Funds such as Systematica make money by identifying trends across stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities. A big trend that Braga credits for outperformance this year is her bet to go long bonds.
"No discretionary trader wants to run that position," Braga said. "They missed on it in 2014, too, whereas we capitalized in full on it. We can do it because we operate in a more diversified manner, so it is OK to be contrarian. When you only hold a handful of positions, it is harder to go against consensus."
The fund also benefited from bets against energy and stocks. In March, as the markets have rallied some performance was given back and the model adjusted accordingly. In fact, the fund has reduced risk and already started to get long in some equity markets.
The outperformance of systematic funds is attracting money to the computer-driven approach. A recent report from Barclays shows hedge fund investors have increased their allocation to computer-driven strategies to 11 percent from 7 percent. And as Systematica has grown assets, the firm's former parent company, Michael Platt's BlueCrest, opted to shut down to investors other than its partners. It returned billions of dollars to outside investors in December.
And it looks as if the money may keep flowing to the machines. According to a recent report from Preqin, CTAs are expected to attract some of the biggest inflows from hedge fund investors in 2016.
Fund marketer and consultant Don Steinbrugge of Agecroft Partners said he's "seeing a significant pickup in demand because a lot of people are worried about capital markets right now and looking to diversify, and CTAs have done well recently."