David Swensen Slams Fund-of-Funds as a "Cancer"
In an interview in the WSJ, David Swensen called fund-of-funds a “cancer on the institutional investor world.” He then adds with the sensational “Madoff” word association to accentuate his point. Ouch.
On the investing front, he likes distressed investments and TIPs.
WSJ: What about fund of funds and consultants? Can they be a solution?
Mr. Swensen: Fund of funds are a cancer on the institutional-investor world. They facilitate the flow of ignorant capital. If an investor can’t make an intelligent decision about picking managers, how can he make an intelligent decision about picking a fund-of-funds manager who will be selecting hedge funds? There’s also more fees on top of existing fees. And the best managers don’t want fund-of-fund money because it is unreliable. You need to be in the top 10% of hedge funds to succeed. In a fund of funds, you will likely be excluded from the best managers. [Mr.] Madoff also relied enormously on these intermediaries. He wouldn’t have had nearly as much resources were it not for fund of funds.
Consultants make money by giving advice to as many people as possible. But you outperform by finding inefficiencies most of the market has not yet uncovered. So consultants ultimately end up doing a disservice to investors.
WSJ: Looking ahead, what investments do you like?
Mr. Swensen: Distressed securities are one of the most interesting opportunities for institutional investors. But returns won’t come right away because the credit markets are fundamentally broken. TIPS [Treasury-Inflation Protected Securities] are pretty attractively priced. They promise reasonable returns, and protection against inflation is really important. We may not see it in the next year or two, but the government’s massive fiscal stimulus can’t help but produce massive inflationary pressures. Stocks also look a lot more attractive than they have for a long time. We prefer higher-quality companies with low leverage.