Hedge Funds vs. Mutual Funds: Key Differences Explained
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Investing can be crucial to building one's wealth and financial security, particularly in the financial markets of India. Understanding investment vehicles such as hedge funds and mutual funds is key to crafting a well-rounded portfolio. Here, we will look at the difference between a hedge fund and a mutual fund, two common types of investment funds, and break down what sets them apart.

What are Hedge Funds?

Hedge funds are investment pools that employ varied strategies to earn active returns for their investors. They might bet on ascending or descending stocks and use leverage, derivatives, and other complex strategies to amplify their bets. They may be aggressively managed or use derivatives and leverage in both domestic and international markets to generate high returns.

Investment Strategies and Goals

The primary goal of hedge funds is often absolute returns regardless of market trends. That being said, here are the various investment strategies to know:

  • Long/Short Equity: This strategy involves taking both long and short positions in stocks to minimise market risk while profiting from both rising and falling stock prices.
  • Event-driven: This strategy aims to take advantage of corporate events such as mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, or other significant changes that can affect a company's stock price.
  • Global Macro: This strategy involves making large bets on macroeconomic trends and events, such as interest rate changes or political events, to generate returns.
  • Relative Value: Also known as arbitrage, this strategy involves identifying price discrepancies in related securities and taking advantage of them before the market corrects itself.
  • Distressed Securities: This strategy focuses on investing in distressed or bankrupt companies to turn them around and generate profits.
  • Convertible Arbitrage: This strategy involves buying convertible bonds and simultaneously short-selling the underlying stock, taking advantage of price discrepancies between the two.
  • Fixed Income: This strategy involves trading various types of fixed-income securities, such as government bonds, corporate bonds, and mortgage-backed securities, to generate returns.

What are Mutual Funds?

Conversely, mutual funds are investment vehicles that pool money from many investors to purchase securities like stocks, bonds, and other assets. They are highly popular in India due to their simplicity and accessibility. They are operated by asset management companies (AMCs) that invest the fund's capital and attempt to produce capital gains and income for its investors.

Investment Strategies and Goals

The objective of mutual funds is typically long-term capital growth with risk-adjusted returns. That being said, here are the types of mutual funds you need to be aware of:

  • Equity Funds are mutual funds that primarily invest in stocks or equities. These funds generally have a higher risk and potential for higher returns.
  • Debt Funds primarily invest in fixed-income securities like bonds and government securities. These funds tend to be less risky, making them suitable for conservative investors.
  • Balanced Funds, also known as hybrid funds, invest in a mix of equities and debt instruments. These funds aim to balance out the risks and returns for investors.
  • Money Market Funds are mutual funds that focus on short-term, low-risk securities such as treasury bills, commercial paper, and certificates of deposit.
  • Index Funds are passive investment strategies that track a specific market index like the S&P 500. These funds aim to replicate the performance of a particular index.
  • Sector Funds focus on specific sectors or industries such as technology, healthcare, or real estate.
  • Speciality Funds invest in specific asset classes like gold, commodities, or real estate investment trusts (REITs).

What is the Difference Between Hedge Funds and Mutual Funds?

The difference between a hedge fund and a mutual fund involves aspects such as investor base, regulation, and strategy. Below is a comparative analysis outlining their key differences:


Hedge Fund

Mutual Fund

Investor Base

Accredited investors and institutions

Retail and institutional investors


High returns, higher risk

Consistent, moderate returns, lower risk

Management and Ownership

Small team/individual, substantial personal investment

Professional portfolio managers, ownership by shareholders


Fewer regulations, private investment funds

Highly regulated by the government


Limited disclosure

Detailed information required


Management fee and performance fee

Typically management fees only

Investor Count & Investment Size

Smaller number of investors, larger minimum investments

A large number of investors, lower minimum investments

Liquidity & Redemption

Longer lock-up periods, limited withdrawals

Daily liquidity, buy/sell at the end of the day

Investment Strategy

A variety of strategies including leveraged & short selling

A diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, securities

Holding Period

Long and short-term

Generally long-term

National Regulations

Varies by country

Strictly regulated by national authorities


India's hedge fund and mutual fund sectors cater to distinctive investor needs. Regulations, transparency, and strategies adopted by each type of fund reflect their intrinsic objectives.

While hedge funds are known for their aggressive strategies and high risk-reward profile, appealing primarily to high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors, mutual funds offer a simpler, regulated approach for individual investors seeking to grow their wealth in the long term.

By understanding the fundamental difference between a hedge fund and a mutual fund, investors can make informed decisions about where to allocate their capital based on their risk appetite, investment horizon, and financial goals.

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Disclaimer: This Article is for information purposes only. The views expressed in this Article do not necessarily constitute the views of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. (“Bank”) or its employees. The Bank makes no warranty of any kind with respect to the completeness or accuracy of the material and articles contained in this Article. The information contained in this Article is sourced from empaneled external experts for the benefit of the customers and it does not constitute legal advice from the Bank. The Bank, its directors, employees and the contributors shall not be responsible or liable for any damage or loss resulting from or arising due to reliance on or use of any information contained herein. Tax laws are subject to amendment from time to time. The above information is for general understanding and reference. This is not legal advice or tax advice, and users are advised to consult their tax advisors before making any decision or taking any action. Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks, read all scheme related documents carefully.