While the S&P is struggling to eek out some modest gains for the year in the last month of the year, for hedge funds 2018 has not only been a scratch, but also one the worst years since the financial crisis, as the following chart shows.
And as the latest anecdotal evidence of just how bad it is for even iconic names in the hedge fund space, Bloomberg reports that Dmitry Balyasny's multi-strat hedge fund is cutting at least 125 people - roughly 20% of total - as losses and client redemptions have resulted in losses of $4 billion in assets.
According to Bloomberg, the firm eliminated 13 stock teams, accounting for about 40 investment professionals, and plans to reduce the balance of employees from the back office before the end of the year. Among the PMs leaving the firm are Arancha Cano, Jay Rao, Chris Chan, Rob Dishner, Feng Pan and Dan Orr.
While mass layoffs of this size are a rarity in the hedge fund industry, this time there is a good reason: the Chicago-based multi-manager, multi-strategy hedge fund, started 2018 with $11.3 billion in assets, and is now down to just $7.3 billion, its AUM shrinking by a whopping 35%.
What is more remarkable, is that the bulk of the asset shrinkage is not due to actual losses but redemptions: the firm’s Atlas Global fund fell 3.9% in November, bringing year-to-date losses to "only" 5.3% while a leveraged version dropped 5.7% in the month, and is down 7.9% for the year. This means that the balance of the AUM decline is due to billions in redemptions.
A silo-based fund, prior to the job cuts Balyasni had roughly 80 internal teams, or about 272 investment professionals, running strategies ranging from credit and global macro to quantitative systematic and equity trading. Most of the losses have come from equities this year.
Balyasny told investors that he expects to be able to improve performance with less money under management; to achieve that the firm said it has hired several investment professionals who will start next year. Of course, if and when that "rightsizing" fails, Balyasny can always convert to a family office which is what so many of its peers have done in recent years, unable to generate alpha and disappointing investors, leaving just "friends and family" money to manage.
And in even more bad news for the industry, David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital, suffered another decline in what may be its worst year on record, falling 3.5% in November, and extending this year’s losses to almost 28% in the first 11 months of 2018.
Einhorn, like many of his peers, has been struggling to rebound since 2015, when his main fund lost more than 20%. Green Brick
Partners Inc., among Greenlight’s largest U.S. holdings at the end of the third quarter, saw a double-digit decline in November amid a slide for homebuilders. At the same time, AerCap Holdings, Brighthouse Financial and General Motors - one of its largest positions as of Sept. 30 - all posted gains, but were unable to offset the losses on the short book which famously contains both Tesla (which climbed 3.9 percent in November) as well as a bubble basket of companies such as Amazon, which rebounded 5.8% in November.