Incentive Fees: Who Wins? Who Loses?

  • Grinold R
  • Rudd A
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Abstract

Traditional fees based on assets under management reward the manager for superior
performance to the extent that increasing returns increase the assets under management.
Whether the performance comes from general market movements or from the manager's skill
in stock selection or timing, however, is irrelevant. A manager is as likely to be rewarded for
good luck as for investment skill.
Incentive fees tie the manager's reward more directly to his skill. Because performance is
measured against some benchmark—a market index or the manager's "normal"portfolio—
the incentive fee rewards skill in active management, rather than merely passive perform-
ance. Furthermore, selection of the appropriate benchmark portfolio, the base fee, the
maximum or minimum fee (if any) and the method of measuring return allows for a variety
of fee structures that can be tailored to a variety of different client needs and manager styles.
Incentive fees are not without problems. Their complexity may allow managers to
manipulate portfolio attributes in order to "game" the fee. They require continuous
monitoring by the client. Poor and average managers are likely to fail faster with incentive
fees than they would in a traditional fee environment. For good managers, however,
incentive fees are likely to provide greater reward than traditional fees.

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Authors

  • RC Grinold

  • A Rudd

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