Mutual Fund

 

A mutual fund is a type of professionally-managed collective investment scheme that pools money from many investors to purchase securities. While there is no legal definition of mutual fund, the term is most commonly applied only to those collective investment schemes that are regulated, available to the general public and open-ended in nature. Hedge funds are not considered a type of mutual fund.

Mutual funds must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, overseen by a board of directors or board of trustees and managed by a registered investment advisor. They are not taxed on their income if they comply with certain requirements.

Mutual funds have both advantages and disadvantages compared to direct investing in individual securities. Today they play an important role in household finances.

There are 3 types of mutual funds: open-end, unit investment trust, and closed-end. The most common type, the open-end mutual fund, must be willing to buy back its shares from its investors at the end of every business day. Exchange-traded funds are open-end funds or unit investment trusts that trade on an exchange. Open-end funds are most common, but exchange-traded funds have been gaining in popularity.

Mutual funds are classified by their principal investments. The four largest categories of funds are money market funds, bond or fixed income funds, stock or equity funds and hybrid funds. Funds may also be categorized as index or actively-managed.

Investors in a mutual fund pay the fund’s expenses. There is controversy about the level of these expenses. A single mutual fund may give investors a choice of different combinations of expenses by offering several different types of share classes.

Open-end funds
Open-end mutual funds must be willing to buy back their shares from their investors at the end of every business day at the net asset value computed that day. Most open-end funds also sell shares to the public every business day; these shares are also priced at net asset value. A professional investment manager oversees the portfolio, buying and selling securities as appropriate. The total investment in the fund will vary based on share purchases, share redemptions and fluctuation in market valuation. There is no legal limit on the number of shares that can be issued.

Closed-end funds
Closed-end funds generally issue shares to the public only once, when they are created through an initial public offering. Their shares are then listed for trading on a stock exchange. Investors who no longer wish to invest in the fund cannot sell their shares back to the fund (as they can with an open-end fund). Instead, they must sell their shares to another investor in the market; the price they receive may be significantly different from net asset value. It may be at a "premium" to net asset value (meaning that it is higher than net asset value) or, more commonly, at a "discount" to net asset value (meaning that it is lower than net asset value). A professional investment manager oversees the portfolio, buying and selling securities as appropriate.

Unit investment trusts
Unit investment trusts or UITs issue shares to the public only once, when they are created. Investors can redeem shares directly with the fund (as with an open-end fund) or they may also be able to sell their shares in the market. Unit investment trusts do not have a professional investment manager. Their portfolio of securities is established at the creation of the UIT and does not change. UITs generally have a limited life span, established at creation.