Mutual Funds
by 5paisa Research Team Last Updated: 2023-12-01T12:57:26+05:30
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Mutual funds vs hedge funds, though might sound similar, they serve distinct purposes for different types of investors. Imagine mutual funds as the sturdy family car, perfect for regular people looking to grow their savings steadily. They play by the rules, offering an uncomplicated way to invest in the stock market.

In contrast, hedge funds are like high-performance sports cars, designed for the financially well-off who are ready to take on higher risks in pursuit of greater rewards. In this article, we'll explore the significant differences between mutual funds and hedge funds, making it easier for you to decide which one suits your financial goals best.

Now, let's go into the meaning of mutual funds vs hedge funds and the differences between these investment options

Understanding Mutual funds

Mutual funds are investment vehicles that combine the funds of multiple investors to purchase securities, aiming for steady growth in the stock market

These funds are regulated by exchanges and required to issue a prospectus outlining their objectives and strategies, instilling confidence in investors. First established in 1924 by MFS Investment Management, mutual funds have evolved significantly, offering a broad range of investment options, including passive funds that track market indices and active funds managed by professionals. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission oversees mutual funds through the Securities Act of 1933 and the Investment Company Act of 1940, which mandate transparency and investor education. 

Mutual funds can be open-end or closed-end, trading daily on financial exchanges, with varying fees and minimum investment requirements. These funds are designed to follow specific investment strategies, often avoiding complex or high-risk investments, making them suitable for a wide range of investors. Notable mutual fund asset managers include Vanguard, Fidelity, and American Funds.

What are Hedge funds?

Hedge funds are exclusive investment pools that aim to generate consistent and above-average returns through diverse and aggressive strategies. They attract a select group of investors, often from affluent backgrounds with a high-risk tolerance. These investors are typically required to make a substantial minimum investment, often exceeding $10 million, as specified in the Offering Memorandum. Hedge funds are under the continuous management of a hedge fund manager who holds full responsibility for investment decisions, significantly influencing the fund's performance.

There is a poignant difference between Hedge funds and mutual funds, operating in a private realm and employing higher-risk positions to seek greater returns. They may use options, leverage, short-selling, and alternative strategies. Hedge funds are structured differently and have unique regulations. 

They cater exclusively to accredited investors who possess advanced financial market knowledge and a greater appetite for risk. Hedge funds employ a tiered partnership structure, including a general partner and limited partners.

These funds offer flexibility in their investment provisions and terms, but they often charge higher fees compared to mutual funds. Liquidity terms can vary, with some funds imposing lock-up periods and redemption restrictions, especially during volatile market conditions. 

Unlike mutual funds, hedge funds do not publicly disclose their terms through a prospectus; instead, they rely on private placement memorandums, limited partnership agreements, and subscription documents to govern their operations.

Notable hedge fund managers, according to "" as of May 2018, include Bridgewater Associates, AQR Capital Management, and Renaissance Technologies.

Differences between mutual funds and hedge funds:

Aspect Mutual Funds Hedge Funds
Investor Base Open to the general public, allowing retail investors to pool their resources and invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds. Generally available only to high-net-worth individuals (HNIs) and sophisticated investors. 
  They are accessible to individuals with varying levels of income The entry threshold is considerably higher, often requiring a minimum investment of at least $10 million.
Objective Generally, aims to provide returns that surpass the market's risk-free rate of return, such as Treasury bonds. They offer a way for everyday investors to grow their savings over time. Designed to achieve the highest possible returns on investment. They target substantial returns in a shorter timeframe and often employ aggressive strategies to achieve this goal.
Management and Ownership Professional fund managers manage mutual funds, but these managers do not necessarily have a significant ownership stake in the fund. They are responsible for making investment decisions and managing the portfolio. Hedge fund managers often have a substantial personal investment in the fund they manage. This aligns their interests with those of the investors and can incentivize them to perform well.
Regulation Tightly regulated by the securities exchange board or relevant regulatory authority in each country. They are subject to extensive disclosure and reporting requirements to protect the interests of retail investors. They are subject to fewer regulatory constraints. Typically offered privately to accredited investors, allowing them more flexibility in their investment strategies and less public disclosure of information.
Transparency Required to adhere to transparency standards. They must provide annual reports, balance sheets, and quarterly performance updates, which are made available to the public and sent to all investors. Less transparent. They often offer information only to their investors and do not have the same level of public disclosure.
Fees Charges management fees based on the percentage of assets under management. These fees are typically lower than those of hedge funds Typically charges both a management fee (commonly around 2%) and a performance fee (often 10-30%), which increases as the fund's performance improves. This fee structure can be more lucrative for fund managers.
Investor Count and Investment Size They can have a large number of investors, each with a limited investment, which can be as low as a few hundred dollars. They have a smaller number of investors, often making very large investments, with minimum investment requirements that can reach millions of dollars.
Liquidity and Redemption Typically highly liquid, and investors can redeem their units on any business day. They receive the Net Asset Value (NAV) of that day for their redemptions. They are generally less liquid. Some offer weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annual redemptions. Lock-up periods may prevent immediate withdrawals, and in times of market volatility, some hedge funds have suspended redemptions entirely to protect investors.
Investment Strategy Relatively conservative and usually invests in publicly traded securities, such as stocks and bonds. They tend to be less risky but offer more stable, albeit potentially lower, returns. They are known for more aggressive investment strategies.
Aims to generate profits regardless of market conditions, allowing them to engage in high-risk tactics, such as short selling, leverage, and speculative positions in derivative securities. This can lead to potentially higher returns but also higher risk.
Holding Period  Investments can be redeemed relatively easily, and you can buy or sell units as needed. May have varying holding periods, depending on their strategies. Some may hold investments for very short periods, while others take a longer-term approach.
National Regulations Mutual funds are subject to strict national regulations regarding capital allocation, earnings reinvestment periods, and overall investment strategy. Hedge funds often operate with fewer regulatory constraints, which is why there are stringent criteria for investor eligibility.


Mutual funds vs hedge funds present two distinct investment avenues. Mutual funds are designed for a broad range of investors seeking stable, long-term returns, while hedge funds cater to sophisticated investors looking for potentially higher but riskier returns over shorter time frames. The key differences between mutual funds and hedge funds lie in their investor base, objectives, management, regulation, transparency, fees, and investment strategies. This exploration of the differences between mutual funds and hedge funds sheds light on the contrasting roles they play in the world of investments.

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