Yes. There was a time on Wall Street not long ago when starting a hedge fund was the surest path to success, and the top hedgies quickly became some of the richest people on the planet. Meanwhile, investors didn’t seem to mind forking over the hedgies’ high fees because their returns were so good.
Today, that era is over. In fact, hedge funds—or private investment vehicles that under law can be marketed only to wealthy people (generally those with $1 million or more in assets) or large institutional investors such as pension funds—are fighting for their lives.
And with good reason: It’s easier to make money by simply buying a Vanguard 500 index fund that tracks the S&P 500 index of large-company stocks than by handing your retirement savings to some hotshot who charges a lot and delivers next to nothing.
The decline of the hedge-fund business began with a slow bleed sometime around 2008, when the Fed began slashing interest rates; but it hemorrhaged in 2016, with scores of funds closing and investors heading for the exits in droves. The next shoe to drop involved the funds’ inability to take enough risk, which stemmed largely from the Federal Reserve’s policy of keeping interest rates extremely low. (Hedge funds usually trade the most profitably in volatile markets.)
That said, they probably aren’t totally dead and buried. There are a lot of smart investors out there, and some will rise again when rates go up and volatility returns.
Charles Gasparino is a Senior Correspondent at Fox Business Network and a columnist for Men’s Fitness. Follow him on Twitter.