Do Top Quant Firms actually have Alpha?

I am just getting into the world of quantitative finance and have had the amazing opportunity to intern at a quantitative-based fundamental strategy hedge fund recently. I asked several of my co-workers would they use these mathematical models/tools to invest their own money. They told me a straight-up no, instead, they would just do long equities. Digging deeper, I realized returns at the top quant funds in the US who hire math olympiads, are not doing so well...

In 2021, Voleon Investors were the best quant firm on the list and had a 19% return, but still, that's worse than the SP500 (~23% return), Two Sigma Spectrum had a return of a mere 3%.

I get this is a small list and there are quant funds that beat the indexes, but I can't name one that does consistently besides the Medallion Fund.

My understanding right now is that there is pretty much no alpha. We're better off putting all our money as retail investors/traders in the indexes. You might be able to say the same if you were a family office or prop fund.

Would you agree?

Are you asking whether they ever have alpha or do they currently have alpha? This is a weird time. Large cap stocks have beaten small cap stocks, foreign markets have gotten destroyed in the last year. In a time where the equities do not seem to have a cealing 'hedging' does not make a lot of sense.

Another interesting question is how long would it take for a large fund to shift their position go pure long equities without incurring in massive capital gains.

I am do not work in the industry, just a curious undergrad. If I am wrong feel free to correct me.