A hedge fund is a pooled investment that is pulled by a partnership of institutional or accredited investors.
Investment in a Hedge fund is usually assumed to be a risky choice that requires a high minimum investment or, say, net worth, often targeting affluent and rich clients.
In Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI's) words, “Hedge funds, including fund of funds, are unregistered private investment partnerships, funds or pools that may invest and trade in many different markets, strategies and instruments (including securities, non-securities and derivatives) and are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as mutual funds.”
There are different types of hedge funds depending on the securities they invest in and the kind of strategies used to manage them.
Hedge funds in India do not need to be necessarily registered with Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), our markets regulator or disclose their NAVs at the end of the day. All other mutual funds are required to follow these regulatory requirements.
These funds use different types of trading techniques because of the securities and assets they invest in. They invest in equities, debt and also derivatives.
Examples of derivatives include futures and options. Like with equities and debt securities, the trading technique could be trading in a stock market or buying it directly from the company in a private placement.
For example, with futures, there is a right or an obligation to buy or sell an underlying stock at a pre-determined price, date and time. Options trading are the same but without an obligation. Investing in such securities automatically diversifies trading techniques.
Hedge Funds pool money from larger investors like high networth individuals (HNI), endowments, banks, pension funds and commercial firms. They fall under the AIF (alternative investment funds)-category III. This pooled money is used to invest in such securities in national and international markets.
The 4 types of Hedge Funds are outlined below-
It leverages macroeconomic factors and even financial conditions such as inflation rates to profit from market ups and downs.
It yields more profitable returns by leveraging the price differences of related securities.
It invests in those companies that take a measure on diverse demands, for instance, cost-cutting, restructuring of assets, etc.
It invests in global/domestic stocks that primarily deliver safety against equity market downturns by selling overvalued stocks or even stock indices.
These funds can also be categorised by the complex strategies their fund managers adopt to maintain their funds.
These categories comprise the top hedge funds that are available in the market. However, there are also some other pooled investment vehicles which have some similarities with the varying types of hedge funds.
Fees and Minimum Investment
The fee structure consists of both: a management fee which is generally less than 2% and a profit sharing technique which varies between 10 to 15%. The minimum ticket size to invest in Hedge Funds is Rs 1 crore per investor and an entire fund needs to have a minimum corpus of Rs 20 crore.
These funds fall under category III AIF and are taxed according to taxation rules applicable to AIF category III. Category III AIF, as of now, are not considered as pass through vehicles.
This means that the fund on the whole has to pay a tax when it realises gains or gets income in any form. In other words, Hedge Funds are taxed at the fund level.
The tax obligation will not be passed through to the unit holders or its investors. This may be one of the reasons why they have not been able to take off in India. The high tax burden acts as a deterrent.
The taxes are withheld before the profits are distributed to you. This automatically curbs the returns that finally end up with the domestic investors.
The aforementioned points on relaxation of regulatory requirements speaks volumes on the high risk level that this product carries.
Apart from the fact that the underlying securities that top hedge funds invest in also carry high risk, the product is not legally bound for a SEBI registration or disclosure of NAV.
These two points keep the rest of the funds under a close watch and closely regulated. This does not mean that SEBI leaves these funds unattended but no legal binding does work the risk level upwards.
We all know that risk and returns are directly proportional. Hedge fund returns, just like its risks, are on the higher side. Average annual returns can go as high as 15% as well and the credit for this is attributed to the hedge mutual fund managers.
Since hedge funds are those mutual funds that are managed by experts, they tend to be quite costly. They can be easily afforded by those who are financially sound, have surplus funds, and have a good risk appetite.
Also, if you are a beginner, you might need the assistance of a fund manager to take care of your hedge funds. Such managers have a high expense ratio i.e the fee charged by them is quite heavy. Thus, consider investing in hedge funds once you have substantial experience in the field or you find a fund manager whom you can trust confidently.
The basic structure of these funds is just like other mutual funds. They are a pooled investment vehicle. They collect money from a pool of investors and use that money to invest in other assets and there is a fund manager who manages the fund as well. However, there are certain points of difference between hedge fund vs mutual fund.
Here’s a table that explains the difference between mutual funds and hedge funds:
|Sr No.||Category||Hedge Funds||Mutual funds|
|1.||Regulatory requirements||No SEBI registration required or disclosure of NAVs||Disclosure of NAVs at the end of the day is necessary
SEBI registration is mandatory
|2.||Investor category||HNIs, banks, commercial firms,||Any domestic investor|
|3.||Underlying securities||Equities, money market instruments, currencies, real estate, derivatives, convertible securities||Equities, money market instruments, cash|
|4.||Risk||Very high||Comparatively lower|
|5.||Minimum ticket size||Rs 1 crore||Not uniform but as low as Rs 500 in some funds|
|6.||Minimum corpus||Rs 20 crore for a hedge fund||Not defined|
|7.||Investment strategy||Short selling permitted||Mutual funds cannot do short selling|
These funds deals in short-selling and derivatives trading. Such trading techniques are adopted only by larger investors. If you are looking to invest, you need to be prepared for a whole lot of research and investment tracking from your end.
Dealing in derivatives does make the product risky but what adds to the risk element is the low level of regulation.
SEBI does not require Hedge Funds to be registered with them so the fund and their investors are kind of on their own.
The minimum investment ticket size is Rs 1 crore so for a regular investor, putting in such a huge amount in one investment may not be feasible.
Hedge fund returns are volatile so you need to be prepared for dips and upsides both.
Hedge Funds are complex in their structure and strategy. They invest in almost every asset so they are heavily diversified however strategies like arbitrage and long/short selling keeps it higher on the risk rack. As an investment product, explore these only if they align with your goals and do your due diligence in research before proceeding.
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