Hedge Fund vs. Mutual Fund

Hedge funds are investment partnerships where a few accredited investors pool their money into an investment portfolio comprised of relatively risky assets.

Mutual funds are a broader, more accessible, and more affordable form of investment fund with a diverse selection of actively and passively managed investments.

Understanding hedge funds

In short, hedge funds are a private and riskier type of investment fund where only accredited investors are allowed to participate. 

Some of the main characteristics of a hedge fund include:

  • Aggressive and diverse investment strategies designed to maximize returns. These include stocks, derivatives, short positions, commodities, and other alternative assets.
  • Minimal regulation. Most are structured as general partnerships and are not subject to intense scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
  • Strict eligibility criteria. Hedge funds are only open to accredited investors who meet certain criteria related to income, net worth, asset size, or professional experience. Thus, most hedge fund investors tend to be wealthy individuals, pensions, foundations, insurance companies, or university endowments.
  • Limited windows to invest or withdraw capital. Some funds will even suspend withdrawals during market downturns to avoid a portfolio-wide sell-off. 
  • Fees which normally comprise both a management fee (around 2%) and a performance fee which can be anywhere between 10 and 30%.

Understanding mutual funds

Mutual funds are similar to hedge funds in that they pool investor funds to purchase securities. Unlike hedge funds, however, mutual funds invest in lower-risk, lower-return stocks and bonds.

Some of the main characteristics of a mutual fund include:

  • An investor cohort comprised of individuals, companies, and organizations. Some prefer the lower risk of a mutual fund, while others use them because of the difficulty in acquiring a basket of securities themselves.
  • Lower minimum investment requirements. The price of entry to some mutual funds can be as little as $250, but an amount closer to $3,000 is more typical. 
  • One-dimensional trading strategies. Most mutual funds do not dabble in derivatives or other alternative investments, which makes them more appealing to the average retail investor. Each strategy takes a long-term view to profit realization.
  • Lower fees but more regulation. Mutual funds experience comparatively higher regulation than hedge funds which means managers are limited in the types of fees they can charge. Indeed, most mutual fund management fees are around 1-2%.

Key differences between hedge funds and mutual funds

As we have learned, there are quite a few differences between hedge funds and mutual funds. In fact, one of the only similarities is the way in which funds are pooled before they are invested.

Hedge funds are riskier, private, short-term investments that are only accessible to accredited investors. Mutual funds are less risky, longer-term investments that are open to retail investors and other interested entities. Risk is reduced since mutual funds invest in stocks, bonds, and other securities that tend to be less volatile.

The fee structure of a hedge fund may be considered exorbitant to some since the manager collects a management fee irrespective of how the fund performs. But it is worth keeping in mind that many hedge fund managers have also invested their own money and, as a result, have a vested interest in ensuring the fund performs well.

Key takeaways:

  • Hedge funds are investment partnerships that tend to invest pooled funds in a wide range of relatively risky financial products. Mutual funds are more accessible investment funds with a diverse selection of actively and passively managed options.
  • Hedge funds are characterized by aggressive investment strategies, higher fees, less regulation, and stringent eligibility criteria. There may also be limits on how capital can be accessed – particularly during market downturns.
  • Mutual funds tend to be comprised of retail investors and other interested entities who prefer a lower-risk, long-term investment approach. Some mutual funds will allow investors to join for an outlay of just $250.

Read Next: Venture Capital Advantages and Disadvantages, Angel Investing, Micro-Investing, Bootstrapping.

Connected Financial Concepts

Circle of Competence

The circle of competence describes a person’s natural competence in an area that matches their skills and abilities. Beyond this imaginary circle are skills and abilities that a person is naturally less competent at. The concept was popularised by Warren Buffett, who argued that investors should only invest in companies they know and understand. However, the circle of competence applies to any topic and indeed any individual.

What is a Moat

Economic or market moats represent the long-term business defensibility. Or how long a business can retain its competitive advantage in the marketplace over the years. Warren Buffet who popularized the term “moat” referred to it as a share of mind, opposite to market share, as such it is the characteristic that all valuable brands have.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

Venture Capital

Venture capital is a form of investing skewed toward high-risk bets, that are likely to fail. Therefore venture capitalists look for higher returns. Indeed, venture capital is based on the power law, or the law for which a small number of bets will pay off big time for the larger numbers of low-return or investments that will go to zero. That is the whole premise of venture capital.

Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investment occurs when an individual or business purchases an interest of 10% or more in a company that operates in a different country. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this percentage implies that the investor can influence or participate in the management of an enterprise. When the interest is less than 10%, on the other hand, the IMF simply defines it as a security that is part of a stock portfolio. Foreign direct investment (FDI), therefore, involves the purchase of an interest in a company by an entity that is located in another country. 


Micro-investing is the process of investing small amounts of money regularly. The process of micro-investing involves small and sometimes irregular investments where the individual can set up recurring payments or invest a lump sum as cash becomes available.

Meme Investing

Meme stocks are securities that go viral online and attract the attention of the younger generation of retail investors. Meme investing, therefore, is a bottom-up, community-driven approach to investing that positions itself as the antonym to Wall Street investing. Also, meme investing often looks at attractive opportunities with lower liquidity that might be easier to overtake, thus enabling wide speculation, as “meme investors” often look for disproportionate short-term returns.

Retail Investing

Retail investing is the act of non-professional investors buying and selling securities for their own purposes. Retail investing has become popular with the rise of zero commissions digital platforms enabling anyone with small portfolio to trade.

Accredited Investor

Accredited investors are individuals or entities deemed sophisticated enough to purchase securities that are not bound by the laws that protect normal investors. These may encompass venture capital, angel investments, private equity funds, hedge funds, real estate investment funds, and specialty investment funds such as those related to cryptocurrency. Accredited investors, therefore, are individuals or entities permitted to invest in securities that are complex, opaque, loosely regulated, or otherwise unregistered with a financial authority.

Startup Valuation

Startup valuation describes a suite of methods used to value companies with little or no revenue. Therefore, startup valuation is the process of determining what a startup is worth. This value clarifies the company’s capacity to meet customer and investor expectations, achieve stated milestones, and use the new capital to grow.

Profit vs. Cash Flow

Profit is the total income that a company generates from its operations. This includes money from sales, investments, and other income sources. In contrast, cash flow is the money that flows in and out of a company. This distinction is critical to understand as a profitable company might be short of cash and have liquidity crises.


Double-entry accounting is the foundation of modern financial accounting. It’s based on the accounting equation, where assets equal liabilities plus equity. That is the fundamental unit to build financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement). The basic concept of double-entry is that a single transaction, to be recorded, will hit two accounts.

Balance Sheet

The purpose of the balance sheet is to report how the resources to run the operations of the business were acquired. The Balance Sheet helps to assess the financial risk of a business and the simplest way to describe it is given by the accounting equation (assets = liability + equity).

Income Statement

The income statement, together with the balance sheet and the cash flow statement is among the key financial statements to understand how companies perform at fundamental level. The income statement shows the revenues and costs for a period and whether the company runs at profit or loss (also called P&L statement).

Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement is the third main financial statement, together with income statement and the balance sheet. It helps to assess the liquidity of an organization by showing the cash balances coming from operations, investing and financing. The cash flow statement can be prepared with two separate methods: direct or indirect.

Capital Structure

The capital structure shows how an organization financed its operations. Following the balance sheet structure, usually, assets of an organization can be built either by using equity or liability. Equity usually comprises endowment from shareholders and profit reserves. Where instead, liabilities can comprise either current (short-term debt) or non-current (long-term obligations).

Capital Expenditure

Capital expenditure or capital expense represents the money spent toward things that can be classified as fixed asset, with a longer term value. As such they will be recorded under non-current assets, on the balance sheet, and they will be amortized over the years. The reduced value on the balance sheet is expensed through the profit and loss.

Financial Statements

Financial statements help companies assess several aspects of the business, from profitability (income statement) to how assets are sourced (balance sheet), and cash inflows and outflows (cash flow statement). Financial statements are also mandatory to companies for tax purposes. They are also used by managers to assess the performance of the business.

Financial Modeling

Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.

Business Valuation

Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.

Financial Ratio


Financial Option

A financial option is a contract, defined as a derivative drawing its value on a set of underlying variables (perhaps the volatility of the stock underlying the option). It comprises two parties (option writer and option buyer). This contract offers the right of the option holder to purchase the underlying asset at an agreed price.

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