Category Archives: Most intriguing new funds

Standpoint Multi-Asset Fund (BLNDX / REMIX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The Standpoint Multi-Asset Fund seeks positive absolute returns through an “All-Weather strategy.” The fund holds a global equity portfolio built from regional equity ETFs. The strategy also invests, both long and short, in exchange traded futures contracts from seven sectors: equity indexes, currencies, interest rates, metals, grains, soft commodities, and energy. The managers attempt to participate in medium- to long-term trends in global futures markets and to produce a reasonable return premium in Continue reading →

Artisan International Explorer (ARDBX/ARHBX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The investment team seeks to invest in high-quality, undervalued businesses with the potential for superior risk/reward outcomes. The investment universe is generally non-US equities with market caps below $5 billion. The portfolio is typically 25-50 holdings, with individual holdings capped at about 10% and cash generally under 15%.


Artisan Partners, L.P. Artisan is a remarkable Continue reading →

Vela Large Cap Plus I (VELIX)

By Dennis Baran

Let’s be blunt!

Why bury the lead?

“90% of everything is crap.”





That’s Ric Dillon, the fund’s PM, quoting Theodore Sturgeon (1918-85), a science-fiction author frustrated by a prevailing thought of his time– that works of science fiction are universally bad.

His defense of his chosen field, argued in a New York University lecture hall, can be boiled down to a simple argument. Continue reading →

Conestoga Micro Cap Fund (CMCMX / CMIRX), June 2022

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The Fund seeks to provide long-term growth of capital. The plan is to invest in 25-40 microcap stocks that are attractively priced relative to their growth prospects. Across the firm, the managers favor companies which have sustainable earnings growth rates, high returns on equity, low debt levels, and capable management teams. The strategy aims to produce consistent returns with low volatility and reduced downside capture.


Conestoga Capital Advisors, LLC. Headquartered outside of Philadelphia, Conestoga had its origins in the 1980s but Continue reading →

Channel Short Duration Income Fund (CPSIX), July 2021

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Channel Short Duration Income Fund pursues total return, comprised of both income and capital appreciation. In general, at least 65% of the portfolio will be investment-grade securities and up to 35% might be high-yield bonds. The bulk of the portfolio is short-term investment-grade debt, but the manager can opportunistically add other securities – longer-term debt, for instance – so long as the portfolio as a whole maintains a weighted average duration of 1 to 3.5 years.

The adviser expects the portfolio to be Continue reading →

Northern U.S. Quality ESG Fund (NUESX), June 2021

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

This Fund seeks to invest in high-quality companies that are industry leaders with regards to their environmental, social, and governance practices. Their investable universe is mid- to large-cap US stocks excluding those companies involved in ESG controversies or those that violate global norms like the United Nations Global Compact. They also remove Continue reading →

SmartETFs Dividend Builder ETF (DIVS), April 2021

By David Snowball

Formerly Guinness Atkinson Dividend Builder (GAINX) and, prior to 2014, Guinness Atkinson Inflation Managed Dividend Fund.

Objective and Strategy

SmartETFs Dividend Builder ETF seeks consistent dividend growth at a rate greater than the rate of inflation by investing in a global portfolio of about 35 dividend-paying stocks. Stocks in the portfolio have survived four Continue reading →

American Beacon Continuous Capital Emerging Market Equity Fund (CCEYX), February 2021

By David Snowball

*This fund has been liquidated.*

Objective and strategy

Continuous Capital pursues long-term capital appreciation through investing in a diversified portfolio of EM equities. The managers view their core competence as security selection. They try to keep the portfolio roughly sector- and country-neutral relative to their benchmark so that the portfolio’s performance will be driven primarily by their security selection. Security selection, in turn, is driven by the interplay of three factors: value, quality, and dividends. In consequence, the fund’s “style” might appear more growth-oriented in some markets and more value-oriented in others.

The portfolio is broadly diversified, with a commitment to including both mid- and small-cap stocks. The managers anticipate Continue reading →

Rondure Overseas Fund (ROSOX/ROSIX), December 2020

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Rondure Overseas invests, primarily, in the stocks of corporations located in developed markets outside of the US. The managers pursue a benchmark-agnostic, active style that allows them to invest in stocks of any size. In general, they aspire to invest in great companies at good prices. They have the freedom to invest in good companies at great prices, but the wisdom to play that game rarely.

The quantitative markers of being a great company include strong balance sheets, stable free cash flows, and high returns on capital. The qualitative markers are “compelling competitive advantages,” which might include elements of the business niche and strong, responsible leadership.

The portfolio currently holds Continue reading →

Harbor Global Leaders Investor (HGGIX), October 2020

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Harbor Global Leaders targets firms, worldwide, that are capable of generating sustainable, above-average, and relatively stable rates of earnings per share growth and strong free cash flows. The manager looks for companies that are leaders in their country, industry, or globally in terms of products, services, or execution. 

Their ideal business has six Continue reading →

Invenomic Fund (formerly Balter Invenomic), (BIVRX/BIVIX/BIVSX), May 2019

By David Snowball

At the time of publication, this fund was named Balter Invenomic.

Objective and strategy

Balter Invenomic Fund is seeking long term capital appreciation. They pursue that through a widely diversified long-short portfolio comprised, primarily, of domestic stocks. The long and short portfolios each held about 150 positions, as of early 2019. The long portfolio is always fully invested in undervalued, timely stocks while the size of the short portfolio varies based on the opportunities available. The long portfolio is all-cap and might include equity securities other than just common stocks. The fund’s short portfolio is broadly diversified and targets stocks which are both overvalued and are likely to fall. The short portfolio is not designed merely as a defensive buffer; it is designed to deliver positive returns and reduce the overall risk of the portfolio through Continue reading →

Holbrook Income Fund (HOBIX), July 2018

By Dennis Baran

Objective and strategy

The fund seeks to provide current income with a secondary objective of capital preservation in a rising interest rate and inflationary environment.

The manager’s goal is to achieve a 2% return above inflation, generate income, and protect principal. By managing credit and interest rate risk, limiting duration, and minimizing drawdown to less than 2%, it’s designed to fend against frontal attacks that may ravage the bond market which reduce investor returns and suffocate Continue reading →

AlphaCentric Income Opportunities Fund (IOFIX), February 2018

By Charles Boccadoro

“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying

will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”

        Biz Stone

Objective and Strategy

The AlphaCentric Income Opportunities Fund seeks to provide current income. Presently, it invests in often overlooked (some call “pejorative”) segments of non‐agency (private label) residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), specifically in seasoned (2007 or earlier) subprime mortgages with floating rate coupons.

The irony is that 10 years after the housing collapse these bonds, once highly discounted if not feared worthless, represent one of the more sought after asset classes, as described nicely in Claire Boston’s Bloomberg Continue reading →

Centerstone Investors (CETAX/CENTX), September 2017

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Investors Fund seeks long-term growth by investing, primarily, in an all-cap global equity value portfolio though there’s no formal limit on its ability to hold fixed-income securities, including private placements. The manager’s value discipline leads him to higher-quality firms whose stocks are selling at a discount to his assessment of their intrinsic value. As the stresses on the firm rise, so does the size of the discount he demands. The goal is to also invest with a margin of safety, which might also lead the fund to hold substantial amounts of cash when attractive and attractively-priced opportunities are not available. As of June 30, 2017, cash and cash surrogates comprise 26% of the portfolio. The manager expects to keep at least Continue reading →

Moerus Worldwide Value (MOWNX/MOWIX), August 2017

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Moerus Worldwide Value pursues long term capital appreciation, primarily by investing in foreign and domestic common stocks that it believes are deeply undervalued. The portfolio is constructed from the bottom-up through fundamental analysis; which is to say the manager cares about finding 15-50 great stocks with no particular interest in paralleling some indexes sector, size or country weightings. As of May 31, 2017, the fund is invested in 37 stocks.


Moerus Capital Management, LLC. Moerus is a Continue reading →

Matthews Asia Credit Opportunities (MCRDX/MICPX), July 2017

By David Snowball

*Matthews Asia liquidated their two fixed-income funds in March, 2023. Manager Teresa Kong subsequently left the firm. In consequence, the information for Marathon Value should be read for archival purposes only.*

Objective and strategy

The managers seek total return over the long term. They invest in debt issued by Asian corporations, governments and supranatural institutions. The managers invest, primarily, in high-yield, dollar-denominated debt though they define that term broadly enough to incorporate both high-yield bonds and debt-related instruments such as convertible bonds, hybrids and derivatives with fixed income characteristics.  Around 20-25% of the portfolio has been in convertible bonds since inception, and that percentage is been pretty stable from year to year. 


Matthews International Capital Management, LLC, the Investment Advisor to the Matthews Asia Funds, was founded Continue reading →

Intrepid International Fund (ICMIX),(Liquidated), January 2017

By Dennis Baran

This fund has been liquidated.

Objective and strategy

The fund seeks long-term capital appreciation by investing in an international, all-cap portfolio. The fund is non-diversified and its primary focus is on developed markets. Its strategy is benchmark-agnostic, so its country, industry and sector weightings may differ substantially from those in its benchmark index or peer group. Its process capitalizes on market disruptions, fear, and volatility to generate bargains. The fund plans to hold between 15-50 different companies, may hold substantial cash and is typically hedges its currency exposure when cost effective.

The fund is intended for Continue reading →

Otter Creek Long Short Opportunity (OTCRX), April 2016

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The Otter Creek Long/Short Opportunity Fund seeks long-term capital appreciation. They take long positions in securities they believe to be undervalued and short positions in the overvalued. Their net market exposure will range between (-35%) and 80%. They can place up to 20% in MLPs, 30% in REITs, and 30% in fixed income securities, including junk bonds. They use a limited amount of leverage. The fund is unusually concentrated with about 30 long and 30 short positions.


Otter Creek Advisors. Otter Creek Advisors was formed for the special purpose of managing this mutual fund and giving Messrs. Walling and Winter, the two primary managers, a substantial equity stake in the operation. That arrangement is part of a “succession plan to provide equity ownership to the next generation of portfolio managers: Mike Winter and Tyler Walling.” Otter Creek Advisers has about $280 million in assets under management.


R. Keith Long, Tyler Walling and Michael Winter. Mr. Long has a long and distinguished career in the financial services industry, dating back to 1973. Mr. Walling joins Otter Creek in 2011 after a five-year stint as an equity analyst for Goldman Sachs. Mr. Winter joined Otter Creek in 2007. Prior to Otter Creek, he worked for a long/short equity hedge fund and, before that, for Putnam Investment Management.

Strategy capacity and closure

Somewhere “north of a billion” the team would consider a soft close. They were pretty emphatic that they didn’t want to become an asset sponge and that they were putting an enormous amount of care into attracting compatible investors.

Management’s stake in the fund

Mr. Long has invested more than $1,000,000 in the fund, Mr. Winter and Mr. Walling each have $500,000-$1,000,000. Those are substantial commitments for 30-something managers to make. Sadly, as of December 30, 2015, no member of the fund’s board of trustees had chosen to invest in it.

Opening date

December 30, 2013.

Minimum investment

$2,500, reduced to $1,000 for accounts established with an automatic investment plan.

Expense ratio

2.63% for the Investor class, on assets of $153.3 million (as of July 2023). 


In its first two-plus years of operation, Otter Creek Opportunity has been a very, very good long/short fund. Three observations lie behind that judgment.

First, it has made much more money than its generally sad sack peer group. From inception from the end of February, 2016, OTCRX posted annual returns of 10.2%. Its average peer lost 1% annually in the same period. During that stretch, it bested the S&P 500 in 15 of 25 calendar months and beat its peers in 17 of 25 months.

Second, it has provided exceptional downside protection. It outperformed the S&P 500 in 10 of the 11 months in which the index declined and consistently stayed in the range of tiny losses to modest gains in periods when the S&P 500 was down 3% or more.


It also outperformed its long/short peers in nine of the 11 months in which the S&P 500 dropped. Since launch, the fund’s downside deviation has been only 40% of its peers and its maximum drawdown has been barely one-fourth as great as theirs.

Third, it has negligible correlation to the market. To date, its correlation to the S&P 500 is 0.05. In practical terms, that means that there’s no evidence that a decline in the stock market will be consistently associated with a decline in Otter Creek.

What accounts for their very distinctive performance?

At base, the managers believe it’s because they focus. They focus, for example, on picking exceptional stocks. They are Graham and Dodd sorts of investors, looking for sustainably high return-on-equity, growing dividends, limited financial leverage and dominant market positions.  They use a “forensic accounting approach to financial statement analysis” to help identify not only attractive firms but also the places within the firm’s capital structure that holds the best opportunities. They tend to construct a focused portfolio around 30 or so long and short positions. On the flip side, they short firms that use aggressive accounting, weak balance sheets, wretched leadership and low quality earnings.

Which is to say, yes, they were shorting Valeant in 2015.

Their top ten long and short positions, taken together, account for about 70% of the portfolio. They’re both more concentrated and more patient, measured by turnover, than their peers.

They also focus on the portfolio, rather than just on individual names for the portfolio. They’ve created a series of rules, drawing on their prior work with their firm’s hedge fund, to limit mishaps in their short portfolio. If, for example, a short position begins to get “crowded,” that is, if other investors start shorting the same names they do, they’ll reduce their position size to avoid the risk of a short squeeze. Likewise they substantially reduce or eliminate any short that moves against the portfolio by 25% or more over the course of six months.

Bottom Line

Messrs. Walling and Winter bear watching. They’ve got a healthy attitude and have done a lot right in a short period. As of mid-February, they had a vast performance advantage over the S&P 500 and their peers. Even after the S&P’s furious six-week rally, they are still ahead – and vastly ahead if you take the effects of volatility into account. It’s clear that they see this fund as a long-term project, they’re excited by it and they’re looking for the right kind of investors to join in with them. If you’re looking to partner with investors who don’t like volatility and detest losing their shareholders money, you might reasonably add OTCRX to your short-list of funds to investigate.

Fund website

Otter Creek Long/Short

© Mutual Fund Observer, 2016. All rights reserved. The information here reflects publicly available information current at the time of publication. For reprint/e-rights contact us.

AQR Equity Market Neutral (QMNIX), AQR Long-Short Equity (QLEIX), April 2016

By Samuel Lee

Objective and strategy

AQR offers its absolute return equity strategy in two mutual fund flavors: AQR Equity Market Neutral and AQR Long-Short Equity. Equity Market Neutral, or EMN, goes long global stocks that score well on proprietary composite measures and shorts global stocks that score poorly. AQR groups these measures into six broad “themes”:

  • Value is the strategy of buying stocks that are cheap on fundamental measures such as book value, earnings, dividends and cash flow.
  • Momentum is the strategy of buying stocks with strong recent relative performance according to measures such as price returns, abnormal returns after earnings announcements (earnings surprises), abnormal risk-adjusted returns (residual momentum), and returns of economically linked firms (indirect momentum).
  • Earnings quality is the strategy of buying stocks with reported earnings that are more reliable indicators of future earnings, according to measures such as accruals.
  • Stability is the strategy of buying stocks with defensive characteristics, such as low volatility, low beta, and low leverage.
  • Investor sentiment is the strategy of buying stocks with wide agreement by “smart money”, according to measures such as low short interest as a percentage of market capitalization and high commonality of holdings by elite hedge funds.
  • Management signaling is the strategy of buying stocks where management engages in actions that indicate financial strength or cheapness, such as debt retirement and share repurchases.

Stocks are ranked by these measures within each industry. The stocks with the highest composite scores are bought and the stocks with the lowest composite scores are shorted. Industry neutrality improves risk-adjusted returns on a wide variety of stock selection signals, perhaps because it removes persistent industry bets.

In addition, the strategy engages in country-industry pairs selection using the same six sets of signals and industry selection using only value and momentum. Because AQR dislikes concentrated bets, the country-industry pairs and industry selection strategies are allotted a smaller portion of the strategy’s overall risk than the stock-selection strategy.

The balance of the long and short sleeves is managed to produce returns uncorrelated with the MSCI World Index, a market-weighted benchmark of developed market stocks. This does not mean each sleeve has the same notional size. The long sleeve tends to exhibit lower volatility for each unit of notional exposure than the short sleeve. In order to balance them, the strategy must own more dollars of the long sleeve, creating the impression that it has net long equity exposure. The gross exposure for each sleeve has a floor of 100% NAV and a cap of 250% NAV, meaning the strategy’s gross exposure can range from 2x to 5x the net asset value of the fund. As of February end, AQR Equity Market Neutral had 190% notional long exposure and 173% notional short exposure, for a total gross notional exposure of 363%.

AQR takes steps to mitigate the risks of leverage. First, the strategy is well diversified, with over 1700 stock positions, most of them under 0.5% notional exposure and the biggest at a little under 1.7%. Single-stock concentration goes against every bone in AQR. Like most quant investors, AQR goes for seconds and thirds when it comes to the “free lunch” of diversification.

Second, AQR has a 6% annualized volatility target for the strategy, which means AQR will likely reduce gross leverage if its positions behave erratically. This is a trend-following strategy as periods of high volatility usually coincide with bad returns. For reference, the volatility target is about a third of the historical volatility of the U.S. stock market and roughly the same as the historical volatility of the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index (though in recent years the bond index’s volatility has dropped to about 3%).

Finally, the strategy applies what AQR calls a “drawdown control system”, a methodology for cutting risk when the strategy loses money and adding it back as it recoups its losses (or enough time lapses since a drawdown). The drawdown control system can cut the fund’s target volatility by up to half in the worst circumstances. AQR’s use of volatility targeting and drawdown control are common practices among quantitative investors. As a group these investors tend to cut and add risks at the same time. It is unclear whether they are influential enough to alter the nature of markets and perhaps render these methods obsolete or even harmful (think of portfolio insurance and its contribution to Black Monday in 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22.6%). My guess is quantitative investors aren’t yet big enough because many more investors are counter-cyclical rebalancers over the short-run, particularly institutions. This is speculation, of course. The market is a big and wild herd that will sometimes stampede in a direction it had never gone before—a lesson AQR itself learned at least twice: during the madness of the dot-com bubble and during the great quant meltdown of 2007.

Long-Short Equity, or LSE, takes the EMN strategy (though they’re not exact clones if we’re to judge by their holdings and position sizes) and overlays a tactical equity strategy that targets an average 50% exposure to the MSCI World Index, with the ability to adjust its exposure by +/- 20% based largely on valuation and momentum. The equity exposure is obtained through futures.

In a back-test of a simplified version of the strategy, the market-timing component did not add much to the strategy’s performance while it worsened the drawdown during the financial crisis.


AQR Capital Management, LLC, was founded in 1998 by a team of ex-Goldman Sachs quant investors led by Clifford S. Asness, David G. Kabiller, Robert J. Krail, and John M. Liew. (Krail is no longer with the firm.) AQR stands for Applied Quantitative Research. Asness, Krail and Liew met each other at the University of Chicago’s finance PhD program. The firm’s bread and butter has long been trading value and momentum together, an idea Asness studied in his dissertation under Eugene Fama, father of modern finance and one of the co-formulators of the efficient market hypothesis.

AQR is mostly owned by AQR Group LP, which in turn is owned by employees of the firm. AMG, a publicly traded asset manager, has owned a stake in AQR since 2004 and in 2014 it increased it, but remains a minority shareholder (terms of both transactions have not been disclosed). AMG largely leaves its investees to run themselves, so I am not concerned about the firm pushing AQR to do stupid things to meet or beat a quarterly target. Though the implosion of Third Avenue, an investee, may spur AMG to more actively monitor its portfolio companies, I doubt Asness and his partners gave AMG much power to meddle in AQR’s affairs.

AQR’s mutual fund business has grown rapidly in size and sophistication since 2009, when it launched arbitrage and equity momentum funds. It competes with DFA for the mantle of academic “thought leadership” among advisors, its main clients. This has put Asness in the awkward position of competing with his former mentor Fama, who is a significant shareholder in DFA and the chief intellectual architect of its approach. Like DFA, AQR emphasizes the primacy of factors in managing portfolios.

When AQR started up, it was hot. It had one of the biggest launches of any hedge-fund up to that point. Then the dot-com bubble inflated. The widening gap in valuations between value and growth stocks almost sunk AQR. According to Asness, had the bubble lasted six more months, he would have been out of business. When the bubble burst, the firm’s returns soared and so did its assets. The good times rolled on and the firm was on the verge of an IPO by late 2007. According to the New York Post, AQR had to shelve it as the subprime crisis began roiling the markets. The financial crisis shredded its returns, with its flagship Absolute Return fund falling more than 50 percent from the start of 2007 to the end of 2008. Firm-wide assets from peak-to-trough went from $39.1 billion to $17.2 billion. The good times are back: As of December-end, AQR had $142.2 billion in net assets under management.

The two near-death experiences have instilled in AQR a fear of concentrated business risks. In 2009, AQR began to diversify away from its flighty institutional clientele by launching mutual funds to entice stickier retail investors. The firm has also launched new strategies at a steady clip, including managed futures, risk parity, and global macro.

AQR has a strong academic bent. Its leadership is sprinkled with economics and finance PhDs from top universities, particularly the University of Chicago. The firm has poached academics with strong publishing records, including Andrea Frazzini, Lasse Pedersen, and Tobias Moskowitz. Its researchers and leaders are still active in publishing papers.

The firm’s principals are critical of hedge funds that charge high fees on strategies that are largely replicable. AQR’s business model is to offer up simplified quant versions of these strategies and charge relatively low fees.


Both the Equity Market Neutral and Long-Short Equity strategies are run by Jacques A. Friedman, Andrea Frazzini, and Michele L. Aghassi. Ronen Israel helps manage EMN. Hoon Kim helps manage LSE. All five are principals, or partners, in the firm.

Friedman heads AQR’s Global Stock Selection team. Prior to joining AQR at its inception in 1998, he developed quantitative stock selection strategies at Goldman Sachs. He is the principal portfolio manager and supervises Frazzini, Aghassi and Kim.

Israel heads AQR’s Global Alternative Premia Group. Prior to joining AQR in 1999, he was a senior analyst at Quantitative Financial Strategies, Inc.

Frazzini researches global stock-selection strategies. Prior to joining AQR in 2008 he was a star finance professor at the University of Chicago.

Aghassi is co-head of research of AQR’s Global Stock Selection team. Prior to joining AQR in 2005, she obtained her PhD in operations research at MIT.

Kim is the head of equity portfolio management in AQR’s Global Stock Selection team. Prior to joining AQR in 2005, he was head of quantitative equity research at Mellon Capital Management.

Israel and Friedman have master’s degrees in mathematics. Frazzini, Aghassi and Kim have PhDs.

Strategy capacity and closure

The EMN and LSE funds together have over $1.6 billion in assets. However, AQR runs hedge funds, institutional separate accounts, and foreign funds, and re-uses the same signals in different formats, such as long-only funds. The effective dollars dedicated to the signals use by the funds are almost certainly much higher than reported by the aggregate net asset values of the mutual funds.

Fortunately, AQR has a history of closing funds and ensuring its assets don’t overwhelm the capacity of its strategies. When the firm launched in 1998, it could have started with $2 billion but chose to manage only half that, according to founding partner David Kabiller. Of its mutual funds, AQR has already closed its Multi-Strategy Alternative, Diversified Arbitrage and Risk Parity mutual funds. Soon after I wrote about AQR Style Premia Alternative QSPIX and AQR Style Premia LV QSLIX in the September 2015 edition of MFO, AQR announced a soft close of the funds. It went into effect on March 31, 2016. AQR will meet additional demand by launching funds that are tweaked to have more capacity. 

Management’s stake in the funds

As of December 31, 2014, the funds’ managers had relatively low investments in the mutual funds.

  • Friedman had $50,001 to $100,000 in the EMN fund and $100,001 to $500,000 in the LSE fund.
  • Israel had no investment in the EMN fund.
  • Frazzini had $10,001 to $50,000 in both funds.
  • Aghassi had no investments in either fund.
  • Kim had no investment in the LSE fund.

The low levels of investment should not be held against the managers. It is cheaper and more tax efficient for them to invest in the strategies through AQR’s hedge funds. They also have a direct interest in the success of the firm. Unlike many other hedge funds, AQR does not compensate partners and employees largely based on the profits attributable to them. The team-based nature of AQR’s quantitative process means profits cannot be cleanly attributable to a given employee. Moreover, there is a huge element of luck in the performance of a given strategy and AQR rightly does not want to overwhelmingly tie compensation to it. All the portfolio managers of the funds are partners and so earn a payout based on the firm’s earnings and their relative ownership stakes. AQR grants ownership stakes based on “cumulative research, leadership and other contributions.”

I expect that over time the managers’ stakes will rise as a matter of window-dressing for consultants who take a check-the-box approach to due diligence (most of them). There is evidence that window-dressing has occurred: Some of AQR’s principals own both the low- and high-volatility versions of the same strategy, which is strange because it is costlier to own the low-volatility version per unit of exposure.

Opening date

AQR Long-Short Equity started on July 16, 2013. AQR Equity Market Neutral started on October 7, 2014. AQR has been running long-short stock-selection strategies since its 1998 founding.

Minimum investment

$1 million for the N shares, $5 million for the I shares. The minimums are waived at certain brokerages. Fidelity, for example, allows investments as small as $2500 in IRAs. Fee-only financial advisors have no investment minimums.

Expense ratio

QMNIX shares are 1.50% with $208 million in assets and QLEIX shares are 1.36% with $597 million in assets, as of June 2023. 


Both funds have been closed to new investors as of 2017. 

Since its October 2014 inception, AQR Equity Market Neutral Fund I QMNIX has returned 18.6% annualized with a standard deviation of 7.0%, for a Sharpe ratio of 2.66. Since its July 2013 inception, AQR Long-Short Equity Fund I QLEIX has returned 14.4% above its benchmark (a 50-50 blend of the MSCI World Index and cash) with a standard deviation of 5.8%, for a Sharpe ratio of 2.46. Almost all of the abnormal returns were driven by the market-neutral equity stock selection sleeve; AQR’s tactical market timing in the LSE strategy contributed zilch to the fund’s returns from inception to the end of 2015.

These are not sustainable numbers. A more reasonable, conservative long-run Sharpe ratio is 0.5. Translated to a raw return, that’s 3% above cash for a market-neutral strategy that runs at a 6% volatility.

While AQR’s absolute return global stock selection strategy has done well, its long-only funds have not. Since the LSE fund launched in 2013, its active returns (that is, returns above its benchmark) have far outstripped the active returns of the AQR Multi-Style funds. In the chart below I plotted the cumulative active returns of AQR Long-Short Equity (which has a longer live track record than AQR Equity Market Neutral) against a sum of the active returns of AQR Large Cap Multi-Style I QCELX and AQR International Multi-Style I QICLX. The long-only funds have stagnated, while the long-short fund has consistently made lots of money. While I doubt this divergence will remain big and persistent, I’m confident that it’s well worth paying up for AQR’s long-short strategy. 


Bottom line

AQR’s long-short global stock-selection strategy is well worth the money and a better deal than its long-only stock funds.

Fund Website

AQR Equity Market Neutral

AQR Long-Short Equity

SamLeeSam Lee and Severian Asset Management

Sam is the founder of Severian Asset Management, Chicago. He is also former Morningstar analyst and editor of their ETF Investor newsletter. Sam has been celebrated as one of the country’s best financial writers (Morgan Housel: “Really smart takes on ETFs, with an occasional killer piece about general investment wisdom”) and as Morningstar’s best analyst and one of their best writers (John Coumarianos: “ Lee has written two excellent pieces [in the span of a month], and his showing himself to be Morningstar’s finest analyst”). He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Financial Advisor, MarketWatch, Barron’s, and other financial publications.  

Severian works with high net-worth partners, but very selectively. “We are organized to minimize conflicts of interest; our only business is providing investment advice and our only source of income is our client fees. We deal with a select clientele we like and admire. Because of our unusual mode of operation, we work hard to figure out whether a potential client, like you, is a mutual fit. The adviser-client relationship we want demands a high level of mutual admiration and trust. We would never want to go into business with someone just for his money, just as we would never marry someone for money—the heartache isn’t worth it.” Sam works from an understanding of his partners’ needs to craft a series of recommendations that might range from the need for better cybersecurity or lower-rate credit cards to portfolio reconstruction. 

© Mutual Fund Observer, 2016. All rights reserved. The information here reflects publicly available information current at the time of publication. For reprint/e-rights contact us.