Retail alternative-investment funds, practically speaking, are 10 years old. Alternatives have long been in institutional portfolios, but they attracted little attention from retail buyers before the 2008 financial crash. After the disaster, however, the people craved protection, and the fund companies responded. Launching a spate of alternatives funds, they marketed the strategy hard.
The results, so far, have not been good. The problem is not just that the insurance was sold after the fire--a customary practice in investment management--but also that many of the alternatives have been flat-out losers. Even if U.S. stocks hadn't compounded by 13% annually during the decade of 2009 through 2018, those funds would have been poor choices.