2015 was a train wreck for many hedge fund managers.
It was a punishing year for hedge funds, with brutal losses and several high-profile closures, including that of $1.5 billion SAB Capital Management and $1.5 billion Nevsky management, unhinging the industry.
979 hedge funds shut their doors in 2015, driven by global market volatility, low oil prices, and the rising price of the dollar by the tail end of the year. Industry-wide losses tallied 1.39%, according to Hedge Fund Research.
But the closures alone aren't too troubling: For every 20 hedge funds that has opened since 2005, about 17 liquidate.
What's alarming is that 2015 was the first year since the height of the 2008 global financial crisis that the number of hedge fund closures outstripped the number of funds that opened. In 2015, 968 hedge funds opened—11 fewer than the number of hedge funds that shuttered their doors. In 2007, a whopping 1,471 hedge funds liquidated while just 659 opened, according to Hedge Fund Research.
2015 was also the first time since 2007 that fewer hedge funds were operating by year end than the year before. In 2015, about 8,454 funds were still open, 112 below levels from a year earlier. In contrast, 2007 started with 789 hedge funds less.
But as a group, hedge funds have seen assets continue to grow to $2.9 trillion from $2.85 trillion a year earlier—with most of the assets consolidating, or growing, in the hands of large hedge funds: those managing $5 billion or more. Such hedge funds accounted for 60.9% of assets in 2015, while medium sized firms, those with $1 billion to $2 billion, accounted for 21.05% of asssets.
And there are other notable differences between 2007 and 2015 for the hedge fund industry. Managers seem far more cautious about rolling out a new hedge fund than those at the height of the housing bubble in 2005, when a record-breaking 2,073 hedge funds opened roughly a decade and a half after the trading style gained renewed interest from Wall Street. Since 2007 however, the number of hedge funds opened has hovered around 900 to 1,100 each year.
It remains to be seen if the sector is expected to tighten even more. So far, 2016 hasn't looked any more promising for hedge fund managers.
Hedge funds lost 2.63% year to date, tracking below even the S&P 500 Index's 0.82% loss, while many investors have soured on the trading style.
J.P. Morgan Private Bank, the wealth management arm of J.P. Morgan Chase, said it reduced hedge fund exposure in its growth-oriented portfolio in 2015. The U.S.'s largest public pension fund, CalPERS decided to stop investing in hedge funds entirely in 2014.