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CFDs come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 71% of accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should understand how CFDs work and consider if you can take the risk of losing your money.

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 71% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

71% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.

Trading Terms

Hedge funds 101: Everything you need to know

Hedge funds: Professional woman in business attire using a computer.

In the thrilling world of finance, where fortunes can be made, a select group of entities have risen to legendary status. They operate in the shadows, managing vast sums of money with an air of mystique and secrecy. Their strategies are whispered about in hushed tones, their successes heralded as astonishing feats of financial wizardry. Welcome to the enigmatic realm of hedge funds. So what exactly are hedge funds and what sets them apart from traditional investment vehicles?

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What is a hedge fund?

A hedge fund is a type of investment fund that pools capital (minimum: €500,000 or more) from accredited individuals and institutional investors to invest in a variety of assets. The fund is typically managed by professional portfolio managers who aim to generate high returns on investment. It operates as an unregulated alternative investment fund, meaning it employs various strategies and financial instruments that are not typically available to regulated pool funds, such as mutual funds. This gives them more freedom to take risks and explore investment opportunities that may not be available to traditional funds. The primary objective of a hedge fund is to generate strong returns for its investors, regardless of the prevailing market trends.

Unlike traditional investment funds, hedge funds have more flexibility in terms of the types of investments they can make. They can use a wide range of financial instruments, including derivatives, options, futures contracts, and leverage. This flexibility allows them to pursue different investment strategies, such as long and short positions arbitrage, and speculative trading, to potentially maximize profits.

One of the major benefits of hedge funds is their ability to mitigate market risk by diversifying an investment portfolio. Hedge fund managers often employ sophisticated strategies to spread investments across various asset classes, sectors, and geographic regions. This diversification helps reduce the overall risk of the portfolio by minimizing the impact of individual investment performance.

How does a hedge fund work?

Hedge funds operate on a fundamental principle that is akin to traditional investment funds. The primary objective is for the fund manager to invest the capital contributed by investors in a diverse range of assets, with the aim of maximizing returns. Unlike conventional investment funds, hedge funds are not limited to specific asset classes. This grants the fund manager the freedom to invest not only in stocks but also in derivatives. Due to the absence of standardized regulations governing the allocation of capital, hedge funds do not adhere to a single strategy. Instead, they employ a multitude of investment strategies tailored to their specific objectives.

A few examples of popular hedge fund strategies include:

1. Long-Short Strategy

The long-short strategy involves taking both long positions (buying assets expected to rise in value) and short positions (selling assets expected to decline in value). This strategy aims to generate returns by capitalizing on both bullish and bearish market conditions. By pairing long and short positions, hedge fund managers attempt to mitigate market risk and potentially profit from their investment insights.

2. Arbitrage Strategy / Relative Value Strategy

Arbitrage involves exploiting price discrepancies between related securities or markets to generate profits. This strategy aims to capture risk-free or low-risk opportunities by simultaneously buying and selling assets with similar characteristics but different prices. The relative value strategy focuses on identifying assets that are mispriced relative to each other.

3. Event-Driven Strategy

Event-driven strategies involve investing in securities of companies that are expected to be influenced by significant corporate events, such as mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, or regulatory changes. Hedge fund managers aim to capitalize on price movements resulting from these events.

4. Global Macro Strategy

The global macro strategy focuses on capitalizing on macroeconomic trends and geopolitical events that impact financial markets. Hedge fund managers analyze factors such as interest rates, government policies, economic indicators and global events to make investment decisions across various asset classes and markets.

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Pros and cons of hedge fund

Pros Cons
Potential for higher returns: Hedge funds are designed to deliver potentially higher returns compared to traditional investment vehicles like mutual funds. The flexibility to employ diverse investment strategies, including short-selling and derivatives trading, may provide opportunities for capital appreciation, particularly in volatile or unique market conditions. Higher risk and volatility: Hedge funds often employ more aggressive and complex investment strategies, which may increase risk and volatility compared to traditional investment vehicles. Strategies like leverage, short-selling, and derivatives trading carry inherent risks that may lead to substantial losses.
Diversification: Hedge funds often invest in a wide range of assets, including equities, fixed income, commodities, and derivatives. This diversification may potentially help mitigate risk by spreading investments across different markets and asset classes. Limited regulatory oversight: Hedge funds face fewer regulatory restrictions compared to mutual funds, making them subject to less scrutiny and disclosure requirements. This limited oversight may reduce transparency and investor protections, potentially exposing investors to higher risks.
Professional management: Hedge funds are managed by experienced and skilled investment professionals. These managers typically have deep knowledge of the markets and employ sophisticated strategies to generate returns. The expertise and active management may be beneficial for investors seeking professional guidance. Higher fees: Hedge funds typically charge higher fees compared to traditional investment vehicles. These fees often include a management fee (based on a percentage of assets under management) and a performance fee (a share of the fund's profits). High fees may eat into investment returns, especially if the fund fails to deliver superior performance.
Flexible investment strategies: Hedge funds have the flexibility to adapt their investment strategies based on market conditions. This adaptability allows them to potentially capitalize on market inefficiencies and may thus generate returns in both bullish and bearish market environments. Limited liquidity: Hedge funds may impose restrictions on investors' ability to redeem their capital. Lock-up periods, notice periods, and limited liquidity in certain investments within the fund's portfolio can limit the ability to access invested capital quickly.
Accessibility and minimum investment requirements: Hedge funds often have high minimum investment thresholds, making them less accessible to retail investors. Accredited investor status and substantial financial resources are usually required to participate in hedge funds.

Types of hedge fund

In Germany, there are two main types of hedge funds that differ in accessibility and other factors:

  1. Single hedge funds: Single hedge funds are independent investment funds that are only available to semi-professional or professional investors in Germany. They have fewer restrictions and can freely trade their investments without many limitations.
  2. Umbrella hedge funds: Umbrella hedge funds, also known as fund of funds, cater to a slightly wider range of investors. They operate similarly to other fund of funds structures, investing in various target funds, which can include single hedge funds or other funds with similar investment strategies. There are certain restrictions in place, such as not investing more than 20.00% of the fund's volume in a single target fund. Short sales are generally not allowed, and leverage can only be used in specific legally defined exceptions.

Hedge funds vs others

The structure of a hedge fund

Hedge funds are usually structured as limited partnerships, where investors (both institutional and private "accredited" investors) contribute money to the fund. The fund manager, known as the general partner, makes investment decisions and executes the fund's activities. If the fund's value increases, the limited partners receive a portion of the profits based on their investment amounts.

Limited partners have limited risk, meaning their potential losses are capped at their initial investment. On the other hand, the general partner has unlimited liability, which means their personal assets can be used to cover the fund's debts.

The general partner also invests in the fund alongside the limited partners, but they may charge management and performance fees. These fees often follow a common structure known as "2 and 20," which includes a 2% administration fee and 20% of the profits.

Hedge funds are not regulated, so they cannot publicly market themselves, and investors must meet certain criteria. These criteria often require investors to have a high net worth or earn a significant annual income. However, the lack of regulation gives hedge funds more freedom to pursue various trading strategies and use financial instruments like leveraged derivatives, which are typically restricted for regulated funds like mutual funds.

Hedge funds vs mutual funds

Mutual funds and hedge funds both serve as investment vehicles where individual investors contribute to a shared fund used for investments. However, there are significant differences between them. Mutual funds are subject to strict regulations, unlike hedge funds.

Mutual funds have the ability to advertise publicly, but their investment options are limited to securities like stocks and bonds. They generally aim to achieve market portfolio returns, reflecting the overall performance of the stock market.

Income generated by mutual funds is distributed by dividing the fund's capital into shares. Investors act as shareholders, and if the fund generates positive returns, the value of their shares increases proportionately. There are 2 types of mutual funds, namely:

  • Closed-end mutual funds: They do not issue new shares, but existing shares can be traded on an exchange.
  • Open-ended mutual funds: They issue new shares when new investors join. Investors in an open-end fund can redeem their shares directly from the fund at the current value when they wish to cash out.

Both open and closed mutual funds offer highly liquid shares that can be easily converted into cash.

On the other hand, hedge funds operate differently. Investors usually have limited opportunities to exit their investments, often only during specific time periods and after an initial minimum investment period known as a "blocking period." This lack of flexibility makes hedge fund investments relatively illiquid compared to mutual funds.

While mutual funds charge management fees, they typically do not impose performance fees. This practice is often viewed as a way to discourage unnecessary risk-taking by mutual fund managers, as their earnings are not directly tied to the fund's performance relative to the market.

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Hedge funds vs private equity

A limited partnership structure can also be used for setting up a private equity fund. In such cases, the fund would adopt a fee schedule similar to that of a hedge fund, which includes a management fee and a performance fee. The fee structure - "2 and 20" is usually seen in private equity.

Being an unregulated alternative investment vehicle, private equity requires investors to meet specific criteria, much like accredited investors in hedge funds. This entails having a high net worth or earning a substantial annual income over a certain period.

Private equity specializes in direct investments in companies or acquiring a majority stake in publicly traded companies. Strategies employed by private equity funds include leveraged buyouts (LBOs) and investments in promising startups (venture capital).

If successful turnaround strategies are implemented, a private equity fund may purchase distressed companies with the aim of increasing their value. Hedge funds, on the other hand, take an "activist" approach when intervening in companies but primarily focus on publicly traded ones.

From an investor's standpoint, the most notable differences between the two lie in their investment time horizons, risk profiles, and liquidity. Private equity is a long-term investment, typically spanning three to ten years, as the strategies employed by private equity funds require a significant amount of time to yield substantial results.

In comparison, hedge funds offer more liquidity as investor capital becomes available at predefined intervals after an initial lock-up period. This means that hedge funds are generally more liquid than private equity investments, allowing investors to access their capital more readily.

Although both private equity and hedge funds entail risks, hedge funds are considered the riskier option when compared to private equity, despite the latter's utilization of significant leverage in buyout transactions.

Lastly, hedge funds generally have an open structure, allowing new investors to join by issuing new shares, and shares can be redeemed directly from the fund itself instead of needing to be sold on an exchange. In contrast, private equity funds follow a closed structure, meaning that no new investors can participate once the fund has been launched.


While the strategies and impact of hedge funds may spark some debate, there is no denying the allure of their ability to generate impressive returns for their investors.

However, it is crucial to remember that the world of hedge funds is not without its risks and ethical concerns. The cons we learnt above are just some of the reminders that one ought to be extremely careful and cautious in this field.

This article is offered for general information and does not constitute investment advice. Please be informed that currently, Skilling is only offering CFDs.

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