What Is a Hedge Fund? (2024)

What Is a Hedge Fund?

A hedge fund is a pool of money that is invested in stocks and other assets. Hedge funds are generally more aggressive, riskier, and more exclusive than mutual funds. Their managers have freer rein to invest in a wide variety of assets and to use bolder strategies in pursuit of higher profits, and are rewarded with much higher fees than mutual funds charge.

The hedge fund industry has grown tremendously in recent years. By mid-2023, more than $4.3 trillion was being managed by 9,370 hedge fund managers, with more than 29,000 funds offered globally.

Key Takeaways

  • Hedge funds are financial partnerships that employ various strategies in an effort to maximize returns for their investors.
  • Unlike mutual funds managers, hedge fund managers have free reign to invest in non-traditional assets and employ risky strategies.
  • The hedge fund industry has grown from one fund and manager in 1949 to 9,370 managers and more than 29,000 funds worldwide.
  • The U.S. is home to about 67% of the world's hedge funds.
  • Europe hosts about 18% of the world's hedge funds.

History of Hedge Funds

Former writer and sociologist Alfred Winslow Jones' company,A.W. Jones & Co.,launched the world's first hedge fund in 1949. Jones was inspired to try his hand at managing money while writing an article about investment trends earlier that year. He raised $100,000 (including $40,000 out of his pocket) and tried to minimize the risk of holding long-term stock positions byshort-sellingother stocks.

This investing innovation is now called the classiclong/short equitiesmodel. Jones also employedleverageto enhance returns. In 1952, he altered the structure of hisinvestment vehicle, converting it from ageneral partnershipto alimited partnershipand adding a 20%incentive feeas compensation for the managing partner.

Jones was the firstmoney managerto combine short selling, leverage, and shared risk by partnering with other investors. For this innovation, and by implementing a compensation system based on investment performance, Jones earned his place in investing history as the father of the hedge fund.

Hedge funds took off in the 1990s when a number of high-profile money managers deserted the mutual fund industry for fame and fortune as hedge fund managers. A hedge fund's ability to attract investors tends to rely heavily on the reputation of its manager for delivering results.

Hedge Fund Industry at a Glance

  • The industry had about $4.3 trillion in assets under management as of mid-2023, according to the PreqinGlobal Hedge Fund Report for the year.
  • Therewere more than 9,000 hedge fund managers.
  • Hedge funds charge relatively high fees. A 2% management fee and a 20% "performance fee" are standard.
  • About 35% of the money in hedge funds comes from private or public pension funds. Other major contributors include endowments and foundations.

Some very wealthy individuals invest in hedge funds. Minimum investments of $100,000 are common, and some require $1 million or more.

Notable Hedge Funds

Notable hedge funds today include Renaissance Technologies (also known as RenTech or RenTec), founded by the mathematical genius Jim Simons. Renaissance specializes in systematic trading using quantitative models derived from mathematical and statistical analyses.

Pershing Square is a high-profile activist hedge fund run by Bill Ackman. Ackman invests in companies he feels are undervalued with the goal of taking a more active role in the company to unlock value. Activist strategies typically include changing the board of directors, appointing new management, or pushing for a sale of the company.

Carl Icahn, a well-known activist investor, leads a prominent hedge fund. In fact, one of his holding companies, Icahn Enterprises (IEP), is publicly traded and gives investors who can't or don't want to invest directly in a hedge fund an opportunity to bet on Icahn's skill at unlocking value.

Hedge Funds Regulation

Hedge funds face little regulation from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) compared to other investment vehicles. The SEC only requires hedge funds to register if they have more than $150 million in private funds and manage one or more funds.

Hedge funds operate in many countries besides the U.S., and follow the regulations of their home countries.

Funds with assets under management of $500 million or more must file quarterly and report the details of their liabilities and assets.

Significant Regulatory Changes

In May 2023, the SEC adopted measures to force large hedge funds to disclose more information via its Form PF, the form used for confidential event reporting.

Are Hedge Funds Risky?

Hedge funds are risky in comparison with most mutual funds or exchange-traded funds. They take outsized risks in order to achieve outsized gains. Many use leverage to multiply their potential gains. They also are unconstrained in their investment picks, with the freedom to take big positions in alternative investments.

How Do Hedge Funds Make Money?

The standard compensation for hedge fund managers is called the "2-and-20" rule. That's a 2% fee plus 20% of the profits the fund earns above a specified minimum.

Are Hedge Funds in the Financial Services Industry?

Hedge funds are part of the broader financial sector but are less regulated by the government than other financial products such as mutual and exchange-traded funds.

The Bottom Line

A hedge fund, like an actively-managed mutual fund, is a pool of money from many sources invested by a team of financial professionals.

But that's where the similarities end. Hedge funds aren't regulated as much as mutual funds and they operate with far less disclosure. They pursue more flexible and riskier strategies in the hopes of obtaining big gains for investors and themselves.

But perhaps what sets them apart from mutual funds the most is that they have much higher minimum investment requirements.

The majority of hedge fund investors are accredited, meaning they earn very high incomes and have existing net worths in excess of $1 million. For this reason, hedge funds have earned the dubious reputation of being a speculative luxury for the rich.

What Is a Hedge Fund? (2024)


What is a hedge fund easily explained? ›

A hedge fund is a limited partnership of private investors whose money is pooled and managed by professional fund managers. These managers use a wide range of strategies, including leverage (borrowed money) and the trading of non-traditional assets, to earn above-average investment returns.

Which statement best describes a hedge fund? ›

Question: Which statement best describes hedge funds: Hedge funds are largely unregulated and privately managed investment funds catering to sophisticated investors, which look to earn high returns using aggressive financial strategies similar to mutual funds.

How much money is considered a hedge fund? ›

It is not uncommon for a hedge fund to require at least $100,000 or even as much as $1 million to participate. Unlike mutual funds, hedge funds avoid many of the regulations and requirements within the Securities Act of 1933.

What is a hedge fund easy? ›

Hedge funds are investment funds geared towards high net worth individuals, institutions, foundations, and pension plans, They can be very risky and charge high fees, but they have the potential to deliver outsized returns.

What is a hedge fund vs private equity? ›

Private equity firms typically invest in private companies and see returns on investment by improving the company's profits. On the other hand, hedge funds use complex investing techniques, like hedging and leveraging, to see returns on investments in the market via securities like stocks, options, and futures.

What is a hedge in finance for dummies? ›

Financial hedging is the action of managing price risk by using a financial derivative (like a future or an option) to offset the price movement of a related physical transaction.

What is the purpose of a hedge fund? ›

Hedge funds pool money from investors and invest in securities or other types of investments with the goal of getting positive returns.

Are hedge funds a good thing? ›

Hedge funds offer the potential for high returns and diversification benefits, but they also come at the cost of higher fees and less regulatory oversight. As with any investment, you should do your own research to determine whether they make sense for your portfolio.

What is a hedge fund provide an example? ›

A hedge fund is a private pool of money collected from an assortment of wealthy individuals and institutions such as trusts, college endowments, and pension funds. The pool is managed by a financial professional who invests the money in a variety of securities and financial contracts.

Who owns money in a hedge fund? ›

Hedge fund management firms are often owned by their portfolio managers, who are therefore entitled to any profits that the business makes. As management fees are intended to cover the firm's operating costs, performance fees (and any excess management fees) are generally distributed to the firm's owners as profits.

How does a hedge fund pay you? ›

calculated based on the firm's profits, and bonuses from compensation pools funded by management fees that are allocated to pool participants in a discretionary or formulaic manner. ∎ Paying a percentage of the profits the individual or a team, or both, generate after deduction of direct expenses and overhead.

How are hedge funds paid? ›

Hedge funds make money as part of a fee structure paid by fund investors based on assets under management (AUM). Funds typically receive a flat fee plus a percentage of positive returns that exceed some benchmark or hurdle rate.

Can anyone invest in a hedge fund? ›

You generally must be an accredited investor, which means having a minimum level of income or assets, to invest in hedge funds. Typical investors include institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurance companies, and wealthy individuals.

Are hedge funds legal? ›

Are Hedge Funds Legal? Yes, they are legal. That is, if they are doing the right thing. The usual problems that present are insider trading and market manipulation.

How rich do you have to be to invest in a hedge fund? ›

Hedge funds tend to have specific characteristics and features. They require wealth to participate. Hedge funds typically require an investor to have a liquid net worth of at least $1 million, or annual income of more than $200,000. They often borrow money to use in an investment.

How do hedge fund owners make money? ›

Hedge funds make money by charging a management fee and a percentage of profits. The typical fee structure is 2 and 20, meaning a 2% fee on assets under management and 20% of profits, sometimes above a high water mark. For example, let's say a hedge fund manages $1 billion in assets. It will earn $20 million in fees.

Why would anyone use a hedge fund? ›

Hedge funds originated as a vehicle to help diversify investment portfolios, manage risk and produce reliable returns over time. While hedge funds' investor base has evolved though the years – from individuals to institutions such as pensions, universities and foundations – their core goals have remained the same.

How does a hedge fund make money on a short? ›

The primary advantage for short hedge funds is the opportunity to drive above average returns with contrarian bets. One of the main tenets underpinning shorting is that the market has mispriced a company's value; hedge funds then can short a stock based on the premise that the market price will decline.

How do hedge funds get their money? ›

A hedge fund raises its capital from a variety of sources, including high net worth individuals, corporations, foundations, endowments, and pension funds.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Catherine Tremblay

Last Updated:

Views: 5639

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Catherine Tremblay

Birthday: 1999-09-23

Address: Suite 461 73643 Sherril Loaf, Dickinsonland, AZ 47941-2379

Phone: +2678139151039

Job: International Administration Supervisor

Hobby: Dowsing, Snowboarding, Rowing, Beekeeping, Calligraphy, Shooting, Air sports

Introduction: My name is Catherine Tremblay, I am a precious, perfect, tasty, enthusiastic, inexpensive, vast, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.