What is Hedge Fund?

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  • 09 Feb 2023

A hedge fund is a type of investment fund that pools capital from accredited individuals or institutional investors to employ various strategies aimed at generating returns. Unlike traditional investment funds, hedge funds typically have greater flexibility in their investment approaches, allowing them to use leverage, short-selling, derivatives, and alternative investments.

Key Highlights

  • Some hedge funds allocate funds to private equity, expanding their portfolio.

  • Managed by skilled fund managers, providing flexibility in investment decisions.

  • Unlike traditional income investments, hedge funds typically do not pay dividends.

Unlike traditional investment funds, hedge funds have a broader range of investment tools and strategies, Giving investment managers the freedom to adapt to various market conditions. .Hedge funds can employ long and short positions, allowing them to profit from both rising and falling markets.

This adaptability is strengthened through leveraging, granting funds the ability to boost their asset exposure and potentially increased returns. Additionally, hedge funds often engage in derivatives trading, such as options and futures contracts, to hedge risks or speculate on price movements.

Fund managers, who are usually experienced professionals, make strategic decisions based on in depth research and analysis. The performance of hedge funds is measured by their returns, and they often charge both a management fee (a percentage of assets under management) and a performance fee (a percentage of profits). This fee structure aligns the interests of fund managers with those of investors, as managers benefit more when the fund performs well.

Hedge funds cater to accredited and high-net-worth investors due to their sophisticated strategies and higher risk profile. The goal is to generate positive returns regardless of market conditions, offering investors the potential for diversification and enhanced portfolio performance.

Hedge funds consist of a diverse range of investment strategies, each tailored to navigate specific market conditions and capitalise on unique opportunities.

  1. Global Macro Hedge Funds

Global Macro funds make investment decisions based on broad macroeconomic trends. Managers take positions in various asset classes, including currencies, commodities, and stocks, capitalising on global economic shifts.

  1. Relative Value Hedge Funds

Relative Value funds seek to profit from pricing discrepancies between related financial instruments. These funds aim to capture mispricings and generate returns by trading the relative value between securities or asset classes.

  1. Activist Hedge Funds

Activist funds take significant stakes in companies and actively engage in influencing their corporate strategies. They may push for changes in management, and governance, or advocate for specific actions to unlock shareholder value. Activist funds aim to drive positive changes and generate returns from the increased value of their invested companies.

  1. Equity Hedge Funds

Equity Hedge funds primarily invest in equities (stocks). These funds aim to generate returns by making strategic bets on the performance of individual stocks or exploiting market inefficiencies within the equity markets.

Before getting into the various strategies used in hedge fund investing, it's essential to understand the fundamental principles and approaches that characterise these strategies.

  1. Event Driven

Event Driven hedge funds capitalise on specific corporate events, such as mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, or restructurings. These funds aim to profit from the price movements resulting from these events. Strategies include merger arbitrage, where managers exploit price differentials between the current market price and the anticipated merger completion price, and distressed debt investing, focusing on companies facing financial distress.

  1. Market Neutral

Market Neutral hedge funds aim to minimise exposure to overall market movements by simultaneously holding both long and short positions. This strategy involves pairing long investments in securities expected to perform well with short positions in those anticipated to underperform. The goal is to generate returns based on the performance of individual securities, irrespective of broader market trends, making it a strategy focused on stock-specific factors.

  1. Long/Short Selling

Long/Short Selling hedge funds employ a dual approach of buying (going long) undervalued securities and selling (going short) overvalued ones. This strategy enables funds to profit from both rising and falling markets. Managers analyse market inefficiencies, seeking to exploit mispricings in securities. Variations include equity long/short, where managers take positions in both long and short equity positions, and statistical arbitrage, leveraging quantitative models for trading decisions.

  1. Arbitrage

Arbitrage is the strategy of capitalising on price differences in identical or similar financial instruments across diverse markets. The goal is to capture a risk-free profit by simultaneously buying and selling assets. Arbitrage strategies play a crucial role in maintaining market efficiency by quickly aligning prices across different markets. Hedge funds and other institutional investors often employ arbitrage to capitalise on price differentials and contribute to the overall functioning of stock markets.

Hedge funds belong to the category III Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) and are subject to tax regulations applicable to AIF category III. As of now, category III AIFs are not regarded as pass-through vehicles, Indicating that the fund as a whole is obligated to settle taxes upon the realisation of gains or receipt of income in any form.

In simpler terms, Hedge funds face taxation at the fund level and this tax obligation is not transferred to unit holders or investors. This could be a factor hindering their growth in India, This significant tax load acts as a discouraging factor. The taxes are deducted before distributing profits, naturally reducing the returns received by domestic investors.

As hedge funds are those mutual funds managed by experienced professionals, their costs tend to be relatively high. They are within reach for individuals with financial stability, surplus funds, and a strong risk appetite.

For beginners, engaging a fund manager's assistance is advisable even though they have a high expense ratio, indicating substantial fees. Therefore, it is recommended to contemplate hedge fund investments once you have gained significant experience or have identified a fund manager with whom you can place your trust with confidence.

Category Mutual Funds Hedge Funds
Investor type and amount
Open to all investors. Allow small investments as low as Rs 500 or Rs 1,000
Only open to high-net-worth investors. The minimum amount of investment in India is Rs 1 crore
Investment type
Invest in regular financial instruments such as stocks and bonds (Read more: How mutual funds work)
Other than regular financial instruments, they invest in risky and sophisticated instruments
Borrowing capabilities
Limited borrowing capabilities
Can borrow additional amounts. Can also bet on twice the total worth of their assets
Payment to managers
Fund managers are paid irrespective of the fund’s performance
Fund managers get a percentage of the returns that they earn for their investors. They also get an asset management fee between 1% to 4% of the fund’s NAV
Risk factor
Less risky as they do not use complex investment strategies. They also stick to traditional and safer financial instruments
Invest in riskier and more sophisticated financial investment instruments. Also use more complex investment strategy
The objective is to protect investors’ money. They do so by diversifying their investments
Diversification is not necessary. They may take extremely concentrated investment decisions not regularly SEBI or RBI
SEBI regulates mutual funds in India. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regulates mutual funds if the AMC is promoted by a bank
Not regulated by SEBI or RBI

Embarking on the journey of hedge fund investments necessitates a thoughtful approach, considering the unique characteristics and challenges associated with these financial instruments.

  1. Complex Investment Vehicles

These funds engage in short-selling and derivatives trading, strategies typically adopted by larger investors. Prospective investors should be ready for extensive research and active investment tracking.

  1. Risk Factor

While dealing in derivatives inherently adds risk, the low level of regulation further increases the risk profile. Hedge funds, not mandated to register with SEBI, operate with a degree of independence, exposing both the fund and its investors to increased risk.

  1. Cost Considerations

With a minimum investment requirement of 1 crore, participating in hedge funds might be financially unfeasible for the average investor, given the substantial amount required for a single investment.

  1. Volatility in Returns

Hedge fund returns exhibit volatility, necessitating readiness for both downturns and upswings. The intricate structure and diversified nature of hedge funds, investing in nearly every asset, contribute to their complexity. Despite the diversification, strategies like arbitrage and long/short selling elevate the risk profile. As an investment option, it is advisable to explore hedge funds only if they align with your financial goals, conducting thorough research before making any investment decisions.


It is important for investors to approach hedge funds with a discerning eye, recognizing the need for thorough due diligence and understanding the potential drawbacks, including higher fees, lack of transparency, and regulatory complexities. Ultimately, incorporating hedge funds into an investment portfolio should align with an investor's broader financial strategy and be pursued with a well-informed and cautious approach.

Hedge funds are complex and carry higher risks, making them more suitable for experienced investors.

Hedge funds' ability to profit in various market conditions depends on their strategies, and they may still experience losses in downturns.

Establishing a hedge fund often requires significant regulatory compliance and is more common for institutional investors.

Some hedge funds allocate funds to private equity investments, expanding their portfolio beyond public markets.

Hedge funds typically do not pay dividends as they operate differently from traditional income-focused investments.

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