Hedge funds

These high-profile funds offer sizable returns, but are riskier than most.

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Typically limited to accredited investors in Australia, these pooled investment vehicles offer the opportunity for sizable returns. But the trading strategies that hedge funds use are riskier than most and require leverage, exposing investors to potentially devastating losses.

What is a hedge fund?

A hedge fund is a financial partnership between a group of investors and a professional fund manager. Australian investors can pool their funds together and the fund manager is responsible for monitoring the investments and generating returns.

Hedge funds earn their name from the hedging strategies fund managers use to pursue returns for their investors. These strategies — like going long or shorting stocks — can be effective but require leverage, contributing to higher risks for investors.

Hedge funds are typically limited to accredited investors in Australia and can be organized as a limited partnership or limited liability company.

How does it work?

Investors pool their money and the fund manager decides how to allocate the funds. If the fund is profitable — and there’s no guarantee it will be — investors receive a return after the fund manager takes their cut.

Outside the primary goal of maximizing returns, different types of hedge funds in Australia may pursue different goals. Some funds exclusively invest in real estate. Others are limited to private equity. It’s the hedge fund manager’s responsibility to communicate their preferred investment strategy to help potential investors decide whether they’d like to participate in the fund.

Hedge fund vs. mutual fund

Hedge funds and mutual funds have a few things in common. They both rely on pooled funds from a group of investors and are managed by a professional financial advisor. But that’s where the similarities end.

Hedge funds differ from mutual funds in that they typically rely on more assertive investment strategies. And while mutual funds tend to stick with stocks and bonds, hedge funds in Australia may dabble in stocks, derivatives, real estate, currencies and other alternative assets.

Hedge funds are also limited to accredited investors in Australia who earn above a stipulated income level. As a result, they are considered private investments. Mutual funds, on the other hand, are available to the general public and can be accessed from a self-directed brokerage account.

Fee structure

Most hedge funds rely on the 20-2 fee structure: fund managers receive 2% of net assets annually alongside 20% of any profits the fund generates. The 20-2 fee structure is the industry standard but has become increasingly criticised. With this fee structure, fund managers pocket 2% as an asset management fee, regardless of whether the fund is actually profitable.

The 20-2 fee structure is common in Australia, but there are others out there, too. The 20-1 setup is becoming more popular, reducing the fund manager’s asset management fee to 1% instead of 2%. Another approach is to eliminate the asset management fee entirely, but increase the fund manager’s profit cut to 25% — an incentive for the fund manager to pursue strong returns for all involved.

Risks of investing in a hedge fund

Hedge funds are often not subject to the same regulations as other investments and investors should familiarisse themselves with the risks before getting involved:

  • Leverage. Many hedge fund investment strategies require leverage — the use of borrowed money — to increase potential returns. But leverage can amplify losses, too. If things go south, an otherwise conservative investment could result in dramatic losses for all involved.
  • Conflict of interest. Because of how most hedge fund fee structures work, fund managers make money from investors even when the fund isn’t profitable. Fund managers have also been caught investing funds into companies they’re privately affiliated with. Thoroughly investigate your fund manager’s industry reputation and the fund’s history for any potential conflicts of interest.
  • Lock-up periods. Many hedge funds in Australia impose a lock-up period for new investors: a period of time in which you can’t cash in your shares in order to enforce commitment to the fund.
  • Limited liquidity. In addition to lock-up periods, some hedge funds only allow investors to redeem shares monthly, quarterly or annually.
  • Redemption fees. You may be required to pay a redemption fee in order to access your funds. Most redemption fees range from 2% to 5% of withdrawn funds.
  • Suspended redemptions. In times of economic hardship, fund managers may reserve the right to suspend investor redemptions. This means you’ll be unable to access your money until the suspension is lifted.
  • Unqualified fund managers. It’s not unheard of for unqualified hedge fund managers to practice without registering with regulators. Carefully vet your fund manager’s credentials and reputation before signing up for a fund.

How to invest in a hedge fund

Interested in participating in a hedge fund in Australia? To get started:

  1. Find a hedge fund. Hedge funds are private investment opportunities that are inaccessible by brokerage accounts or stock exchanges. Spend some time researching available funds in your area.
  2. Review the fund’s strategy. What types of assets does the fund invest in? Does the fund’s investment strategy correlate with your risk tolerance? Explore the fund’s holdings and investment vehicles and compare these to your short- and long-term investment goals.
  3. Vet the fund manager. Make sure the fund manager holds the proper credentials before registering with them.
  4. Assess fees. Hedge fund managers in Australia charge asset management fees and take a cut of investor returns. Make sure you know where your money is going by asking how the fund’s fee structure works.
  5. Ask about redemption timetables. You may need to commit your money to the fund for a year or longer in a preliminary lock-up period, or may only be allowed to redeem your shares on a strict timetable. Ask about potential lock-up periods and redemption timelines so you’re not blindsided by limited liquidity.
  6. Confirm the fund’s eligibility criteria. Most hedge funds are only open to accredited investors in Australia, so find out what expectations your fund has of its investors and how you’ll be asked to document your accreditation status.
  7. Setup your portfolio. Contact the fund to communicate your interest and fill out any application documentation required.
  8. Transfer funds. Complete the process by transferring funds from an external account.

Alternatives to hedge funds

There are plenty of ways to passively grow your money outside of investing in a hedge fund. Here are some popular hedge fund alternatives:

  • Robo-advisors. Open an account with a robo-advisor for hands-off, algorithm-driven investment guidance.
  • Fiduciaries. Hire a fiduciary to help you select the ideal assets for your portfolio.
  • Managed portfolios. Sign up for a portfolio management service and leave your investments in the hands of a financial advisor.
  • Index funds. Purchase a mutual fund or ETF that offers exposure to an entire sector or index.

Compare managed portfolios

Numerous investment platforms in Australia offer portfolio management services. Compare your options below.

Name Product Standard brokerage fee Inactivity fee Markets International
eToro Share Trading (US stocks)
US$10 per month if there’s been no login for 12 months
US shares, ETFs
Zero brokerage share trading on US stocks with trades as low as $50.
Join the world’s biggest social trading network when you trade stocks, commodities and currencies from the one account.
Superhero share trading
ASX shares, ETFs
Pay zero brokerage on all Australian ETFs.
Trade ASX stocks with a flat $5 commission fee and a low minimum investment of just $100.
ThinkMarkets Share Trading
ASX shares, ETFs
Limited offer: Get 5 free ASX trades when you open a new account with ThinkMarkets before June 30, 2021 (T&Cs apply).
Buy and sell CHESS sponsored ASX shares with $0 brokerage on your first 5 trades. Only $8 flat fee brokerage thereafter, plus enjoy free live stock price data on an easy to use mobile app.
Bell Direct Share Trading
ASX shares, mFunds, ETFs
⭐ Finder Exclusive: Get 5 free stock trades and unlimited ETF trades until July 31, 2021 when you join Bell Direct.
Bell Direct offers a one-second placement guarantee on market-to-limit ASX orders or your trade is free, plus enjoy extensive free research reports from top financial experts.
IG Share Trading
Finder Award
IG Share Trading
$50 per quarter if you make fewer than three trades in that period
ASX shares, Global shares
$0 brokerage for US and global shares plus get an active trader discount of $5 commission on Australian shares.
Enjoy some of the lowest brokerage fees on the market when trading Australian shares, international shares, plus get access to 24-hour customer support.
Saxo Capital Markets (Classic account)
ASX shares, Global shares, Forex, CFDs, Margin trading, Options trading, ETFs
Acess 19,000+ stocks on 37 exchanges worldwide
Low fees for Australian and global share trading, no inactivity fees, low currency conversion fee and optimised for mobile.
CMC Markets Stockbroking
ASX shares, Global shares, mFunds, ETFs
$0 brokerage on global shares including US, UK and Japan markets.
Trade up to 9,000 products, including shares, ETFs and managed funds, plus access up to 15 major global and Australian stock exchanges.

Compare up to 4 providers

Important: Share trading can be financially risky and the value of your investment can go down as well as up. “Standard brokerage” fee is the cost to trade $1,000 or less of ASX-listed shares and ETFs without any qualifications or special eligibility. If ASX shares aren’t available, the fee shown is for US shares. Where both CHESS sponsored and custodian shares are offered, we display the cheapest option.

Bottom line

Hedge funds present a potentially lucrative investment opportunity, but are typically limited to accredited investors in Australia and can be quite risky. Before you invest, explore your account options across numerous trading platforms to find the investment vehicle that best fits your financial goals.

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