Spiritual Refuge

They say that Jesus went to India.

During his 'missing years' he travelled across the known world and became a guru-like figure down in India before coming back and completing his mission.

The son of god making a pilgrammage to the home of spirituality.

It's a tantalising idea whether true or not, we love making connections, and making sense of everything around us.

Of course Alexander the Great actually did build some of these connections (by kicking ass in India however) and you can still see this mash up of greco-buddhist culture today in Northern India.

When you first see it the cognitive dissonance is astounding in parts, and yet the fusion works, no doubt about it.

Many hedge fund portfolios have come across my desk, and most do the same old thing, they take a few well known concepts fuse them together and end up being beta monkeys with bad gamma.

But there is one type of fund which always garnered attention from me and my colleagues.

The long volatility fund.

(Mark Spitznagel interview on Bloomberg TV - looks like their embed feature is not working right now...)

Mark Spitznagel isn't 'the most bearish fund manager in the world', he's an insurance salesman, pure and simple.

Refreshing right? Yes, but the snag is, he introduces lots of cognitive dissonance, it makes people uneasy.

He's one of the few insurance salesmen in an industry which only thinks about alpha.

It's hard selling these long vol funds. Imagine getting up every morning having to meet institutional investors like the TV presenters in the video.

Institutional Dumbo: "So... Let's see... Performance..."

Mark: "We, uh, sorry ..."

Dumbo: "Wait - you lost us money every year since 2008?"

Mark: "Well, that's all part of the, er ... plan?"

Dumbo: "Sorry you're a nice guy, but you're bottom of the heap..."

(The long periods of losses kills sales pitches dead!)

The thing is, while most of the smartest people in finance run these types of operations, they're way too smart for average financiers.

Before this latest stretch of vol many of my favourite funds seemed close to shutting up shop.

These types of portfolio managers are like old Kung Fu masters, whose place in the world is disappearing fast as mixed martial arts gyms sweep across the world.

Every time one of these old long vol funds closes we lose a lot of hard won battle experience.

In any case, over the past weeks Mark's Universa Cap secured another handful of years of survival, by pulling in several billion dollars in profits.

At least the sales calls will be a bit more bearable for the foreseeable future.

But inevitably the tricky investor calls will come back and Mark will have to find some spiritual meditative refuge again - or pop over to India for some 'rnr'.