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Opalesque Futures Intelligence

Founders Q&A: Altegris was acquired by Genworth Financial. Co-founder Matt Osborne discusses what it means to become part of a large wealth management company.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Matt Osborne

Altegris Draws on Genworth Synergies

2010 was a notable year for managed futures and hedge fund allocator Altegris. Genworth Financial, a publicly traded company that started as an insurance business but is now a major wealth manager with more than $100 billion in assets, acquired Altegris. Another interesting development was the launch of a mutual fund, the Altegris Managed Futures Strategy Fund, which allocates to trend-following and specialized CTA strategies.

To get an in-depth understanding of what's going on, we talked with Matt Osborne, co-founder of the Altegris group of companies and executive vice president and managing director of Altegris Advisors. From his discussion below, it sounds like the firm is in the vanguard of the movement to bring managed futures to a larger population of investors.

For more on Altegris, see the interview with chief executive and co-founder Jon Sundt in our July 14, 2009, issue.

 "Over the years we have built a reputation for matching emerging CTAs with sophisticated investors who are early adopters."

Opalesque Futures Intelligence: How did you come to co-found Altegris?
Matt Osborne: I am from New Zealand and early in my career worked for a family office there. Then in 1996 I moved to the United States and the next year joined Man Financial, where I worked with Jon Sundt. We formed Altegris in 2002. All in all, I've been allocating assets to hedge funds and managed futures since 1988.

OFI: You and Mr. Sundt no longer own Altegris. What does that mean?
MO: Altegris became part of Genworth Financial Wealth Management at the end of 2010. There is a huge amount of synergy between our products and the services Genworth offers, so the opportunities are great. Everybody is very excited.

OFI: Are you moving to a Genworth office?
MO: No, we're not moving anywhere. We're very happy where we are in Southern California.

OFI: Altegris has an entrepreneurial culture. How will that fare in a large organization?
MO: Genworth Financial is a global financial services company with a very well established wealth management division, which is where we report to. At the same time, Genworth is intent on maintaining the integrity of the Altegris brand and culture. So for us it is mostly business as usual, but we do want to make sure that the products we develop fit the wealth management platform.

OFI: What kind of products will you develop?
MO: Genworth offers an extensive asset management system through a broad network of financial advisers. We believe alternatives have an important role to play in investor portfolios and look to develop alternative investment products that will meet the needs of financial advisers and their clients. We've already introduced a managed futures mutual fund.

OFI: How does the new Altegris Clearing Solutions fit in?
MO: We've had an introducing broker business since Altegris was formed. Now we're separating out that unit to provide a specialized service to meet unique client needs. Altegris Clearing Solutions offers segregated accounts.

OFI: There are a number of managed account platforms. What made you decide you want to expand this business?
MO: First of all, I want to differentiate between this clearing business and managed account platforms. There is a difference between a segregated account that the investor holds versus investing via a pool or managed account platform. Many of our clients want the additional flexibility and access that they get with their own segregated private account. We are a conduit to a lineup of clearing brokers-futures commission merchants that we have relationships with as an introducing broker. Through them we can create an account that suits a client's particular needs. FCMs have particular criteria for clients that want to open segregated accounts. We can help clients make their way through those choices. This business is distinct from our other businesses. It will now be a separate unit.

OFI: Do institutions use segregated accounts?
MO: There is a range of clients. Institutions, yes, but also family offices, funds of funds, ultra high-net-worth investors, commodity pool operators. Commodity trading advisors themselves are also clients-they may have their own proprietary accounts and want exposure to a firm like Altegris to potentially tap into the investor base. Over the years we have built a reputation for matching emerging CTAs with sophisticated investors who are early adopters. That will continue to be the profile of Altegris Clearing Solutions.

OFI: Are there promising emerging CTAs?
MO: Managed futures is probably one of the fastest growing investment spaces. We've been in this space a long time. There are always promising emerging CTAs but also, unfortunately, a high turnover of CTAs. It is very difficult to develop a sustainable CTA business and grow it. The Altegris 40 Index represents close to half the assets in the industry-that tells you a lot about the concentration of talent and how difficult it is to achieve a sustainable CTA business. We make a constant effort to add CTAs to our database.

OFI: What happened to CTAs in 2010?
MO: It was difficult up until the last quarter of the year for trend following managers. That last quarter made the year for a lot of managers. Definitive trends in particular in commodities took hold in the last four to five months of 2010. That gave trend followers opportunity to deliver double-digit returns for the year. The Altegris 40 Index is up 11.3% and most of that return came since August.

OFI: What about other futures strategies?
MO: We saw a mixed bag. Some specialized strategies like agriculture specialists were able to participate in the upward movement of grains prices and did well in 2010. But at the same time other specialized managers had a tough year-for example, currency traders suffered from the rapid reversal in the euro. So specialized managers were all over the map with a wide dispersion of returns.

OFI: How does 2011 look so far?
MO: Trend followers are positioned for trends that favor global growth and reflation, which is a reasonable scenario. Managers are generally long on commodities and stock indexes and beginning to go short on long-dated fixed income contracts. Global reflation trends are likely to continue but there could be a fair amount of volatility due to shocks to the underlying consensus, whether geopolitical shocks like recent events in the Middle East or disappointing economic data that throws doubt on expected outcomes. Shocks that cause short-term trend reversals could adversely affect returns.

This article was published in Opalesque Futures Intelligence.
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