Family offices are heading back to hedge funds.
More than a third of 185 investment firms for wealthy clans plan to boost allocations amid the economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey released Wednesday by BlackRock Inc. and Juniper Place, a London-based firm that helps asset managers raise capital.
Family offices and other investors had soured on hedge funds in recent years, bemoaning high fees and lackluster returns. But the health crisis has given some of those managers a boost, particularly stock-pickers who benefited from aggressive bets on technology stocks and copious economic stimulus that drove equities to new heights.
“Recent market turmoil and the expectation of sustained volatility in the medium term has re-invigorated hedge fund appeal,” New York-based BlackRock and Juniper Place said in their report.
Family offices have proliferated in recent years along with a surge in personal wealth derived from tech, finance and real estate. Some of the largest include Bill Gates’s Cascade Investment and Sergey Brin’s Bayshore Global Management.
There are now more than 10,000 single-family offices globally, according to accounting firm EY. Single family offices, which have just one client, had average assets of $802 million, according to research published in 2019 by Campden Wealth and UBS Group.
More than three-quarters of family offices said they preferred long-short equity hedge funds, according to research BlackRock conducted in July and August. Such funds were the best-performing broad strategy last year, gaining about 4% through November on an asset-weighted basis, according to data from Hedge Fund Research Inc.
The firms also plan to increase allocations to asset classes that typically made up the bulk of their portfolios before the pandemic struck, such as private equity and real estate, and they’re increasingly exploring sustainable investments, according to the report.
“Family offices no longer see sustainable investing as a compromise on investment returns,” Sheryl Needham, BlackRock’s head of family offices for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in a statement.
BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, oversaw $7.8 trillion at the end of September.
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