Browse Analysis of Managed and Structured Products

20.2 Introduction To Alternative Investments

Comprehensive guide on understanding and categorizing alternative investments, including defining key types and structures.

Introduction to Alternative Investments

1. What is an Alternative Investment?

Alternative Investments refer to financial assets that do not fall into the traditional categories of stocks, bonds, or cash. Due to their complexity, liquidity constraints, and different risk-return profile compared to traditional investments, they are often used to diversify and enhance portfolio performance. Alternative investments encompass a wide array of asset classes and financial instruments.

Some common traits include:

  • Higher fees
  • Lower liquidity
  • Limited regulation
  • Potential for high returns
  • Diversification benefits

2. Main Categories and Sub-Categories of Alternative Investments

Alternative investments can be grouped into several broad categories and further broken down into sub-categories as follows:

Hedge Funds

Hedge funds employ diverse strategies including leveraging, derivatives, arbitrage, and long-short equity positions. They aim to generate high returns in both up and down markets.

Sub-categories include:

  • Equity Hedge Funds
  • Event-Driven Hedge Funds
  • Arbitrage Hedge Funds

Private Equity

Private equity involves investing in private companies through direct investment or buyouts with the intention of improving and eventually selling them at a profit.

Sub-categories include:

  • Venture Capital
  • Growth Capital
  • Buyouts
  • Mezzanine Financing

Real Assets

This category includes tangible assets such as real estate, commodities, infrastructure, and natural resources. Real assets offer a hedge against inflation and provide diversification.

Sub-categories include:

  • Real Estate
  • Commodities
  • Infrastructure
  • Timberland

Structured Products

Structured products are pre-packaged investments that depend on the performance of one or more underlying assets. They often have a fixed maturity and payout formula.

Sub-categories include:

  • Mortgage-Backed Securities
  • Asset-Backed Securities
  • Credit Default Swaps

Alternative Mutual Funds (Liquid Alts)

Liquid alternatives are mutual funds that use sophisticated strategies akin to those of hedge funds but provide daily liquidity.

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

ETFs focused on alternative investments can offer a liquid way to invest in non-traditional asset types.

Closed-End Funds

Generally trading on stock exchanges, closed-end funds can invest in diverse asset types without the liquidity constraints of open-ended mutual funds.

Marquee Strategies and Structures in Alternative Investments

By Type of Strategy

  • Absolute Return: Strategies seeking to achieve positive returns in all market environments.
  • Directional Strategies: Investments directed by market trends and prices.
  • Arbitrage Opportunities: Exploiting price differentials between markets or securities.

By Type of Structure

  • Exempt Market: Investment funds not subjected to certain regulatory requirements; typically suited to institutional or high-net-worth investors.
  • Alternative Mutual Funds: Provide more accessible investment options with higher liquidity than hedge funds.
  • Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs): Offer tradeable units of diversified asset portfolios.
  • Closed-End Funds: Managed funds with a fixed asset base, trading on stock exchanges.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the Benefits of Alternative Investments?

  1. Diversification: Providing exposure to asset classes not normally covered in standard portfolios.
  2. Potential for Higher Returns: Opportunities due to inefficiencies in smaller or niche markets.
  3. Risk Mitigation: Different risk-return characteristics compared to traditional assets.

What are the Risks Associated?

  1. Liquidity Risk: Non-traditional assets might be more challenging to buy and sell.
  2. Complexity: Alternative investments often require specialized knowledge and understanding.
  3. Regulatory Risk: Generally less regulated, which can involve uncertainties.
  4. Higher Costs: Potentially higher fees and expenses.

Key Takeaways

  • Alternative investments transcend conventional asset classes, with unique benefits and risks.
  • They are primarily packaged through varying structures like hedge funds, mutuals, ETFs, and closed-end funds.
  • They provide diversification, the potential for superior returns, but also come with higher complexity and costs.
  • Critical sub-categories include hedge funds, private equity, and real assets among others.


  • Arbitrage: The simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset in different markets to profit from price differences.
  • Mezzanine Financing: A hybrid of debt and equity financing used in acquisitions, typically featuring a conversion option to equity.
  • Absolute Return: An investment strategy aiming to have positive returns regardless of the market condition.
  • Liquidity Risk: The financial risk of not being able to sell an asset quickly enough to avoid a loss.
  • Exempt Market: Markets with investments not subject to standard regulatory disclosure and offering requirements.

Diagrams & Charts

	    title Alternative Investments Categories

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## What is an alternative investment primarily used for in financial markets? - [ ] To hold traditional stocks and bonds exclusively - [ ] To focus solely on high liquidity assets - [x] To diversify portfolios with non-traditional assets - [ ] To perform fundamental analysis only > **Explanation:** Alternative investments are used to diversify portfolios with assets other than traditional stocks, bonds, and cash. ## Which of the following is NOT a characteristic of alternative investments? - [ ] High liquidity - [ ] Diversification potential - [ ] Unique risk-return profiles - [x] Exclusively traded on major stock exchanges > **Explanation:** Alternative investments often have lower liquidity and can include non-publicly traded assets, unlike traditional investments that are traded on major stock exchanges. ## Alternative investments are generally found in which of the following structures? - [ ] Traditional mutual funds and ETFs - [x] Exempt market alternative funds, alternative mutual funds, ETFs, and closed-end funds - [ ] Directly held individual stocks and bonds - [ ] Government securities > **Explanation:** Alternative investments can be found in exempt market alternative funds, alternative mutual funds (liquid alts), ETFs, and closed-end funds. ## What is another name for alternative mutual funds? - [ ] Regular mutual funds - [ ] Hedge funds - [x] Liquid alts - [ ] Closed-end funds > **Explanation:** Alternative mutual funds are also known as liquid alts. ## Which of the following is a primary category of the alternative investment universe? - [ ] Government bonds - [ ] Corporate stocks - [x] Hedge funds - [ ] Savings accounts > **Explanation:** Hedge funds are a main category in the alternative investment universe. ## Which sub-category would you expect to be part of the alternative investment universe? - [ ] Common stocks - [ ] Government savings bonds - [x] Private equity - [ ] High-interest savings accounts > **Explanation:** Private equity is a sub-category of the alternative investment universe. ## What type of investment strategy is typically categorized as an alternative investment? - [ ] Buy-and-hold strategy - [ ] Passive index tracking - [x] Hedge fund strategies - [ ] Traditional bond buying > **Explanation:** Hedge fund strategies are categorized as alternative investments. ## What is the primary purpose of including alternative investments in a portfolio? - [ ] To maintain high liquidity - [ ] To ensure high risk - [x] To achieve portfolio diversification - [ ] To eliminate traditional assets > **Explanation:** The primary purpose of including alternative investments in a portfolio is to achieve diversification. ## Which of these is NOT an example of an alternative fund structure? - [ ] Real estate investment trusts (REITs) - [ ] Hedge funds - [ ] Private equity funds - [x] Corporate stocks > **Explanation:** Corporate stocks are traditional investments, not alternative fund structures. ## Alternative investments are often sought after for their potential for... - [ ] Lower risk than traditional investments - [ ] Higher returns and diversification benefits - [ ] Guaranteed returns - [x] Higher returns and diversification benefits > **Explanation:** Alternative investments are often sought after for their potential to provide higher returns and diversification benefits beyond what traditional investments can offer. ## Which type of fund is aimed to offer greater liquidity while investing in alternative strategies? - [ ] Hedge funds - [ ] Exempt market funds - [x] Liquid alts - [ ] Private equity funds > **Explanation:** Liquid alts (alternative mutual funds) offer greater liquidity while investing in alternative strategies. ## Exempt market alternative funds are also known as... - [ ] Liquid alts - [x] Hedge funds - [ ] Mutual funds - [ ] ETFs > **Explanation:** Exempt market alternative funds are commonly referred to as hedge funds. ## Closed-end funds in the alternative investment space are characterized by... - [x] A fixed number of shares that are traded on the open market - [ ] Continuous share issuance and redemption - [ ] High levels of liquidity - [ ] Government guarantees > **Explanation:** Closed-end funds have a fixed number of shares that are publicly traded on the open market. ## Which factor is NOT typically associated with alternative investments? - [ ] Non-correlation to traditional assets - [ ] Unique risk-return profiles - [ ] High degree of transparency - [x] High degree of transparency > **Explanation:** Alternative investments are often less transparent compared to traditional assets. ## What is a common reason to include alternative investments in a portfolio? - [ ] To guarantee returns - [ ] To prevent any market losses - [x] To achieve portfolio diversification and potential higher returns - [ ] To focus solely on liquid assets > **Explanation:** Alternative investments are included in portfolios to diversify and potentially achieve higher returns, not to guarantee returns or focus only on liquid assets. ## Which of the following best describes the liquidity of alternative investments? - [x] Often less liquid than traditional investments - [ ] Always very high liquidity - [ ] Mandatorily traded on major exchanges - [ ] Fully guaranteed by government entities > **Explanation:** Alternative investments often have lower liquidity compared to traditional investments. ## ETFs in the alternative investment space are designed to... - [ ] Focus solely on large-cap stocks - [ ] Track only government bonds - [x] Provide exposure to alternative strategies while offering liquidity - [ ] Eliminate investment risk > **Explanation:** ETFs in the alternative investment space are designed to provide exposure to alternative strategies while offering liquidity. ## Alternative mutual funds are required to... - [ ] Hold only traditional assets - [ ] Exclude private investments - [x] Offer daily liquidity, similar to traditional mutual funds - [ ] Prevent short selling > **Explanation:** Alternative mutual funds (liquid alts) are required to offer daily liquidity, similar to traditional mutual funds. ## What is a key feature of closed-end funds? - [ ] Daily issuance and redemption of shares - [x] A fixed number of shares available for trading - [ ] Mandatory government backing - [ ] Exclusive focus on large-cap stocks > **Explanation:** Closed-end funds have a fixed number of shares that are available for trading on the open market. ## Which of these is a primary advantage of hedge funds as an alternative investment? - [ ] Guaranteed high returns - [x] Potential for higher returns through strategic diversity - [ ] Complete immunity to market risks - [ ] Full government guarantees > **Explanation:** Hedge funds offer the potential for higher returns through the use of diverse and often complex investment strategies.

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In this section

  • 20.2.1 What Are Alternative Investments?
    An informational guide on alternative investments, including hedge funds, real assets, commodities, real estate, collectibles, infrastructure, natural resources, and private equity.
Saturday, July 13, 2024