Hedge Funds vs Mutual Funds – Side by Side Comparison

Hedge funds and mutual funds are two common investment vehicles that allow individuals and institutions to pool their money and invest in a diversified portfolio of assets.

Nevertheless, it is important to understand what is the difference between hedge funds and mutual funds.

Hedge funds vs mutual funds, which one should you select? Let’s find out!

What’s important, while both serve the purpose of wealth creation and investment, they have distinct characteristics, objectives, and strategies.

In this in-depth comparison, we will explore the similarities and differences between mutual funds and hedge funds.

Hedge funds vs mutual funds

People who are unfamiliar with hedge funds and mutual funds may find it hard to understand the difference between them. So, it is better first to understand what they have in common.

Professional management: Both hedge funds and mutual funds are managed by professional portfolio managers who make investment decisions on behalf of investors. These managers are typically well-versed in financial markets and have access to extensive research and analysis resources.

Diversification: Both types of funds offer diversification benefits. They spread investors’ capital across a wide range of assets, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and commodities, reducing individual investment risk.

Liquidity: Investors can typically buy and sell shares of mutual funds and hedge funds daily, although there may be exceptions for certain types of hedge funds. This liquidity allows investors to access their funds relatively quickly compared to other types of investments like real estate or private equity.

Regulation: Mutual funds and hedge funds are subject to regulatory oversight, but the extent of regulation varies.

Mutual funds are heavily regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and similar regulatory bodies in other countries, with strict rules governing disclosure, transparency, and investor protection. Hedge funds, while also subject to regulation, have more flexibility in their investment strategies and reporting requirements.

What is the difference between a hedge fund and a mutual fund?

Some people may think a hedge fund is the same as a mutual fund. No. They aren’t!

Hedge funds vs mutual funds: which one is more suitable for all types of investors? Let’s find out!

Mutual funds are typically open to retail investors and are designed for a broad range of investors, including individual investors, retirement accounts, and institutions.

Interestingly, hedge funds are typically open only to accredited investors or high-net-worth individuals and institutions due to regulatory requirements. This exclusivity is intended to attract sophisticated investors who can bear higher risks.

Investment objectives:

Mutual funds are primarily focused on long-term wealth accumulation and are designed for investors seeking capital appreciation, income, or a combination of both. They often follow a specific investment strategy, such as growth, value, or income.

Hedge funds are more flexible in their investment objectives. While they aim for positive returns, their strategies can range from aggressive growth to capital preservation. Hedge funds often seek to provide positive returns regardless of market conditions, including during downturns.

Risk and return profiles:

Mutual funds tend to be less risky compared to hedge funds. They are designed to match the performance of a specific benchmark or asset class, and their returns are typically correlated with broader market movements.

Hedge funds often employ alternative and complex strategies to generate returns that may not be correlated with traditional markets. This can lead to both higher potential returns and higher risks, making them suitable for more sophisticated investors.

Fees and costs

Mutual funds typically charge management fees and may also have sales loads or redemption fees. These fees are usually disclosed in the fund’s prospectus and can vary widely.

Hedge funds typically charge both management fees and performance fees. The management fee is a percentage of assets under management, while the performance fee is a percentage of profits earned. These fees can be substantial and are a key source of income for hedge fund managers.


Mutual funds are required to disclose their holdings regularly, providing investors with transparency in their investments. Investors can easily track the fund’s performance and holdings.

Hedge funds have more flexibility in terms of disclosing their holdings. They often provide less frequent and less detailed reports, making it harder for investors to assess their portfolio’s risk.

Leverage and short selling:

Mutual funds typically do not use leverage (borrowed money) or engage in short selling (betting that a security’s price will fall). They are subject to more conservative investment restrictions.

Hedge funds may use leverage and engage in short selling as part of their investment strategy. This can amplify both potential gains and losses, making them riskier than mutual funds.

Lock-up periods:

Mutual funds are generally open for daily redemptions, allowing investors to buy or sell shares at the fund’s net asset value (NAV) at the end of each trading day.

It is worth noting that hedge funds often have lock-up periods, during which investors cannot withdraw their capital. Depending on the fund’s terms, this can range from a few months to several years.

Tax efficiency and investment strategies

Mutual funds can generate capital gains taxes for investors, especially when the fund manager buys and sells securities within the portfolio. These gains are typically distributed annually to investors.

What about hedge funds? 

They may offer more tax-efficient structures, such as partnerships, which allow investors to defer capital gains until they exit the fund. This can provide tax advantages to certain investors.

It is also quite important to spot the difference when it comes to investment strategies.

For example, mutual funds often employ passive strategies like index tracking or active strategies based on fundamental analysis. They aim to outperform a benchmark or asset class.

Interestingly, hedge funds employ a wide range of strategies, including long/short equity, global macro, arbitrage, and event-driven strategies. These strategies can be highly specialized and may involve complex derivatives and options.

In summary, while both mutual funds and hedge funds serve as investment vehicles, they cater to different types of investors and have distinct characteristics.

Mutual funds are generally more accessible to the average investor, offer more straightforward investment objectives, and are subject to greater regulatory oversight. In contrast, hedge funds are designed for sophisticated investors, offer greater flexibility in strategies, and can involve higher risks and costs.

Investors should carefully consider their financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon when choosing between these two options. It’s essential to consult with a financial advisor and conduct thorough due diligence to make informed investment decisions based on individual circumstances and preferences.

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