Browse Analysis of Managed and Structured Products

20.4.3 Hedge Fund Features

Comprehensive guide on the unique features of hedge funds including incentive fees, high-water marks, hurdle rates, liquidity, transparency, and investor protection.


Hedge funds possess unique features that set them apart from other investment vehicles. Understanding these distinct characteristics is crucial for both investors and financial professionals. This section delves into some of the key components of hedge fund structures, such as incentive fees, high-water marks, hurdle rates, liquidity, transparency, and investor protection.

Incentive Fees


Incentive fees, in addition to management and administrative fees, are charged by hedge fund managers based on the fund’s performance. These fees are typically calculated after deducting management fees and other expenses, rather than on the gross returns.


  • Attract Top Talent: Incentive fees attract top money managers by offering high earning potential.
  • Performance Motivation: These fees incentivize managers to perform well.


  • Self-Interest: Managers may focus on short-term gains at the expense of long-term stability due to their lack of investment in the fund.
  • Risk-Taking: Managers may take on higher risks, as they benefit from profit without directly facing losses.

High-Water Mark

A high-water mark ensures that managers are compensated for net new profits, thereby avoiding double-dipping after periods of poor performance.


Suppose a hedge fund has a net asset value (NAV) per unit of $10 at the start.

  1. Year 1: NAV rises to $12. An incentive fee is collected based on the 20% gain.
  2. Year 2: NAV falls to $11. No incentive fee is collected.
  3. Year 3: NAV rises back above $12. Incentive fees are collected only on gains above the $12 high-water mark.
	    title Fund Performance
	    "Year 1: 20% Gain" : 40
	    "Year 2: No Fee" : 30
	    "Year 3: Above High-Water Mark" : 30

Hurdle Rate

A hurdle rate is the minimum return a fund must achieve before incentive fees are paid.


If a hedge fund has a 5% hurdle rate and earns a 20% return, then incentive fees are applied to the 15% return over the hurdle rate.



Hedge funds generally exhibit lower liquidity compared to mutual funds due to their pricing and trading practices.


  • Monthly Pricing: Hedge funds are typically priced monthly, versus daily pricing for mutual funds.
  • Redemption Restrictions: Some hedge funds allow monthly subscriptions but require a notice period and may only permit quarterly redemptions.
  • Lockup Periods: Initial investments often have lockup periods ranging from one to two years, during which withdrawals are restricted.

Fund Transparency


Transparency involves detailed, frequent, and timely communication of fund activities.


  • Mutual Funds: Quarterly detailed reports
  • ETFs: Daily holdings with one-day delay
  • Hedge Funds: Semi-annual reports, often with a 90-day delay

Prospectus and Offering Memorandum

Transparency levels for mutual funds and ETFs are outlined in a prospectus, whereas hedge funds provide information through the offering memorandum, which lacks regulatory requirements.

Investor Protection

Withdrawal Rights

  • Mutual Funds: Investors can cancel investments within two business days after confirmation.
  • ETFs: No right of withdrawal.
  • Hedge Funds: Withdrawal rights are stipulated in the fund’s offering memorandum.

Right of Rescission

Investors can rescind their purchase if the fund documents contain misrepresentations. This right applies to mutual funds but only applies to hedge funds if specified in the offering memorandum.

Key Takeaways

  • Incentive Fees: At attract top managers, they also pose risks due to potentially increased risk-taking behaviors.
  • High-Water Mark: Prevents double-dipping on poor performance, incentivizing managers to maintain high returns.
  • Hurdle Rate: Sets a minimum performance expectation before incentive fees are collected.
  • Liquidity: Hedge funds offer less liquidity compared to mutual funds, impacting investment decisions and exit strategies.
  • Transparency: Fixed reporting schedules provide investors clarity, though hedge funds often offer less frequent updates.
  • Investor Protection: Understanding withdrawal and rescission rights is vital to safeguard investments.


  • Incentive Fee: A fee based on the fund’s performance, over and above management fees.
  • High-Water Mark: The highest previous value of the fund that needs to be exceeded before earning new incentive fees.
  • Hurdle Rate: The minimum return threshold that a fund must achieve before incentive fees are granted.
  • Liquidity: The ease with which investors can buy or sell fund units.
  • Transparency: The degree of clarity and frequency with which a fund’s activities and performance reports are shared with investors.
  • Right of Withdrawal: The right to cancel an investment within a specific period.
  • Right of Rescission: The right to cancel an investment if misleading information is found in the investment documents.

📚✨ Quiz Time! ✨📚

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## What is the primary purpose of incentive fees in hedge funds? - [ ] To cover management and administrative costs - [ ] To provide periodic financial reports to the investors - [x] To attract top money managers and incentivize good performance - [ ] To ensure liquidity in the fund > **Explanation:** Incentive fees are designed to attract top money managers and provide them with a reason to perform well. Additionally, these fees create a potential risk of managers acting based on self-interest rather than the fund’s interest. ## Which of the following describes a high-water mark? - [x] A benchmark that ensures a fund manager is paid an incentive fee only on net new profits - [ ] A minimum return a hedge fund must earn before any management fee is paid - [ ] A fixed percentage fee charged annually by the hedge fund - [ ] A period in which investors cannot redeem their investments > **Explanation:** A high-water mark ensures that a fund manager is paid an incentive fee only on net new profits, preventing managers from double-dipping on incentive fees following periods of poor performance. ## What is a hurdle rate? - [ ] The rate at which management fees are deducted - [x] The rate a hedge fund must earn before its manager is paid an incentive fee - [ ] The rate used to reset the high-water mark annually - [ ] The interest rate applied to redemptions during the lockup period > **Explanation:** A hurdle rate is the rate a hedge fund must earn before its manager earns an incentive fee. It ensures that managers are rewarded only for returns that exceed a predefined threshold. ## What is a common characteristic of hedge funds that affects liquidity? - [ ] They post daily net asset values - [ ] They allow for daily subscriptions and redemptions - [x] They are priced and traded less frequently than mutual funds - [ ] They offer unlimited liquidity to investors at any time > **Explanation:** Hedge funds are less liquid than mutual funds because they are priced and traded less frequently, often only at the end of each month, which limits opportunities for redemption and subscription. ## What is an initial lockup period in hedge funds? - [x] A period during which initial investments cannot be redeemed - [ ] A period in which fund managers recalibrate portfolios - [ ] A period when incentive fees are not charged - [ ] A period when no new investments are accepted > **Explanation:** An initial lockup period is a specified duration (one to two years is common) during which initial investments cannot be redeemed. This helps fund managers manage liquidity without affecting market prices significantly. ## What is a soft lockup period? - [ ] A period during which investments cannot be redeemed under any circumstances - [ ] A period in which managers can reset the high-water mark - [x] A period in which investments can be redeemed early by paying a fee - [ ] A period during which the hedge fund charges no fees > **Explanation:** In a soft lockup period, investors can choose to redeem their investments before the end of the lockup period by paying a fee, unlike a hard lockup period where no redemptions are allowed. ## How are hedge fund returns typically reported in terms of transparency? - [ ] Daily - [ ] Weekly - [ ] Monthly with no delay - [x] Semi-annually, often with a 90-day delay > **Explanation:** Hedge funds sold in the exempt marketplace typically report their returns semi-annually with a delay, often as long as 90 days, which impacts the transparency compared to mutual funds and ETFs. ## What right allows mutual fund investors to cancel their investment without penalty within a two-business day period? - [ ] Right of rescission - [ ] Right to liquidity - [ ] Right to redemption at NAV - [x] Right of withdrawal > **Explanation:** The right of withdrawal permits conventional mutual fund investors to cancel their investment without penalty within a two-business day period after receiving confirmation of their investment. ## How do incentive fees affect fund managers with no investment stake in the hedge fund? - [ ] They carry downside risk for fund managers - [ ] They are generally not a concern for such managers - [ ] They have no impact on their decisions - [x] They may tempt managers to take riskier bets for upside potential > **Explanation:** Fund managers with no investment stake in the hedge fund have only upside return potential and no downside risk (except not earning their performance fee), which could tempt them to take riskier bets. ## What factor is crucial in determining the calculation of incentive fees in hedge funds? - [ ] The gross return earned by the manager - [x] Whether the high-water mark is perpetual or reset annually - [ ] The liquidity of the hedge fund - [ ] The base capital investment by investors > **Explanation:** It is important to determine whether the high-water mark is perpetual over the fund’s life or if the manager has the authority to reset the level annually, as this significantly impacts the calculation of incentive fees.

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Saturday, July 13, 2024