What is an Equity Fund?
An equity fund refers to an investment fund that is primarily invested in equities or stocks. It is usually categorized by different investment styles, market capitalization ranges, or different geographies. Equity funds are also referred to as stock funds.
Understanding Equity Funds
Equity funds are pools of capital that many investors can invest together in gaining specific exposures to equity investments. Such funds are ideal for investors who lack investing acumen and hold smaller amounts of capital that they want to invest, yet still would like to achieve a higher return.
Different retail or everyday investors possess different risk tolerances and time horizons. It leads to differing goals and desired exposures from such investors. Equity funds are aimed at providing investors with different exposures in order to meet their goals.
Structure of Equity Funds
Equity funds facilitate investment by gathering capital from investors into a single fund and investing the capital into various businesses. The returns from businesses in the form of earnings and dividends are collected by the equity funds and passed through back to the investors.
Equity funds usually take a management fee, which varies depending on the level of involvement of the equity fund in the investment process.
Prices of equity funds are determined based on the fund’s net asset value (NAV), which is calculated by assessing the fund’s total assets, minus its total liabilities. Generally, equity funds are managed by portfolio managers with extensive experience investing in the financial markets and with their track record published publicly.
Types of Equity Funds
Equity funds can be distinguished by certain fund characteristics. Some common ways of classifying funds are by:
- Geography – Can be focused on a single domestic country – e.g., the United States – or can be focused on many different countries – e.g., Internationally.
- Market Capitalization (Size) – Can be focused on different market capitalization companies – e.g., small-cap, large-cap, etc.
- Investment Style – Can be focused on different investment strategies – e.g., value-style, income-funds, growth-style, low-volatility, etc.
- Sectors or Industries – Can be focused on different industries – e.g., technology, real estate, and commodities.
After considering the different characteristics above, investors can invest in equity funds that are tailored to their preferences. It gives investors many different options for how they want to invest their capital.
Investors can receive very preferential investment options, including modifying the return and risk objectives. However, they can also receive exposure based on certain interests – political, religious, or brand-oriented.
For example, some vegan investors may not be comfortable investing in any businesses with affiliation to the factory-farming industry; therefore, they can invest in equity funds that specifically avoid companies that are associated with factory-farming.
Active Funds vs. Passive Funds
Equity funds can be either actively managed or passively managed.
Active management refers to when there is a portfolio manager who picks individual equities for the equity fund to invest in, with the goal of beating some form of benchmark.
Active management is characterized by attempting to achieve an “above-average” return by identifying mispriced equities and investing based on those mispricings.
Buying undervalued stocks and short-selling overvalued stocks should, in theory, allow active managers to achieve above-average returns.
- It allows investors the possibility to outperform the market and achieve excess risk-adjusted returns.
- It allows investors to manage volatility and risk differently than the overall market.
- It allows investors to follow a strategy that may align more closely with their personal investment goals.
- It allows investors to gain more diverse exposures that may not be captured by indexes.
- It usually underperforms passive management, so it is unlikely that investors can achieve excess returns through active management.
- Actively-managed funds that become very large begin to show index-like characteristics, which negates the purpose of investing in an actively-managed fund.
- It requires more fees to be paid by investors to compensate for the infrastructure of portfolio managers, analysts, tools, and operations.
Passive management refers to when the equity fund simply tracks equities that are contained within an index. An index is essentially a basket of equities whose performances are tracked to provide insight into the returns of certain sectors, markets, or geographies.
Passive management is characterized by not reacting to capital market expectations. For example, if a portfolio is tied to the S&P 500 index (representing the U.S. equity markets), it may add or drop holdings in response to the index’s composition, but it will not respond to changes in capital market expectations of individual stocks within the S&P 500.
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