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> Invest/Finance > What is a Hedge Fund?

What is a Hedge Fund?

Hedge funds are alternative investments using pooled funds that employ numerous different strategies to earn active return, or alpha, for their investors. Hedge funds may be aggressively managed or make use of derivatives and leverage in both domestic and international markets with the goal of generating high returns (either in an absolute sense or over a specified market benchmark). It is important to note that hedge funds are generally only accessible to accredited investors as they require less SEC regulations than other funds. One aspect that has set the hedge fund industry apart is the fact that hedge funds face less regulation than mutual funds and other investment vehicles. (investopedia)

For many entry-level investors, hedge funds are shrouded in mystery and exclusivity. It’s common, for example, for media coverage to focus on the ultra-wealthy founders and CEOs of hedge funds, such as Ray Dalio or Bill Ackman, as well as their secretive investing strategies or exclusive clientele. Like investment banks, they are seen as an elite fixture on Wall Street, and they also get scapegoated for a variety of market problems ranging from manipulation to a lack of transparency. However, despite an image of complexity and secrecy, the basics around hedge funds are actually quite easy to understand.

HEDGE FUND BASICS

Hedge funds are generally structured in a similar manner to venture capital funds:

General partner: This partner is in charge of the fund, and invests capital based on the fund’s objectives.

Limited partner: This partner is an investor that supplies some of the capital. It’s worth noting that generally only accredited investors are allowed by the SEC to invest in hedge funds, as they are considered high-risk investments.

With the money from general and limited partners, the fund executes on its investing strategy. Hedge fund strategies can range from trading currencies with extreme leverage to using event-driven tactics such as taking activist positions in companies. Other hedge funds, such as Renaissance Technologies, are known for their focus on trading using big data, AI, and machine learning – and for taking an outside approach to investing by hiring mathematicians, physicists, or other people with non-financial backgrounds. It’s most common for hedge funds to use a “two and twenty” fee structure. Limited partners pay a 2% asset management fee, and a 20% cut from any profits generated.

PROS AND CONS

Arguably, the biggest benefit of investing in hedge funds stems from the ability to partner with some of the world’s top investment managers, and to generate returns that do not correlate with the market. Hedge funds can help to diversify a portfolio – and when the general market is struggling, hedge funds using the right strategy can still provide a handsome return.

In terms of cons, hedge funds require investors to lock up money for extended periods of time, and also tend to charge significant fees. Lastly, the use of leverage can magnify small losses, and a lack of diversification within a given fund can lead to more concentrated losses, as well.

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