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What is a Hedge Fund? A Complete Guide to Understanding Hedge Funds

What is a Hedge Fund? A Complete Guide to Understanding Hedge Funds
Photo by Jeffrey Blum | Unsplash

If you’re a novice in the world of finance, the term “hedge fund” might sound unfamiliar to you. Although hedge funds have been around for decades, their popularity has soared in recent years. But what exactly are hedge funds, and why do they draw so much attention from investors?

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about hedge funds, from their definition and history to their strategies, risks, and benefits. We’ll break down complex financial jargon and make it easy to understand, so you can feel confident in your knowledge of hedge funds.

What is a Hedge Fund?

In essence, a hedge fund is a pooled investment vehicle that aims to generate high returns by using a variety of investment strategies. Unlike mutual funds, which are more conservative and regulated, hedge funds are often considered riskier and less regulated.

Hedge funds pool money from accredited investors and use that capital to invest in a wide range of financial markets, such as equities, fixed income, currencies, and commodities. Unlike mutual funds, hedge funds are not limited to going long on assets; they can also use short-selling to bet against assets that they believe will decrease in value. This flexibility allows hedge funds to make positive or negative bets on the market, depending on their investment strategy.

The History of Hedge Funds

The concept of a hedge fund was first introduced by Alfred Winslow Jones in 1949. Jones was a finance journalist who became interested in investing, and he decided to create a fund that would use a mix of long and short strategies to reduce market risk. Jones’s innovative approach paid off, and his fund became one of the most successful of its time.

Over the years, hedge funds have evolved and expanded. In the 1980s and 1990s, hedge funds became popular among wealthy individuals and institutional investors who were seeking higher returns than traditional investments could provide. Today, there are thousands of hedge funds operating globally, managing trillions of dollars in assets.

Hedge Fund Strategies

Hedge funds use a variety of investment strategies to generate high returns. Some of the most common strategies include:

  • Long/short equity: This strategy involves taking both long and short positions in stocks, with the goal of profiting from both rising and falling prices.
  • Global macro: This strategy involves making bets on global economic trends, such as interest rates, currencies, and commodities.
  • Event-driven: This strategy involves investing in companies that are undergoing significant events, such as mergers, acquisitions, or bankruptcies.
  • Distressed debt: This strategy involves buying the debt of companies that are in financial distress, with the goal of profiting from a potential recovery.

These are just a few examples of the many investment strategies that hedge funds use. Hedge funds often employ multiple strategies simultaneously, depending on their goals and market conditions.

Hedge Fund Management Fees?

Management fees are charges paid to hedge fund managers for the management of the fund’s assets. These fees are typically calculated as a percentage of the assets under management (AUM). In the example given earlier, the management fee was 2% per year, which means that the hedge fund manager would receive 2 million pounds for managing the 100 million-pound fund.

Hedge Fund Performance Fees?

Performance fees, on the other hand, are charges paid to hedge fund managers for delivering returns above a certain threshold, which is often referred to as the hurdle rate. In the example given earlier, the hurdle rate was 5%, which means that the hedge fund manager would receive a performance fee only if the fund delivered returns above 5%.

In the example, the fund’s returns exceeded the hurdle rate, and the hedge fund manager received a performance fee of 20% of the returns above 5%. This amounted to 7.6 million pounds, a significant sum of money.

How are Hedge Fund Performance Fees Calculated?

Performance fees are calculated by taking the returns above the hurdle rate and multiplying them by the percentage agreed upon in the fund’s contract. In the example given earlier, the returns above the hurdle rate were 33 million pounds, and the performance fee was 20%. Thus, the performance fee amounted to 6.6 million pounds.

It’s worth noting that performance fees can be quite lucrative for hedge fund managers, especially when managing larger funds. For example, a hedge fund managing a billion-pound fund could potentially earn 76 million pounds in performance fees if the returns exceeded the hurdle rate.

Risks and Benefits of Hedge Funds

One of the reasons hedge funds are considered to be risky is that they take on a lot of leverage. Leverage involves borrowing money to invest, with the aim of maximizing returns. By borrowing money, hedge funds can invest more and potentially earn greater returns. However, this also amplifies the potential downside risk, as losses can be much larger. Hedge funds tend to use leverage extensively, making them riskier investments.

Despite the risks, many investors are attracted to hedge funds because of their potential for high returns. Hedge funds have historically outperformed other investment vehicles, such as mutual funds, during times of market volatility. In addition, hedge funds offer greater flexibility and diversification, which can help to reduce risk.


Hedge funds are not regulated by the financial conduct authority (FCA), which is the financial markets regulator. This means they have more freedom to take investment positions, both positive and negative, on companies or financial securities or instruments. While mutual funds tend to be regulated and invest only long, hedge funds can invest both long and short. However, this also means that hedge funds are not available to everyone. They can only take money from accredited investors, who typically have a net worth of over 1 million pounds, and each investment size is usually a minimum of 200 thousand pounds.


In conclusion, hedge funds are a type of alternative investment vehicle that can provide investors with the opportunity to seek higher returns than those available from mutual funds. However, they are much riskier investments due to their extensive use of leverage and the freedom they have to take investment positions. Hedge funds are only available to accredited investors who have a net worth of over 1 million pounds and are willing to take on the risk. Investors should carefully consider the risks and benefits of investing in hedge funds before making any investment decisions.

Additional Resources

To keep learning and advancing your career, we highly recommend these additional resources:

Hedge Funds Explained in 60 Seconds

Top 100 Hedge Funds 2022

4 Ratios To Analyse Hedge Fund Performance

17 Most Common Hedge Fund Strategies Explained

7 Financial Models Used by Investment Bankers

Asset Management Explained in 60 Seconds

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