What Is a Hedge Fund?


A hedge fund is an investment partnership formed by a limited number of investors, generally for the purpose of pooling investment capital and professionally managing investments. Hedge funds employ a wide range of techniques in order to generate returns for their investors, including long and short positions in both equity and debt instruments, trading strategies, derivatives, and alternative investments.

Hedge funds have a variety of objectives, such as avoidance of market volatility, capital preservation, and capital appreciation. Hedge funds are also characterized by their often-innovative risk-management methods.

Definition of Hedge Funds

Hedge funds are generally defined as pooled investments that are managed by professional investment managers. These funds generally employ a variety of different strategies and techniques, most of which are designed to generate a positive return for investors without exposing them to an excessive amount of risk. Some of the most common techniques used by hedge funds include:

  • Long and short positions on equity and debt instruments
  • Trading strategies
  • Derivative investments
  • Alternative investments

Purpose of Hedge Funds

Hedge funds are mainly created with the purpose of providing investors with a diversified portfolio to hedge against market volatility. A diversified hedge fund portfolio is designed to be more resilient to market downturns, ensuring more reliability and stability in its returns.

Aside from achieving market hedging, hedge funds may also be set up with other objectives, such as capital preservation, capital appreciation, and increased liquidity. Hedge funds typically employ various risk-management techniques to help achieve these objectives.

Strategies Used

Hedge funds utilize various strategies to reach their desired outcome. These are mainly speculative, arbitrage, long/short investments, and leveraging.


Speculation strategies involve short-term investments based on predictions about market conditions. The fund may not necessarily be attempting to make a profit, but is rather attempting to capitalize on potential future scenarios — such as political events, technological advances, or the introduction of new products and services.


Arbitrage strategies involve taking advantage of pricing discrepancies in the same security or asset on different markets. An example might include selling gold in Tokyo at the same time it is bought in New York. This allows the fund to pocket the difference in price.

Long/Short Investments

A long/short investing strategy allows the fund to purchase securities it believes will increase in value — known as “going long” — as well as sell, or “go short,” on securities it believes will decrease in value. Generally speaking, a hedge fund will diversify its approach by investing in both, allowing it to profit from a variety of scenarios.


Using leverage enables the fund to increase the size and potential returns of its investments. Funds typically do this by using borrowed money to buy additional securities. Leverage strategies can be beneficial, but they can also lead to greater losses if the fund’s investments fail to perform as expected.

Who Uses Hedge Funds?

Hedge funds typically manage money from wealthy individuals, pension funds, endowments, corporations and other institutional investors. Generally, only people with money to invest and a higher risk tolerance are able to participate in hedge fund investments.

Institutional Investors

Institutional investors use hedge funds as a way to diversify their portfolios. Since hedge funds invest in a variety of different assets, they offer an attractive investment option for these larger investors, who have more money to put into investments. Large pension funds, endowments and corporations often use hedge funds in order to reduce their overall risk and maximize their returns.

High-net-worth individuals

High-net-worth individuals are also attracted to hedge funds for their ability to generate higher returns and manage risk. Many investors use hedge funds to reduce the volatility of their portfolios, as well as to access alternative investment opportunities that may not be available to the general public. Many of these investors also find the ability to access a wide range of assets from one fund to be attractive.


Corporations are also increasingly investing in hedge funds in order to diversify their portfolios and reduce the risk of their investments. By investing in hedge funds, corporations can access a range of assets and potentially benefit from higher returns. In addition, hedge funds can provide an additional source of capital that can be used to finance operations and help the corporation meet its long-term goals.


Hedge Funds are often measured by their performance as compared to the broadly measured stock market return. The portfolio manager must attempt to exceed the stock market returns while ameliorating any risks associated with the investments.

Returns compared to the stock market

A fund's performance will be scrutinized by the investors and potential investors, comparing it to the performance of the stock market in general. Factors such as illiquidity, leverage and the lack of a diversified portfolio can bring risk to returns.

Impact of risk factors

Hedge Funds should be managed with a risk/reward mindset with the goal of maximizing investor returns balanced with protecting principal. Funds with different financial approaches may seek different return goals, and higher than normal risks. The fund's portfolio manager will monitor and adjust the fund's investments in order to minimize the risk of a major financial loss.

  • When the fund's performance is compared to the stock market, total return return should be utilized.
  • Hedge Fund portfolios carry more risk than traditional diversified portfolios. The fund's manager should manage the risk to protect the investor's principal.
  • Higher than normal returns can often come with more risk, so the fund should have a clear understanding and measurement of the investments risks when setting reasonable return goals.

Pros and Cons of Investing in a Hedge Fund

Investing in a hedge fund has its advantages and disadvantages, and it's important to consider these when making a decision as to whether a hedge fund is right for you. Hedge funds have grown significantly in recent years, with a number of large investors now allocating significant amounts to investments in hedge funds. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of investing in a hedge fund.


  • Access to exclusive investments: Hedge funds often offer investors access to investments and strategies that are generally unavailable to retail investors. These can range from specialized derivative products to esoteric high-risk/high-return plays. This access can also potentially translate into higher returns for the investor.

  • Transparency: Hedge funds generally provide frequent reporting on the positions held in the fund and the current value of investments. This includes regular valuations from third-party auditors. This allows investors to maintain a high degree of confidence in the performance of their investment.


  • High fees: Hedge funds often charge a high management fee as well as performance fees. These fees can significantly erode returns, especially if the fund’s performance is not strong. It’s important to consider these fees when evaluating a hedge fund investment.

  • Need for regulation: The lack of transparency and accountability in the hedge fund industry has led to calls for greater regulation. This has been driven by increasing worries about the possible mismanagement of hedge fund assets and the use of leverage to increase returns. Investors need to consider the impact of any potential regulation when investing in a hedge fund.

Recent Developments

In recent years, the hedge fund industry has undergone significant growth. As of July 2020, the total assets under management (AUM) of the global hedge fund industry had climbed to just over $3.2 trillion. This represents a year-over-year increase of almost 8%, as hedge fund assets had stood at just over $2.9 trillion in July 2019.

Alongside this growth, the industry has faced increasing regulation. For example, in the United States, hedge funds are now required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This has resulted in increased scrutiny from the regulator, including a revised set of reporting rules for the industry. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, have also introduced greater oversight of hedge fund activities.


A hedge fund is an alternative investment vehicle that allows fund managers to invest across several asset classes, using leveraged and often complex strategies such as long and short positions, derivatives, arbitrage, and other techniques. Hedge funds offer investors the potential significant returns; however, they can also involve high degree of risk.

This blog post summarized some of the key features of hedge funds and what activities hedge fund managers and investors may engage in. Specifically, investors should be aware of the potential returns, but more importantly the level of risk associated with investing in a hedge fund.

Summary of Key Points

  • Hedge funds are an alternative investment vehicle
  • Hedge funds allow managers to invest across several asset classes, using strategies such as long and short positions, derivatives, arbitrage, and other techniques
  • Hedge funds involve high degree of risk and potential significant returns;

Reminder of Potential Activities and Risk Associated with Investing in a Hedge Fund

  • Investors should be aware of the potential returns, but more importantly the level of risk associated with investing in a hedge fund;
  • It is important to understand the strategies and strategies that the fund applies to minimize risk;
  • The fees associated with a hedge fund, such as the management fee and the performance fee, should also be taken into account;
  • It is also important to understand the role of leverage and its impact on the investor's return.

Hedge funds can offer the potential of significant returns; however, these investments are complex and come with significant risks. Investors need to understand the strategies and risk management employed by the fund, as well as the associated fees, to make an informed decision about suggesting investing in a hedge fund.

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