[…] It’s an existential crisis for former masters of the universe who once prided themselves on their trading prowess. Now they’re questioning their wisdom and their ability to generate profits that made them among the richest in finance.
The $2.9 trillion industry has posted average annual returns of 2 percent over the past three years, well below those of most index funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That meager performance and complaints about high fees from pension plans and other investors led to $51.5 billion being withdrawn from hedge funds in the first nine months of the year, the most since the financial crisis, data compiled by Hedge Fund Research Inc. show. About 530 funds were liquidated in the first half, on pace for the most shutdowns since 2008.
Managers blame a wall of index-fund money and algorithmic trading for warping markets. They bemoan central bank near-zero-rate policies, political and economic decisions made overseas and government regulation for undermining their craft. Add to that global economic uncertainty and an onslaught of technology that’s changing the investing process. It’s enough to have the so-called best and brightest second-guessing themselves.