For participants in last year's Delivering Alpha hedge-fund conference, the 12 months since was a period of huge gains in some stocks and stinging losses in others.
Of an array of investment ideas presented at the July 16 gathering, an annual event presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor, health-care names HCA Holdings, Actavis and Allergan were some of the outstanding performers, while energy-sector companies Atlas and Oasis Petroleum logged horrendous losses as the price of crude oil slumped.
"Stock picking, credit selection, and alpha generation in general has been more challenged" during the past year, said Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of J.P. Morgan's $2.3 trillion asset management business in a telephone interview Wednesday.
"We, along with several hedge-fund managers, have had tremendous success in it," she added. "The key is being really selective, not getting caught up in the hype and having good long term judgment about the stocks that are going to survive. That's what's basically separating the wheat from the chaff. They're challenging markets obviously."
Leon Cooperman, the respected stock picker who runs the $9 billion hedge fund Omega Advisors, witnessed that firsthand.
A group of stocks he described as opportunities for "growth at a reasonable price," including Actavis, Citigroup and Thermo Fisher Scientific, all rose by the considerable amounts of 40 percent, nearly 11 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
But practically every other name he touted—ranging from Atlas Energy, which fell 90 percent, to Hertz, which dropped 39 percent—was down dramatically in the year that followed. (The performance of Actavis is through March 17, when it bought rival Allergan and, a month later, took on its name.)