Given the nature of the industry and how uniquely individual many hedge managers tend to be (diplomatic speak for mercurial), it would probably surprise many laypeople that hedge fund managers attend junkets to discuss the goings-on in their industry. The SALT hedge fund conference in Las Vegas is such an event.
Dubbed a major speaking event that brings various experts together to discuss macroeconomic trends, geopolitical topics, and alternative ideas for investment, the SALT Conference reaches out to 1,800 attendees annually for the annual networking event. The program is usually a week long and includes speeches by major political leaders such as Bill Clinton and General Colin Powell, as well as actors like Al Pacino. There is also plenty of industry material provided by over 100 hedge fund speakers.
The latest event, held in the second week of May 2013, took in the expected discussion of geopolitical events going on in the Middle East, including the continuing destabilization of the region due to Syria’s civil war. The agenda also included plenty of time for personal networking as well as speeches on the mortgage industry, changes in the hedge fund industry for 2013, forecasting trends, global economics, trading, and risks in startups and municipal bond investing.
Among the discussions, however, a few key points became apparent. Hedge fund fees keep increasing, which is surprising some experts. However, it shouldn’t. Private investing had a few dismal years since 2008, and hedge fund profit-making on private money has been disappointing. That loss in profit percentage commissions has to be made up someway by the fund managers, so their raising of fees shouldn’t be unexpected.
Another statement made at SALT that raised some eyebrows was a point that Japan is currently a great place to invest. That concept should be shocking to many since the country has been stuck in a vicious swamp of deflation for decades now. Few who have invested in the country have seen good returns on their principal funds. Yet the fact is, Japan is in fact booming; it’s simply that nobody in mainstream U.S. media has been paying much attention.
There were, of course, the usual discussions on stock-picking, strategizing, and prognostications of the next “big thing.” And the big entertainment display was a debate between conservative strategist Karl Rove and former Congressman Barney Frank. So, from all accounts, hedge fund managers attending this year enjoyed themselves quite a bit. And a few raised some interesting surprises in the discussions.