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Eager hedge funds on hunt as investors take cover

Investors say they are getting more promotional material from hedge funds than ever before, as funds seek to replenish assets withdrawn or lost because of negative performance during the financial crisis.

Investors such as family trusts, pension funds and high net worth individuals say the sales drive intensified in the run-up to the GAIM hedge fund industry conference which began on Tuesday.

“Normally a few funds would contact me to arrange meetings before the conference, but this year about thirty called or emailed,” said one manager from a family trust, who declined to be named because his employer prefers to remain anonymous.

“I wouldn't have time to see them all even if I wanted to.”

Fund of hedge funds, too, say the hedge fund sales drive has intensified.

“The marketing has been much more aggressive this year, I have been bombarded. I had so many emails and calls I've had to be really selective about who I answer,” Clariden Leu portfolio manager Mark Schindler told Reuters.

Several end investors also said they had eschewed a 'spot me', the hand-held device which GAIM conference organizers offer delegates so they can find people among the throng of hedge fund managers, investors and fund service providers.

“The problem is, everyone can locate you too. I have $10 million I want to invest, but I want to choose who I talk to,” said a private investor. “If I had one of those things I'd be swamped by managers looking for an allocation.”

“Things are even more hectic for the guys with $50 million - everyone knows who they are.”

One family trust manager said that in order to ensure she had control over post-conference contacts rather than ending up on numerous fund mailing lists, she had printed her business cards without her telephone number or email.

Paradoxically, in spite of the apparent step up in funds' marketing efforts, there are notably fewer hedge fund sales staff at the conference this year than in 2008, as a glance at the attendance list showed.

“You can see funds are cutting back, most of the sales people that were here last year have been left at home this year,” said Schindler.

That means it is largely being left to the fund managers and executives to talk potential investors through their investment strategy, a role they have typically avoided in the past as a distraction from the day-to-day running of their funds.

“This year people who are actually managing the money have come to talk about their funds, it's something we rarely saw before,” Schindler said.

This year, however, fund managers may find end investors more difficult to locate than in the past - even with the aid of a 'spot-me' device. (Reuters)