2016 knowledge brokers

John Claisse

As a consultant focusing on alternative assets, John Claisse wants to address the elephant in the room: Hedge funds. Performance for the investment vehicle—don’t let Claisse catch you calling hedge funds an asset class—may have disappointed recently in the broadest sense of things. But the Albourne CEO believes good investment decisions require a more narrow focus. “There are parts of the hedge fund space that are performing and parts that have been underperforming,” he argues. “There’s a very broad range of managers and quality out there. A well-constructed hedge fund portfolio with skilled managers can provide a real contribution.” That’s not to say the hedge fund model is perfect—far from it. One of Claisse’s goals at Albourne is to improve that model so that investors’ interests are more aligned with those of managers. So far, he says hedge funds have already made great strides on liquidity, transparency, and governance. Up next? Fees. “That’s the next big frontier,” Claisse says. “And there’s already been meaningful change. At Albourne, we’re helping to facilitate our clients’ ability to evaluate fee structures and have an open dialogue with managers about how those structures evolve.” 

Another change that Claisse believes will revolutionize the industry is the adoption of factor-based asset allocation: using the underlying risk premia in investment strategies to better evaluate the drivers of returns. “That’s a key progression in identifying whether a manager is truly skilled,” he says. And if you’re going to work in alternatives—as a manager or a consultant—you’re going to need skill.  —Amy Whyte