21 of the total moves. Meanwhile, multistrategy firms made 14 hires and credit funds had 13 moves. Nine marketer searches took place at global macro hedge funds, and eight were at commodity funds.
Jensen said the hiring activity so far this year has been a mix of hedge fund firms bolstering their investor relations staff at existing funds and hiring marketers for new funds. In particular, she said many hedge funds and other alternative asset managers have been launching niche credit strategies.
Overall, marketing hires were robust across the alternative investment industry last quarter, with 280 moves tracked by Context Jensen. The recruiter said it was one of the busiest quarters it had ever tracked, second only to the 331 hires made in the third quarter of 2017.