Sell-side research has undergone profound structural changes during the past decade with far-reaching implications affecting the quality of the research and how research is generated, sold and compensated. Decimalization, Regulation FD, unbundling of trading from research and the hedge fund “brain drain” have all negatively impacted sell-side profitability, product quality and small cap coverage in today’s age of diminished sell-side research.
Decimalization. When the SEC required exchanges to narrow their bid-ask spreads from one-sixteenth, or $0.0625, to $0.01 per share effective in 2001, the profitability of trading floors collapsed amidst tremendous spread compression. While working on the sell-side, I recall hearing many times over, “when we get a trade we can all hear the cash register ring.” After decimalization, I never heard this again. Sell-side boutiques, historically adequately compensated for their research with large bid-ask spreads, now struggled to stay afloat. They reduced staff levels and often swapped higher-priced, seasoned analysts for less-experienced and less-costly researchers. Continue reading
Did you ever wonder who is sitting across the table from you at investor meetings? Would you be surprised to know that hedge fund investors could be sitting right along-side traditional long-only investors? In today’s complex and competitive investment environment where institutional asset managers are increasingly scrutinized for seemingly unoriginal products with excessively high fees and lackluster performance, product managers are looking for unique ways to differentiate themselves, re-craft existing products, and drive additional business. One way to accomplish this is to offer a 130/30 strategy. With this type of product, $100 million worth of equities is initially purchased for a portfolio. Meanwhile, $30 million worth of equities is borrowed from a market maker and sold or “shorted” and the proceeds added to the original $100 million portfolio, thus yielding a $130 million net long and $30 million net short or 130/30 portfolio. The strategy is designed to double up on the best long investments expected to appreciate in price with proceeds from short securities expected to fall in price.