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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Alts Newbies Scramble to Get a Clue

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

The dangers of being a dum-dum in alternatives is rapidly increasing.

The SEC is regularly including questions about alts in its exams of advisors and platforms, while Finra is regularly peppering the same folk with questions on training and expertise. Regulators are also cracking down on how alt firms value their products.

What's an aspiring alts fundster to do? Get thee to a training program.

Bill Kelly chief executive of the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association says that a growing number of industry players, be it fundsters, advisors, B-D folk are flocking to a variety of certification or training programs to get a grounding in the notoriously difficult investment category.

Of course, demand has grown for his organization's CAIA certification, but Kelly says that resources and programs run by the CFA, Managed Funds Association and IMCA, among others, have also experienced a similar growth in popularity.

"This is a very dynamic space in the asset management industry. You can never let your guard down," he said.

Fundsters and advisors need to pay attention to the labeling of such funds, which can vary widely and often don't accurately reflect the nature of the funds. There is also a general lack of knowledge on how to sell these funds, as well as how to use them in portfolios.

"A friend of mine calls alts a 'sharp knife,' they definitely have a place in a portfolio, but if you don't know how to use them, you'll cut yourself," Kelly said.

Regulators definitely have become concerned with the products, and are themselves getting trained via the same certification programs to get a sense of what fundsters and advisors are up to.

Kelly's advise to aspiring alts-sters?

"Just get smart," he said. "Know what you are doing before you take that deep dive." 

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