An investment fund is a way of investing money alongside other investors in order to benefit from the inherent advantages of working as part of a group such as reducing the risks of the investment by a significant percentage. These advantages include an ability to:
It remains unclear whether professional active investment managers can reliably enhance risk adjusted returns by an amount that exceeds fees and expenses of investment management. Terminology varies with country but investment funds are often referred to as investment pools, collective investment vehicles, collective investment schemes, managed funds, or simply funds. The regulatory term is undertaking for collective investment in transferable securities, or short collective investment undertaking (cf. Law). An investment fund may be held by the public, such as a mutual fund, exchange-traded fund, special-purpose acquisition company or closed-end fund, or it may be sold only in a private placement, such as a hedge fund or private equity fund. The term also includes specialized vehicles such as collective and common trust funds, which are unique bank-managed funds structured primarily to commingle assets from qualifying pension plans or trusts.
Investment funds are promoted with a wide range of investment aims either targeting specific geographic regions (e.g., emerging markets or Europe) or specified industry sectors (e.g., technology). Depending on the country there is normally a bias towards the domestic market due to familiarity, and the lack of currency risk. Funds are often selected on the basis of these specified investment aims, their past investment performance, and other factors such as fees.
The first (recorded) professionally managed investment funds or collective investment schemes, such as mutual funds, were established in the Dutch Republic. Amsterdam-based businessman Abraham van Ketwich (also known as Adriaan van Ketwich) is often credited as the originator of the world's first mutual fund.
The term "collective investment scheme" is a legal concept deriving initially from a set of European Union Directives to regulate mutual fund investment and management. The Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities Directives 85/611/EEC, as amended by 2001/107/EC and 2001/108/EC (typically known as UCITS for short) created an EU-wide structure, so that funds fulfilling its basic regulations could be marketed in any member state. The basic aim of collective investment scheme regulation is that the financial "products" that are sold to the public are sufficiently transparent, with full disclosure about the nature of the terms.
In the United Kingdom, the primary statute is the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, where Part XVII, sections 235 to 284 deal with the requirements for a collective investment scheme to operate. It states in section 235 that a "collective investment scheme" means "any arrangements with respect to property of any description, including money, the purpose or effect of which is to enable persons taking part in the arrangements (whether by becoming owners of the property or any part of it or otherwise) to participate in or receive profits or income arising from the acquisition, holding, management or disposal of the property or sums paid out of such profits or income".
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Collective investment vehicles may be formed under company law, by legal trust or by statute. The nature of the vehicle and its limitations are often linked to its constitutional nature and the associated tax rules for the type of structure within a given jurisdiction.
Typically there is:
Please see below for general information on specific forms of vehicles in different jurisdictions.
Main article: Net asset value
The net asset value or NAV is the value of a vehicle's assets minus the value of its liabilities. The method for calculating this varies between vehicle types and jurisdiction and can be subject to complex regulation.
An open-end fund is equitably divided into shares which vary in price in direct proportion to the variation in value of the fund's net asset value. Each time money is invested, new shares or units are created to match the prevailing share price; each time shares are redeemed, the assets sold match the prevailing share price. In this way there is no supply or demand created for shares and they remain a direct reflection of the underlying assets.
A closed-end fund issues a limited number of shares (or units) in an initial public offering (or IPO) or through private placement. If shares are issued through an IPO, they are then traded on a stock exchange. or directly through the fund manager to create a secondary market subject to market forces.
The price that investors receive for their shares may be significantly different from net asset value (NAV); it may be at a "premium" to NAV (i.e., higher than NAV) or, more commonly, at a "discount" to NAV (i.e., lower than NAV).
In the United States, at the end of 2018, there were 506 closed-end mutual funds with combined assets of $0.25 trillion, accounting for 1% of the U.S. industry.
Main article: Exchange-traded fund
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) combine characteristics of both closed-end funds and open-end funds. They are structured as open-end investment companies or UITs. ETFs are traded throughout the day on a stock exchange. An arbitrage mechanism is used to keep the trading price close to net asset value of the ETF holdings.
In the United States, at the end of 2018, there were 1,988 ETFs in the United States with combined assets of $3.3 trillion, accounting for 16% of the U.S. industry.
Main article: Unit investment trust
Unit investment trusts (UITs) are issued to the public only once when they are created. UITs generally have a limited life span, established at creation. Investors can redeem shares directly with the fund at any time (similar to an open-end fund) or wait to redeem them upon the trust's termination. Less commonly, they can sell their shares in the open market.
Unlike other types of mutual funds, unit investment trusts do not have a professional investment manager. Their portfolio of securities is established at the creation of the UIT.
In the United States, at the end of 2018, there were 4,917 UITs with combined assets of less than $0.1 trillion.
Some collective investment vehicles have the power to borrow money to make further investments; a process known as gearing or leverage. If markets are growing rapidly this can allow the vehicle to take advantage of the growth to a greater extent than if only the subscribed contributions were invested. However this premise only works if the cost of the borrowing is less than the increased growth achieved. If the borrowing costs are more than the growth achieved a net loss is achieved.
This can greatly increase the investment risk of the fund by increased volatility and exposure to increased capital risk.
Gearing was a major contributory factor in the collapse of the split capital investment trust debacle in the UK in 2002.
Collective investment vehicles vary in availability depending on their intended investor base:
Some vehicles are designed to have a limited term with enforced redemption of shares or units on a specified date.
Many collective investment vehicles split the fund into multiple classes of shares or units. The underlying assets of each class are effectively pooled for the purposes of investment management, but classes typically differ in the fees and expenses paid out of the fund's assets.
These differences are supposed to reflect different costs involved in servicing investors in various classes; for example:
In some cases, by aggregating regular investments by many individuals, a retirement plan (such as a 401(k) plan) may qualify to purchase "institutional" shares (and gain the benefit of their typically lower expense ratios) even though no members of the plan would qualify individually. These also include Unit Trusts.
One of the main advantages of collective investment is the reduction in investment risk (capital risk) by diversification. An investment in a single equity may do well, but it may collapse for investment or other reasons (e.g., Marconi). If your money is invested in such a failed holding you could lose your capital. By investing in a range of equities (or other securities) the capital risk is reduced.
This investment principle is often referred to as spreading risk.
Collective investments by their nature tend to invest in a range of individual securities. However, if the securities are all in a similar type of asset class or market sector then there is a systematic risk that all the shares could be affected by adverse market changes. To avoid this systematic risk investment managers may diversify into different non-perfectly-correlated asset classes. For example, investors might hold their assets in equal parts in equities and fixed income securities.
If one investor had to buy a large number of direct investments, the amount this person would be able to invest in each holding is likely to be small. Dealing costs are normally based on the number and size of each transaction, therefore the overall dealing costs would take a large chunk out of the capital (affecting future profits).
The fund manager managing the investment decisions on behalf of the investors will of course expect remuneration. This is often taken directly from the fund assets as a fixed percentage each year or sometimes a variable (performance based) fee. If the investor managed their own investments, this cost would be avoided.
Often the cost of advice given by a stockbroker or financial adviser is built into the vehicle. Often referred to as commission or load (in the U.S.) this charge may be applied at the start of the plan or as an ongoing percentage of the fund value each year. While this cost will diminish your returns it could be argued that it reflects a separate payment for an advice service rather than a detrimental feature of collective investment vehicles. Indeed, it is often possible to purchase units or shares directly from the providers without bearing this cost.
Although the investor can choose the type of fund to invest in, they have no control over the choice of individual holdings that make up the fund.
If the investor holds shares directly, he has the right to attend the company's annual general meeting and vote on important matters. Investors in a collective investment vehicle often have none of the rights connected with individual investments within the fund.
Each fund has a defined investment goal to describe the remit of the investment manager and to help investors decide if the fund is right for them. The investment aims will typically fall into the broad categories of Income (value) investment or Growth investment. Income or value based investment tends to select stocks with strong income streams, often more established businesses. Growth investment selects stocks that tend to reinvest their income to generate growth. Each strategy has its critics and proponents; some prefer a blend approach using aspects of each.
Funds are often distinguished by asset-based categories such as equity, bonds, property, etc. Also, perhaps most commonly funds are divided by their geographic markets or themes.
In most instances whatever the investment aim the fund manager will select an appropriate index or combination of indices to measure its performance against; e.g. FTSE 100. This becomes the benchmark to measure success or failure against.
The aim of most funds is to make money by investing in assets to obtain a real return (i.e. better than inflation). The philosophy used to manage the fund's investment vary and two opposing views exist.
Active management—Active managers seek to outperform the market as a whole, by selectively holding securities according to an investment strategy. Therefore, they employ dynamic portfolio strategies, buying and selling investments with changing market conditions, based on their belief that particular individual holdings or sections of the market will perform better than others.
Passive management—Passive managers stick to a portfolio strategy determined at outset of the fund and not varied thereafter, aiming to minimize the ongoing costs of maintaining the portfolio. Many passive funds are index funds, which attempt to replicate the performance of a market index by holding securities proportionally to their value in the market as a whole. Another example of passive management is the "buy and hold" method used by many traditional unit investment trusts where the portfolio is fixed from outset.
Additionally, some funds use a hybrid management strategy of enhanced indexing, in which the manager minimizes costs by broadly following a passive indexing strategy, but has the discretion to actively deviate from the index in the hopes of earning modestly higher returns.
An example of active management success
When analysing investment performance, statistical measures are often used to compare 'funds'. These statistical measures are often reduced to a single figure representing an aspect of past performance:
Depending on the nature of the investment, the type of 'investment' risk will vary.
A common concern with any investment is that you may lose the money you invest—your capital. This risk is therefore often referred to as capital risk.
If the assets you invest in are held in another currency there is a risk that currency movements alone may affect the value. This is referred to as currency risk.
Many forms of investment may not be readily salable on the open market (e.g. commercial property) or the market has a small capacity and investments may take time to sell. Assets that are easily sold are termed liquid therefore this type of risk is termed liquidity risk.
For an open-end fund, there may be an initial charge levied on the purchase of units or shares this covers dealing costs, and commissions paid to intermediaries or salespeople. Typically this fee is a percentage of the investment. Some vehicles waive the initial charge and apply an exit charge instead. This may be gradually disappearing after a number of years. Closed-end funds traded on an exchange are subject to brokerage commissions, in the same manner as a stock trade.
The vehicle will charge an annual management charge or AMC to cover the cost of administering the vehicle and remunerating the investment manager. This may be a flat rate based on the value of the assets or a performance related fee based on a predefined target being achieved.
Different unit/share classes may have different combinations of fees/charges.
Open-ended vehicles are either dual priced or single priced.
Dual priced vehicles have a buying (offer) price and selling or (bid) price. The buying price is higher than the selling price, this difference is known as the spread or bid–offer spread. The difference is typically 5% and may be varied by the vehicle's manager to reflect changes in the market; the amount of variation may be limited by the vehicles rules or regulatory rules. The difference between the buying and selling price includes initial charge for entering the fund.
The internal workings of a fund are more complicated than this description suggests. The manager sets a price for creation of units/shares and for cancellation. There is a differential between the cancellation and bid prices, and the creation and offer prices. The additional units are created are place in the managers box for future purchasers. When heavy selling occurs units are liquidated from the managers box to protect the existing investors from the increased dealing costs. Adjusting the bid/offer prices closer to the cancellation/creation prices allows the manager to protect the interest of the existing investors in changing market conditions. Most unit trusts are dual priced.
Single priced vehicles notionally have a single price for units/shares and this price is the same if buying or selling. As single prices vehicle can't adjust the difference between the buying and selling price to adjust for market conditions, another mechanism, the dilution levy exists. SICAVs, OEICs and U.S. mutual funds are single priced.
A dilution levy can be charged at the discretion of the fund manager, to offset the cost of market transactions resulting from large un-matched buy or sell orders. For example, if the volume of purchases outweigh the volume of sales in a particular trading period the fund manager will have to go to the market to buy more of the assets underlying the fund, incurring a brokerage fee in the process and having an adverse effect on the fund as a whole ("diluting" the fund). The same is the case with large sell orders. A dilution levy is therefore applied where appropriate and paid for by the investor in order that large single transactions do not reduce the value of the fund as a whole.
Main article: List of asset management firms
Investment funds are regulated by the Investment Company Act of 1940, which broadly describes three major types: open-end funds, closed-end funds, and unit investment trusts.
Open-end funds called mutual funds and ETFs are common. As of 2019, the top 5 asset managers accounted for 55% of the 19.3 trillion in mutual fund and ETF investments. However, for active management, the top 5 account for 22% of the market, with the top 10 accounting for 30% and the top 25 accounting for 39%. BlackRock and Vanguard are the top two when including passive investments.
The top 5 active management funds in 2018 were Capital Group Companies (using American Funds brand), Fidelity Investments, Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, and Dimensional Fund Advisors; in 2008, the list included PIMCO and Franklin Templeton.
Closed-end funds are less common, with around 277 billion in assets under management as of 2019, including about $107 billion in equities and $170 billion in bonds; market leaders include Nuveen and BlackRock.
Unit investment trusts are the least common, with about $6.5 billion in assets as of 2019.
Both funds are run by Investment Company (KUA - kompania z upravlinnya actyvami). Funds and companies regulated and supervised by DKTsPFR (Securities and stock market state commission)
We could say that a mutual fund is a pool of money which belongs to many investors. Otherwise a M/F is the common cashier of many investors who trust a third party to operate and manage their wealth. Moreover, they order this third party which in Greece is called A.E.D.A.K. (Mutual Fund Management Company S.A.) to spread their money in many different investment products such as shares, bonds, deposits, repo etc. Those companies in Greece may provide services according to article 4 of Law 3283/2004. People who own units (shares) of a mutual fund are called unitholders. In Greece co-unitholders, which are persons participating in the same units of M/F have exactly the same rights as the unitholder (according to the Law for the deposits in common account 5638/1932). The unitholders have to sign and accept the document which describes the purpose of the Mutual Fund, how it operates, and anything concerning the Fund. This document is the regulation of the M/F. The property of each M/F by law have to be under the control of a bank legally operating in Greece (Greek or foreign). The bank is the custodian of the M/F and except of the custody of the fund also controls the lawfulness of all movements of the management company. The Supervisory and Regulatory Body of M.F. Management Companies and Portfolio Investment Companies is the Greek Capital Market Commission. It comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of National Economy and controls the operation of all M/Fs available in Greece. All investors have to be very careful and about the risk they undertake. They have to have in mind that all investments have a certain degree of risk. Risk–free investments does not exist. You can find more about Greek Mutual Funds in the site of the Association of Greek Institutional Investors or the site of Greek (Hellenic) Capital Market Commission.
Main article: Offshore fund