The product is known as a “collateralised fund obligation” and its aim is to diversify risk by parceling up the companies’ providing returns. CFOs are, in some ways, a private equity variant of “collateralised debt obligations”, the bundles of mortgage-backed securities that only reached the public consciousness when they wreaked havoc during the 2008 financial crisis.
So far, CFOs have flown largely under the radar. Although some of private equity’s largest names such as Blackstone, KKR, Ares and the specialist firm Coller Capital have set up versions, this is often done privately with little or no public disclosure of the vehicle’s contents — or even, in some cases, of its existence, making it all but impossible to build a full picture of who is exposed and on what scale. CFOs introduce a new layer of leverage into a private capital industry already built on debt. Their rise is one illustration of how post-crisis regulation, rather than ending the use of esoteric structures and risky leverage, has shifted it into a quieter, more lightly regulated corner of the financial world.
In the world of investment banking everything can be made better with leverage. Private equity offered rich rewards in the decades before zero interest rates. Then the volume of cash available to the sector ballooned and valuations for the assets they acquired rose in tandem. Leverage is the easy answer for how to sustain returns despite high valuations, which would normally compress yields.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top