World's One-Time Largest FX Hedge Fund On Verge Of Shutdown
There is a reason why John Taylor of FX Concepts, founded in 1981 and which once upon a time was the world's largest FX hedge fund, has kept a very quiet profile lately despite his often bombastic prognostications in 2011 and 2012: the firm may be on the verge of shut down following a recent surge in redemptions resulting from woeful performance in the past three years. FX Week reports that AUM at FX Concepts "have continued to fall and the fund's chief strategist confirms the board's ideas haven't worked so far." It adds that the hedge fund is in "dangerous territory after the departure of several major clients and falling assets under management, prompting the firm's board to rethink its strategy, officials have confirmed." As a result of a surge in redemptions, assets under management have declined from a peak of $14.2 billion in 2007 to less than $1 billion this year, having been at $4.5 billion in early 2012.
Earlier this year, FX Concepts saw the exit of two major clients – the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System and the Bayerische Versorgungskammer pension fund – but further clients are understood to have left in recent weeks.
The culprit: the same affliction that is currently impairing all other hedge funds in a centrally-planned market - underperformance. FX Concepts' flagship multi-strategy fund is down 11.35% this year through August. It was down 14.47% in 2011 and down 3.11% in 2012. Overall, the fund's annualized returns since January 2002 are a paltry 3.74%, CNBC reports.
It also fell 14.47 percent in 2011 and lost 3.11 percent in 2012. The fund produced net annualized returns of 3.74 percent from January 2002 through this August.
"FX Concepts has lost a number of investors. We're still an ongoing business, but there is clearly a lot of pressure on us to rethink our strategy and come up with a way out. The performance of our headline fund has been very frustrating this year," says Bob Savage, chief strategist at FX Concepts in New York.
Savage, who joined FX Concepts a year ago after selling his research business to the firm, declined to name the latest client to leave, but confirmed that a number of major clients have been closing out their positions with FX Concepts. "We're winding down some positions in the headline fund in an organised and professional fashion," he says.
But while Savage is hopeful that a rebound may take place and the firm will bounce back, the firm's fate may have been all but sealed when one of its last remaining large institutional clients, the San Fran Employees' Retirement System, voted on September 11 to pull its funds. CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne reports:
"The Board approved reducing its currency overlay program target to zero percent," Huish said in an email to CNBC.com. "There is no intention at this time to redeploy the currency overlay mandate to any new currency managers."
San Francisco had more than $450 million with New York-based FX Concepts, a majority of the $661 million the firm reported managing overall in its latest Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
That redemption may have been fatal.
The sad but inevitable conclusion follows:
According to two people familiar with the situation, FX Concepts is in the process of liquidating its hedge funds and laid off most employees in recent weeks.
Sadly as more and more HFT algos move from the barren wasteland that is now stocks to dominate FX trading, yet another old-school, carbon-based investor is pulling out, meaning all those ridiculous moves we have grown to know and loathe in stocks land are about to dominate FX. The only problem is that 1000 pip moves in FX are not quite as easy to undo as a flash crash taking down any one individual stock, ETF or index to 0 or alternatively sending it to infinity.
The good news: the circus that are capital markets under Ben Bernanke is about to get that much funnier.
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