Investment funding is the purchase of an asset or item with the hope that it will generate income or appreciate in the future and be sold at the higher price.
An investment fund is a supply of capital belonging to numerous investors used to collectively purchase securities while each investor retains ownership and control of his own shares. An investment fund provides a broader selection of investment opportunities, greater management expertise and lower investment fees than investors might be able to obtain on their own. Types of investment funds include mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, money market funds and hedge funds.
With investment funds, individual investors do not make decisions about how a fund’s assets should be invested. They simply choose a fund based on its goals, risk, fees and other factors. A fund manager oversees the fund and decides which securities it should hold, in what quantities and when the securities should be bought and sold. An investment fund can be broad-based, such as an index fund that tracks the S&P 500, or it can be tightly focused, such as an ETF that invests only in small technology stocks.
While investment funding in various forms have been around for many years, the Massachusetts Investors Trust Fund is generally considered the first open-end mutual fund in the industry. This investment funding source, invests in a mix of large-cap stocks, and was launched in 1924.
Open-end vs. Closed-end
The majority of investment fund assets belong to open-end mutual funds. These funds issue new shares as investors add money to the pool, and retire shares as investors redeem. These funds are typically priced just once at the end of the trading day.
Closed-end funds trade more similarly to stocks than open-end funds. Closed-end funds are managed investment funds that issue a fixed number of shares, and trade on an exchange. While a net asset value (NAV) for the fund is calculated, the fund trades based on investor supply and demand. Therefore, a closed-end fund may trade at a premium or a discount to its NAV.
Emergence of ETFs
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) emerged as an alternative to mutual funds for traders who wanted more flexibility with their investment funds. Similar to closed-end funds, ETFs trade on exchanges, and are priced and available for trading throughout the business day. Many mutual funds, such as the Vanguard 500 Index Fund, have ETF counterparts. The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF is essentially the same fund, but came be bought and sold intraday. ETFs frequently have the additional advantage of slightly lower expense ratios than their mutual fund equal.
Investment Funds: Hedge Funds
A hedge fund is another type of fund that pairs stocks it wants to short (bet will decrease) with stocks it expects to go up in order to decrease the potential for loss. Hedge funds also tend to invest in riskier assets in addition to stocks, bonds, ETFs, commodities and alternative assets. These include derivatives such as futures and options that may also be purchased with leverage, or borrowed money.
Active or Passive Management
The aim of investment funding 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.
Types of Risk
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 funding 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.
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