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Fund of Funds (FOF)

Guide to Understanding Fund of Funds (FOF)

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Fund of Funds (FOF)

In This Article
  • What is the definition of a fund of funds (FOF)?
  • How does a fund of funds (FOF) work?
  • What benefits does a fund of funds (FOF) provide to investors?
  • What is the typical fee structure of fund of funds (FOF)?

Fund of Funds (FOF) Definition

The value proposition of a fund of funds (FOF) to their investors is the ability to take over the responsibility of strategic asset allocation.

The fund of funds (FOF) investment strategy can be thought of as a “portfolio” comprised of multiple different funds.

Most often, fund of funds (FOF) managers invest in the following fund types:

Since the FOF is an investor in these actively managed funds – i.e. the FOF is a limited partner (LP) – the fund structure is often referred to as a “multi-manager investment fund.”

Therefore, rather than selecting individual stocks and bonds to invest in, or participating in riskier strategies like early-stage venture investing, growth equity, or late-stage buyouts – a fund of funds (FOF) performs diligence on active managers to invest in.

The majority of the diligence conducted by fund of funds (FOF) focus on the following areas:

  • Fund Selection (Manager)
  • Asset Class Allocation
  • Sectors and Industry Trends
  • Portfolio Weighting

The value-add of FOF firms is being capable of identifying the right funds to allocate capital in order to maximize returns while simultaneously managing the downside risk by spreading their capital across different firms, fund strategies, sectors, and asset classes.

Fund of Funds (FOF) Benefits to Investors

The value proposition to investors of a FOF is the benefit of diversification, i.e. the risk of the portfolio itself is reduced by holding investments across a broad set of asset classes and/or investment strategies.

Since FOFs invest in active managers, the LPs of an FOF get indirect exposure to not just one but numerous active managers.

The next benefit is the lower minimum qualification requirements to be a limited partner (LP), making FOFs more accessible to a broader range of investors.

In particular, top-performing funds will often decline LP inquiries that are too small in investment size because of the sheer abundance of demand, so a FOF (and their pooled capital) can be one method to bypass the minimum threshold to “get in on” the fund.

In effect, individual investors and smaller-sized institutional investors that might not meet the criteria to be an LP in certain funds can be effectively “grouped together” via the FOF to gain access.

The performance information of managers – especially for private equity and hedge funds – lacks transparency, as the data is typically considered non-public confidential information, barring some exceptions.

Fee Structure in Fund of Funds (FOF)

A fund-of-funds (FOF) is led by experienced investment professionals well-versed in portfolio management with broad knowledge in different asset classes, sectors, and connections to fund managers.

One area of criticism of fund of funds (FOF) is the fee structure, which is ordinarily higher than that of mutual funds due to the management fees.

FOFs offer convenience to their investors – i.e. the LPs do not themselves have to structure their portfolio to diversify their investments to achieve an optimal risk/return profile – but there is criticism around whether the FOF’s contributions justify their fees.

FOFs invest in active managers that also charge fees themselves, so there are now two layers of fees:

  1. Fees of Underlying Fund Investments
  2. Fund of Funds (FOF) Fees

The fund of funds (FOFs) investment strategy is increasingly under pressure as of late to reduce their fee structure because of the underperformance of active managers.

Generally, FOF managers charge a 0.5% to 1.0% annual management fee, with some taking a minor portion of the carried interest (“carry”) in the 5.0% to 10.0% range.

  • FOF Management Fee: 0.5% to 1.0%
  • FOF Carried Interest: 5.0% to 10.0%

The FOF fees are placed on top of the fees charged by the underlying active fund managers that typically charge fees in the following ranges.

  • Fund Management Fee: 1.5% to 2.5%
  • Fund Carried Interest: 15.0% to 25.0%

This double-fee structure can further reduce the net returns to the limited partners (LPs) of the FOF, at a time when active management is under constant scrutiny due to sub-par returns.

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