Unique Managers and Strategies

High Conviction Investments

Alpha-driven

since 1996

 

Company Background

Benchmark Plus is an alternative investment manager and advisor based in Tacoma, WA with a satellite office in Freehold, NJ.  Our Managing Members, Robert Ferguson and Scott Franzblau, have over 50 years of combined investment experience in alternatives asset classes.  Benchmark is a registered Investment Adviser with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.*

For over 18 years, we have specialized in finding unique trade opportunities utilizing highly skilled hedge fund managers operating in inefficient sectors of the market.  Our Real Alpha™ investment process seeks to uncover managers that trade in asset classes, sectors and strategies often overlooked by other investors, well before they become main-stream.  With a proprietary system, we can fully decompose a manager’s return into its respective market risk factors and its excess return, or alpha.  Our experienced portfolio management team uses carefully selected and well diversified manager exposures, coupled with cost effective derivatives, to construct outcome based investment solutions for our clients. 


Core product offerings include:

- market neutral, low volatility Fund of Funds

- enhanced index offerings

- active long/short equity hedge fund strategy

- concentrated best ideas fund

Investment Philosophy

The central tenet of our investment process is the belief that market inefficiencies exist due to investor behavior and structural market constraints.  Benchmark Plus has a long history of capturing these inefficiencies in markets that are under-capitalized, have high barriers to entry, or are experiencing severe disruptions where price and underlying value diverge.  In our view, skilled investment managers are able to generate excess returns above broader index-based averages by using their specialized knowledge to hone in on mis-priced opportunities across markets.  It is these managers, who have demonstrated a repeatable edge in capturing fleeting market inefficiencies, which make up the core of every Benchmark Plus offering.

While identifying alpha opportunities is our primary goal, long term investment success cannot be achieved without careful attention to measuring and managing the multitude of risks that accompany the act of investing.  We construct a dynamic customized benchmark for each investment which seeks to account for the entirety of factor exposures within a manager’s portfolio and offers insight into their actual alpha-generating ability.

It is critical that we understand the complex risks in our portfolios.  From the bottom-up, we aggregate the systematic market exposures from our portfolio of investments.  Our three-step process attempts to identify and manage all systematic risks while diversifying away any common strategy or residual factor risks.  The goal: portfolios with highly attractive risk-adjusted returns and low correlations to common market factors.** 

*Registration with the SEC does not imply a certain level of skill or training.
**Past performance is no guarantee of future results and there can be no guarantee that any fund will meet its stated objectives.

 

 



  • Robert_Ferguson.jpg

    Robert Ferguson, CFA™

    CIO

    Robert brings 30+ years of investment management and financial futures trading to his role as Chief Investment Officer for Benchmark Plus.  Prior to co-founding Benchmark Plus, in 1993 he co-founded Ferguson Bakken Strategies, Inc., an investment advisor to high net worth clients specializing in closed end fund arbitrage. Prior to that, Robert served as Director, Pension Fund Investments for the Weyerhaeuser Company, where he shared responsibility for managing the investments of the firm’s pension fund, with AUM of approximately $1 billion.  He was a key contributor to the creation and implementation of the pension funds investment architecture, manager selection as well as being responsible for performance measurement.  In addition, he was responsible for management of the pension fund’s derivative portfolio.  Prior to that, Robert spent 3 ½ years as a systems analyst for Weyerhaeuser.

    Robert earned a BS of Science from Oregon State University and an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.  Robert also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst Designation.                                                                          

  • Scott_Franzblau.jpg

    Scott Franzblau

    COO

    Scott has over 30 years of experience in investment management and product development specific to alternative investments.  Prior to co-founding Benchmark Plus, Scott founded Parkway Capital Corporation, an NASD registered broker/dealer organized to originate, structure and distribute private equity and hedge fund offerings to institutional investors.  The firm offered its products internationally with a primary focus on domestic institutions, including state and corporate pension plans, endowments, foundations, financial institution and family offices.  Prior to forming Parkway Capital, Scott served as a Senior Vice President with CIBC/Oppenheimer where he was responsible for alternative investment strategies and services for US institutional investors and high net worth families.

    Scott earned a BA in Economics and a BS in Political Science from Rutgers University, where he currently serves as a member of the Rutgers University Board of Overseers.

                                                     

  • NeilChelo.jpg

    Neil Chelo,
    CFA™, CAIA, FRM
     
    Director, Research

    Neil joined Benchmark in 2003 as one of its first employees and has 20+ years in the investment industry, with deep experience that includes operations, trading and portfolio management.  Neil previously served as a Vice President and Portfolio Manager with Rampart Investment Management.  While there he was responsible for the management of Rampart’s Buy-Write Index, Protected Equity, Enhanced Index, and Quantitative Equity Programs.  He was also actively involved in modeling and designing new equity and option strategies.

    Neil received his BS in Finance and Masters of Science degree in Finance from Bentley College.  Neil also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation, the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst designation, and the Financial Risk Manager designation.

  • MichaelMikytuck.jpg

    Michael Mikytuck

    Director,
    Business Dev.

     

    Mike joined Benchmark Plus in November 2007, bringing 20 years of experience in institutional and retail sales, portfolio management, and product development to the team.  Throughout his career Mike has embraced financial innovation and has focused exclusively within the absolute-return industry developing and marketing innovative alternative funds and investment solutions.  Prior to joining Benchmark, Mike was with Bear Stearns Asset Management where he was responsible for sales and marketing efforts for their suite of hedge fund offerings to institutional investors globally.  He also led the firm’s efforts in developing structured hedge fund products for clients.  Previously, Mike was a founding member of PlusFunds Group, which specialized in indexed-based hedge funds and hedge fund separate accounts.  During his tenure as Head of Sales, the firm grew into one of the 50 largest Fund of Funds globally (based on AUM) after only 2 years of operations.  Mike is also an experienced portfolio manager, derivatives structurer and has developed products for both the traditional and alternative markets.

    Mike earned a BS in Finance and Economics from Rider University and an MBA from the Stern School of Business at NYU.

  • Mike_Kondas.jpg

    Michael Kondas, CFA™           

    Director,
    Portfolio Solutions

    Mike joined Benchmark in 2012 and manages the Investor Relations team as well as the Portfolio Solutions group.  He brings 13+ years of experience in the investment industry, including roles in portfolio management, derivatives trading and structured equity finance.  Prior to Benchmark, he was a product manager for the fixed income index business at S&P Indices.  In that role, Mike was responsible for the growth of new fixed income index products.  Prior to S&P, Mike was a Senior Portfolio Manager with Morgan Stanley Investment Management where he was responsible for the architecture, structuring and trading of their Portable Alpha Funds, LDI solutions, and synthetic Beta Overlay positions.  Mike also managed all trading for client portfolios and fund products for the Fund of Hedge Funds team.  Prior to that, Mike was a member of the Equity Prime Services business development team at Deutsche Bank concentrating on derivative based solutions for hedge fund clients.

    Mike earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon.  Mike also served as an officer and nuclear engineer in the US Navy.  Mike also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

                                                

  • Judd_Lee.jpg

    Judd Lee

    CFO & CCO

    Judd brings 15+ years of experience in senior finance and CFO roles to Benchmark, and leads Finance and Compliance teams.  Prior to joining Benchmark, Judd served as VP of Finance for Mavron LLC, a consumer focused venture capital firm founded by Howard Schultz and Dan Levitan.  While at Mavron, Judd oversaw the finance, accounting, treasury, tax, and information technology teams.  Prior to that, Judd was in the Corporate Strategy and Planning Group at Microsoft where, among other responsibilities, assisted with the building of the company’s consolidated multiyear financial model and strategic plan.  Before that, he was the CFO of Safe Harbor Technology Corp., a venture backed company.  Judd was also an Investment Banking Associate with Prudential Securities.

    Judd earned his BS in Industrial Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Other Key Contacts


    Manager Inquiries: Matthew Hedges, CFA, CAIA

    Trading and Operations: Stephen Westphal & Steven Carroll, CFA, CPA

    Finance/Accounting: Tashi Schmidt

    Performance/Marketing: Gary Ketselman

  • Managing Member, CIO

  • Managing Member, COO

  • Research

  • Business Development

  • Investor Relations

  • Finance / Compliance

  • Key Contacts

The BenchmarkPlus Real Alpha™ investment process seeks to discover fund managers that we believe are exceptionally skilled at exploiting one or more market inefficiencies and have demonstrated competitive advantages that allow them to produce consistent alpha.  We utilize a proprietary benchmarking process for each fund manager that allows us to properly assess their alpha-producing capabilities. The goal is to create a diversified alpha engine with insignificant correlation to market indices and low correlation to other hedge funds. Our Market Neutral and Enhanced Index / Portable Alpha products are built on this foundation.

Sourcing Alpha Rich Investment Opportunities

Our investment process seeks to uncover exceptionally skilled managers capable of consistent alpha production. We invest with managers who we believe actively exploit market inefficiencies and demonstrate a clear competitive advantage in capitalizing on those opportunities. In our experience, there are parts of the capital markets where inefficiencies exist, preventing "price" and "fair value" from converging, resulting in mis-pricings and dislocations. We believe these discrete corners of the securities markets are the areas where profitable, asymmetric investment opportunities can be found. We also believe that managers who seek to exploit clearly identifiable opportunities have the highest probability of producing alpha.


Monthly expected alpha contributions are closely monitored and outliers are thoroughly researched and documented. Regular Investment Committee meetings serve as the forum for continuing dialogue regarding all aspects of our products. The search for new managers and frequent regular meetings with current managers is an ongoing part of our investment, due diligence and risk management processes.

Benchmarking Is Core To Our Success

What is “alpha”  and how do you know if your hedge fund manager is actually delivering any?  At Benchmark Plus, we define alpha as a manager’s excess return over a benchmark that accurately reflects the systematic exposures within their portfolio.  By attempting to accurately define an appropriate benchmark, we endeavor to define and measure the components of a manager’s return and identifiable risk exposures (alpha and beta). 

 

An effective benchmarking process will answer several key questions:

  • ·    Why does the opportunity the manager is exploiting produce alpha?
  • ·    Which managers produce the most alpha?
  • ·    Who produces alpha on the most consistent basis?

 

Answers to these questions require not only a sound quantitative foundation; they also require a thorough knowledge of the strategy the manager is undertaking and the ability to reconcile the differences between realized returns and the manager’s projected results.  We believe, an effective benchmark provides a pragmatic solution for grasping the nature and extent of the systematic risks within a portfolio.  Additionally, the benchmark provides an objective standard for evaluating the pattern of performance, its reasonableness as well as consistency with the manager’s stated investment philosophy and objectives.

 

Constructing "Outcome Oriented" Portfolios

The benchmarking process provides us with actionable information that can be incorporated into a risk management overlay: a mechanism that seeks to protect against adverse market moves that may overwhelm the alpha production of the portfolio. While the primary purpose of our risk management protocol seeks to avoid losses attributable to markets moves (similar to, but more encompassing than a tail-hedging program), it also has the potential benefit of reducing the volatility and market correlation of our investment solutions.


We utilize an alpha based optimization process that seeks to diversify any remaining common factor exposure that could negatively impact our portfolios during periods of market stress. This forward-looking optimization process seeks to create portfolios that offer a strong combination of underlying managers with high expected alpha at an acceptable level of expected volatility.


Targeting the desired outcome of our end investors, comprehensive solutions are constructed with the use of derivatives and other market instruments. Customized solutions cost-effectively combine alpha and beta sources delivering a portfolio purposely structured to meet our investor's complex and unique needs.

Delivering Customized Portfolio Solutions

For nearly two decades, BenchmarkPlus has been managing alpha-centric hedge fund based portfolio solutions. Core products include low volatility market neutral funds of hedge funds and our enhanced index platform offerings. 

Our unique investment process allows us the flexibility to create customized solutions targeting specific market sectors or outcome oriented portfolios. Expanding into the replication space, there are tracker portfolios that have historically matched the returns and risk attributes of their respective index while exhibiting extremely low tracking error. Partnering with end clients, we can build comprehensive portfolios combining the best manager and trade ideas that our deep and experienced research team see on a daily basis.

Market Neutral

Born from the Real Alpha™ investment process, we believe our Funds are the quintessential market-neutral investment choice for investors seeking an "absolute return" opportunity. Our market-neutral funds are constructed to provide an alpha-centric return stream with minimal correlation to the broad equity or fixed income markets.

Enhanced Index

We believe combining market neutral, alpha centric portfolio returns with an underlying market-based index is the most appropriate construct for "enhanced-index" solutions. Cost-effectively combining alpha and beta exposures, Benchmark Plus has managed Enhanced Index funds since the launch of the firm's flagship product in 1998. Current solutions span the equity, fixed income and commodity markets.

Opportunistic

A growing body of research shows that highly-skilled, active managers are superior investors and should outperform their peers.  It is in our view these skilled investors can maximize long-term returns by holding a more concentrated portfolio of their best investment ideas.  Focusing on unique opportunities in market sectors under-represented or often overlooked by most investors, Benchmark Plus believes there is a compelling opportunity to benefit from a concentrated portfolio of high conviction investments.

Long / Short Equity

Dampening the effects of downside volatility from long-only equity allocations, investors have embraced the benefits of investing in Long / Short Equity. In our view, active long / short portfolios continue to capture a significant portion of the equity risk premium needed for long term investment performance, while limiting portfolio drawdowns that may have disastrous effects on compounded returns.


More detailed information on privately-offered funds is available to existing fund investors and previously qualified individuals and institutions of appropriate sophistication and net worth, and is not not available to the general public. 
 
For additional information, please login or register for access by clicking button below and filling out the form to determine preliminary eligibility and a qualified representative will contact you shortly.

Market Neutral / Real Alpha ™ Fund of Funds

Born from the Real Alpha™ investment process, we believe our Funds are the quintessential market-neutral investment choice for investors seeking an absolute return opportunity. We manage three separate Real Alpha™ funds that all utilize the same investment process.

Real_Alpha_Process.png

For more information on BenchmarkPlus market-neutral funds, please:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Enhanced Index Funds

We believe that combining any of the market-neutral funds with an underlying market-based index can be a rewarding means for creating "enhanced-index" solutions. BenchmarkPlus has constructed Enhanced Index funds that seek to cost-effectively provide this combined alpha and beta exposure to our investors.Enhanced_Index_Graphic.png



For more information on BenchmarkPlus enhanced index funds, please:
 

Opportunistic

A growing body of research shows that highly-skilled, active managers are superior investors and should outperform their peers. Further, skilled investors can maximize long-term return through deliberate security selection and holding a concentrated portfolio of securities. Focusing on unique opportunities from sectors of the markets under-represented or often overlooked by most investors, BenchmarkPlus believes there is a compelling opportunity for investors to benefit from a concentrated portfolio of high conviction investments.

For more information on this fund offering, please:
 
 

Long / Short Equity

Dampening the effects of downside volatility from long-only equity allocations, investors have embraced the benefits of investing in Long / Short Equity. In our view, active long / short portfolios continue to capture a significant portion of the equity risk premium needed for long term investment performance, while limiting portfolio drawdowns that may have disastrous effects on compounded returns.

For more information on these fund offerings, please:
 
 
 
 
 

Performance estimates are updated on the 5th business day of each month. Please note that these are very preliminary estimates and are subject to change. More finalized numbers are available around the 10th business day of each month.

To view all BenchmarkPlus recent performance, please:
 
 
 

Press and Research

The Real Alpha™ Process

Focusing on market inefficiencies, the investment process seeks to uncover exceptionally skilled managers, directly neutralize their systematic risks, and optimize portfolio performance. 

Hedge Funds Review: Deconstructing Alpha

Benchmark Plus seeks to isolate the alpha component of hedge fund returns by benchmarking and hedging the systematic risk embedded in alternative strategies. Kris Devasabai reports.

Please log in to view more press and research papers:

Contact Us

For more information on BenchmarkPlus funds, please call or email us at InvestorRelations@bpfunds.com

Corporate Headquarters/Portfolio Management

820 A Street
Suite 700
Tacoma, WA 98402
Phone: (253) 573-0657
Robert Ferguson, Managing Member

Business Development/Investor Relations

303 West Main Street
4th Floor
Freehold, NJ 07728
Phone: (732) 303-6069
Scott Franzblau, Managing Member

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