Fund of Funds (FOF) Explained: How It Works, Pro & Cons, Examples

A fund of funds (FoF) is an investment strategy wherein multiple funds are combined into a single portfolio, providing investors with an opportunity to diversify their investments and mitigate risks. FoFs invest in a variety of securities, including different mutual funds, hedge funds, and exchange-traded funds. The objective of this strategy is to enhance the overall returns and reduce the volatility often associated with investing in individual funds.

This investment approach is particularly popular among investors seeking exposure to alternative assets and those looking to spread their investments across various fund managers. FoFs can invest in different types of funds, such as index funds and actively managed funds, depending on the investment objective and risk tolerance of the portfolio manager and their investors. It's important to note the fee structure of an FoF is often higher due to the layering of fees from both the management company itself and the underlying funds it invests in.

Key Takeaways

  • Fund of funds provide diversification by investing in multiple underlying funds
  • FoFs can be tailored to specific investment objectives and risk profiles
  • Investors should be mindful of the higher fee structure associated with this investment strategy

Understanding Fund of Funds

Concept and Construction

A fund of funds (FoF) is an investment vehicle that pools capital from multiple investors and allocates it to a diversified portfolio of funds, often managed by different investment managers. This strategy enables investors to access a wide range of asset classes, investment styles, and strategies through a single investment product. FoFs can be structured as mutual funds, hedge funds, or private equity funds, each with its own unique investment objectives and risk profiles.

Role and Usage

FoFs play a crucial role in achieving investment goals. They are designed to provide investors with sufficient diversification by spreading their investments across multiple managers and strategies. FoFs also offer exposure to various asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, and real estate.

Investors typically use FoFs for the following reasons:

  1. Asset allocation: FoFs can help investors achieve a desired asset allocation by offering a selection of different funds targeting specific asset classes or sectors.
  2. Professional expertise: FoFs are often managed by experienced professionals who have the knowledge and skillset to select funds and dynamically adjust portfolio allocations based on market conditions.
  3. Cost savings: By pooling capital from numerous investors, FoFs can potentially reduce fees through economies of scale.
  4. Access to exclusive funds: Some individual funds may have high minimum investment requirements or limited availability. Investing in a FoF may grant access to these exclusive opportunities.

Pros and Cons


  • Diversification: FoFs offer a higher degree of diversification compared to investing in individual funds as they spread investment capital across multiple funds managed by a variety of managers with differing investment strategies.
  • Risk reduction: The diversified nature of the investment helps to reduce overall portfolio risk by mitigating the impact of underperforming funds or asset classes.
  • Simplification: Investing in a FoF can simplify the investment process as investors only require research and due diligence on the FoF rather than each individual fund.


  • Fees: FoFs usually charge additional management fees on top of the fees already charged by the individual funds, which may affect overall returns.
  • Performance: FoFs may not always perform better than individual funds due to the broad diversification and potential addition of underperforming funds to the portfolio.
  • Limited control: Investors in FoFs have limited control over the individual funds within the portfolio and may be subject to the decision-making of the FoF manager.

Fund of funds can be a useful investment vehicle for investors seeking diversification and professional expertise. However, investors should weigh the potential benefits against the associated fees and performance limitations before committing to this strategy.

Fund of Fund Examples and Types

Equity and Bond Funds

Equity and bond funds are common types of investment funds, where an investor's money is pooled together with other investors and managed by a professional fund manager. The manager selects a mix of equities (stocks) and bonds, depending on the fund's objectives and investment strategy. Equity funds typically focus on stocks, while bond funds invest in various types of debt instruments, like government bonds, corporate bonds, and municipal bonds. A well-balanced investment strategy often includes a mix of both equity and bond funds, as they generally offer different risk profiles and can help to diversify a portfolio.

Venture Capital

Venture capital (VC) is a type of private financing that is provided by investors to startups and growing companies. Venture capital funds raise capital from both institutional and individual investors and make direct investments in early-stage companies or startups, with the goal of generating substantial returns when these companies become successful. These investors become what is known as a limited partner in the fund. The venture capital fund's investment objectives carries higher risk, as many startups fail before becoming profitable. However, successful investments can lead to significant returns for the fund and its investors.

Hedge and Private Equity Funds

Hedge funds are alternative investment vehicles that generally use more sophisticated and aggressive strategies, such as short-selling, leverage, and derivatives, to generate higher returns or hedge against market risks. Hedge funds often have a broader range of investment opportunities than traditional funds, which may include investing in individual securities, bonds, commodities, and currencies. PE funds, on the other hand, focus on private companies or public companies that they plan to take private. They generally use a combination of equity and debt financing to acquire and improve the performance of these businesses. Both hedge and private equity funds tend to cater to institutional investors and high net worth individuals, as they typically require larger investments and have longer lock-up periods.

Index and ETFs

Index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are both types of passive investment vehicles that aim to replicate the performance of a particular benchmark or market index. Index funds are mutual funds that invest in the same securities as the index they track, while ETFs are traded on stock exchanges like individual stocks. Both index funds and ETFs have gained popularity in recent years due to their generally lower management fees and ability to provide broad market exposure. A passive investment strategy can be useful for investors seeking to gain diversified exposure to a particular market or asset class with minimal risk of underperformance.

Fees and Expenses Structure

Fund of funds is a unique investment strategy that invests in multiple underlying funds rather than directly investing in assets like stocks or bonds. As a result, the fees and expenses structure of such funds is essential to understand when evaluating investment opportunities.

One of the primary costs associated with a fund of funds is the management fee, which is charged by the fund manager for overseeing and managing the overall investment strategy. This fee is typically a percentage of the total assets under management and can vary depending on the complexity and size of the portfolio. In some cases, higher fees may be associated with fund managers who have a more sophisticated investment approach or specialized expertise.

Another important cost component in funds of funds is the expense ratio, which represents the fund's operating expenses as a percentage of its assets. This ratio includes costs such as legal, accounting, and administrative services, as well as the fees associated with acquiring and managing the underlying investments. Investors should be aware that expense ratios can vary across different funds and may change over time due to changes in the fund's assets or expenses.

Along with the expense ratio, funds of funds also have acquired fund fees and expenses (AFFE) which further increase the cost of investing in them. These are fees and expenses incurred by the underlying funds in which the fund of funds is invested. As a result, investors end up paying layers of fees, including management fees and other expenses of both the fund of funds and its underlying funds.

Some funds of funds may also charge a performance fee, which is an additional fee tied to the performance of the investment over a specific period or benchmark. These fees incentivize the fund manager to outperform the market or other benchmarks and can potentially enhance returns. However, investors should be cautious of performance fee structures, as they can sometimes reduce net returns and lead to conflicts of interest.

In conclusion, understanding the fees and expenses structure of fund of funds is crucial for investors looking to evaluate investment opportunities in this space. Considering management fees, expense ratios, acquired fund fees and expenses, and potential performance fees, investors should carefully weigh these costs against the potential benefits of diversification and professional investment management offered by a fund of funds strategy. Being aware of these costs can help investors make more informed decisions and potentially avoid paying excessive fees that may erode returns over time.

Risks and Mitigations

In the world of fund of funds (FoFs) investments, there are several risks involved, and the knowledge of these risks and their appropriate mitigations can enable investors to make well-informed decisions.

One major risk associated with FoFs is volatility. Since FoFs invest in various underlying funds, the fluctuation in the value of these funds can impact the overall FoFs performance. A strategy to combat this volatility risk is diversification. By investing in a wide range of underlying funds, a FoF can potentially reduce the overall volatility of the portfolio, as the performance of different funds may counterbalance each other.

Another risk factor to consider is illiquidity. Due to the fact that FoFs invest in several underlying funds that may be illiquid, such as private equity and hedge funds, investors might face challenges in selling their stakes quickly or at a desirable price. To mitigate this risk, FoFs can hold a mix of liquid and illiquid investments, aiming for a balance that matches the investors' risk tolerance.

Additionally, since FoFs operate within an extra layer of fees, as management fees are charged by both the FoFs and the underlying funds, it is crucial to ensure that the performance justifies these added costs. A way to address this is by thorough due diligence in selecting high-quality underlying funds with a proven track record of delivering consistent returns.

The safety of investments is another concern, as fraud or mismanagement in the underlying funds can negatively affect the FoFs' performance. To safeguard against such risks, FoFs should perform rigorous background checks and ongoing monitoring of the underlying funds and their managers.

In conclusion, while investing in FoFs comes with its fair share of risks, a combination of diversification, evaluating the risk-return trade-off, and meticulous due diligence can help mitigate some of these risks and lead to better-informed investment decisions.

Role of Regulators

In the financial world, regulators play a crucial role in maintaining the stability and integrity of the market, especially when it comes to complex investment vehicles such as fund of funds. Among these regulators, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and financial data companies like Morningstar hold significant influence.

The SEC is the primary regulatory body overseeing the fund of funds industry. Their main responsibilities include creating and enforcing rules that ensure the proper functioning of financial markets and protecting investors from fraud or misconduct. This includes the registration and ongoing reporting requirements for fund of funds, as well as disclosure standards, among others. All fund managers must adhere to the SEC's rules and regulations, both for the formation of new funds and the ongoing operation of existing ones.

One critical component of the SEC's oversight is their focus on risk management for fund of funds. Since a fund of funds invests in multiple underlying funds, proper risk management becomes a priority to prevent excessive exposure to a single investment type or manager. The regulator ensures that managers have effective risk management processes in place to safeguard investors' interests.

Morningstar, a leading provider of independent investment research, is another entity impacting the fund of funds industry. Although not a regulatory authority, Morningstar plays a vital role in supplying thorough analysis and ratings to investors and the industry. For fund of funds, Morningstar provides valuable information on the performance, fees, and risk levels for each underlying fund within the portfolio. This data helps investors make informed decisions on which funds to invest in and enables better assessment of the fund manager's overall performance.

In conclusion, regulators such as the SEC and influential organizations like Morningstar are essential in maintaining a transparent and efficient fund of funds market. Through their oversight and analysis, they ensure that investors have access to the information they need to make informed decisions while maintaining the integrity of the market for the benefit of all stakeholders.

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Choosing a Fund of Funds

When selecting a fund of funds to invest in, it's crucial to consider various factors that can influence the potential success of the investment. One of the key components in making an informed decision involves evaluating the expertise of the fund managers responsible for overseeing the funds. A skilled fund manager can effectively navigate diverse market environments, execute strategic investment decisions, and consistently deliver strong returns over time.

Another aspect to explore is the strategy employed by the fund of funds. Each fund has its own distinct approach, and investors must consider whether the overall investment philosophy aligns with their own beliefs, risk tolerance, and financial objectives. For instance, a fund focusing on a specific sector or asset class may have a higher risk profile compared to a more diversified fund. Conducting thorough research and fund selection can aid in identifying a fund of funds that offers a balanced investment strategy designed to meet long-term goals.

Due diligence is an essential part of the investigation process. Engaging the services of an expert, such as a financial advisor or consultant, can provide valuable insights into a fund of funds' operations, risk management practices, and overall investment processes. This professional help can guide investors in identifying funds with a proven track record and solid foundations.

It's also essential to pay close attention to a fund of funds' historical returns. While past performance is not always indicative of future success, analyzing a fund's ability to generate consistent and attractive returns over time can indicate the reliability and effectiveness of the management team and their investment approach.

Many investors may consider a target-date fund as a suitable fund of funds option, especially when planning for retirement. These funds invest in a mix of stocks, bonds, and cash, with the asset allocation automatically adjusted over time so that the portfolio becomes more conservative as the target retirement date approaches. Retirement plans often include target-date funds that enable investors to set a specific retirement goal and conveniently invest in a single fund designed to help them achieve that objective.

In conclusion, when choosing a fund of funds, it's crucial to evaluate all available options based on factors such as the fund manager's expertise, investment strategy, historical returns, and due diligence. This comprehensive approach can assist investors in selecting the most suitable fund of funds tailored to their needs and risk tolerance, ultimately leading to a secure and profitable long-term investment experience.

Alternative Investment Options

Alternative investments are financial assets that do not fall under the category of traditional investments such as stocks, bonds, or cash. These options often provide diversification, higher returns, and flexibility for investors. A popular strategy among alternative investments is the use of a fund of funds (FoF) structure.

A fund of funds is an investment strategy that involves investing in multiple funds, each focusing on different types of alternative assets like hedge funds, private equity, and commodity funds. By doing so, investors gain access to diverse investment routes and can benefit from the expertise of professional management in various sectors.

Business development companies (BDCs) are one of the alternative entities that FoFs can invest in. BDCs are closed-end investment vehicles that primarily focus on providing financing to small and medium-sized businesses. These companies often have higher dividend yields, offering income potential to investors.

Closed-end funds (CEFs) are another alternative investment vehicle. These are pooled investments that raise a fixed amount of capital, unlike open-end funds that continuously issue and redeem shares. CEFs can provide a broader range of investment options and often trade at a discount or premium to their net asset value (NAV).

When it comes to valuations, alternative investments can be more complex than traditional stocks and bonds. The illiquid nature of these assets makes it difficult to determine their precise value at any given time. As a result, the role of professional management cannot be overstated. An experienced manager is critical in accurately evaluating the worth of these diverse investments and managing risk.

Moreover, professional management plays a crucial role in alternative investments, as specialized knowledge and expertise are necessary to navigate complex markets. Fund managers often have years of experience in a specific sector, giving them the ability to analyze and select investments with higher potential.

Among the benefits of alternative investment options, dividends are often an attractive feature. High-yield assets like BDCs or CEFs can offer substantial dividend payouts to investors, providing a steady flow of income in addition to capital appreciation.

In summary, alternative investment options such as fund of funds, business development companies, and closed-end funds allow investors to diversify their portfolio, access various asset classes, and benefit from the expertise of professional management. These investment vehicles can offer attractive dividend yields and higher returns, making them an appealing choice for those looking to venture beyond traditional investment approaches.


When constructing a fund of funds, it is essential to consider multiple statistical testing methods. One technique applied in the construction process is to hold the selected funds for one year, then repeat the process (source). This strategy helps ensure proper performance evaluation and allocation of funds.

A notable factor to bear in mind for fund-of-funds (FoF) investments is diversification. According to a study on portfolio selection and diversification, if a fund within a simulated FoF portfolio terminates, it should be replaced with another comparable fund. This helps maintain the desired level of diversification and risk.

In implementing FoF diversification strategies, it's important to verify the declared strategies of each constituent fund. Ultrametricity, a mathematical approach used to study hierarchies, can help identify anomalies and nodes that may require further investigation (source). This can be instrumental in providing insights into the funds' performance.

Fees are another crucial aspect to consider when creating and managing funds of funds. Since FoFs often invest in individual hedge funds, fees can accumulate, affecting their overall returns (source). Understanding the impact of fees and carefully selecting funds with appropriate fee structures can optimize the performance of the fund of funds.

Lastly, understanding the fund selection behavior of individual investors is vital for those managing funds of funds. A study focusing on investor behavior found various sources that influence investors' decisions, including reference groups and newspapers. By staying informed of investors' preferences, fund of funds managers can better tailor their strategies to meet market demands.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of investing in a fund of funds?

A fund of funds (FoF) offers investors an option for portfolio diversification by spreading investments across multiple funds with different strategies. By investing in a FoF, individual investors gain access to professional portfolio management and potentially wider exposure. This can help mitigate risks and enhance potential returns.

How do fund of funds fees compare to individual funds?

FoFs typically come with an extra layer of fees compared to investing directly in individual funds, as they include management fees for both the overall FoF and the underlying funds. When making investment decisions, it is important to understand the fee structure and evaluate whether the diversification benefits outweigh the additional costs.

What is the difference between a fund of funds and a feeder fund?

A fund of funds is a type of investment that diversifies by investing in multiple funds with various strategies, whereas a feeder fund is a single investment fund that pools investors' money and injects it into a larger, 'master' fund. The main difference lies in the level of diversificationā€”FoFs provide a more comprehensive diversification by spreading investments across multiple funds, while feeder funds feed into a single fund only.

How do fund of funds select underlying funds?

FoFs employ various methodologies in selecting underlying funds. An optimal construction approach takes into account the investor's risk preferences and confidence levels, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative factors to assess the potential performance of the funds. This may involve analyzing historical performance, fund manager expertise, and investment strategies.

Are there ETFs that follow fund of funds strategies?

Yes, there are exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that follow FoF strategies. These ETFs typically invest in a diversified range of other ETFs, providing a similar exposure as a traditional FoF. This can offer investors an additional option for achieving diversification in their portfolios.

What role do fund of funds play in real estate investments?

Fund of funds can play a significant role in real estate investments by providing investors with diversified exposure to real estate assets across different locations, property types, and investment strategies. These FoFs typically invest in a mix of real estate funds, offering individuals a way to access various real estate markets and minimize risks associated with direct property investments.

How do small investors benefit from a mutual fund scheme within a fund of funds?

Small investors often find it challenging to diversify their portfolios due to limited capital. A fund of funds (FoF) provides a solution by pooling resources from numerous investors to invest in a variety of mutual fund schemes. By participating in a FoF, small investors gain access to a diversified portfolio managed by professionals. A mutual fund scheme within a FoF can open doors to broader market exposure and the potential for higher returns compared to investing in individual funds directly.

What differentiates a multi-manager investment approach in a fund of funds from a single management approach?

A multi-manager investment approach within a FoF entails employing different fund managers with varying investment strategies to manage the assets of the FoF. This contrasts with a single management approach where one manager or management team oversees the entire fund. Under the multi-manager setup, each manager operates a segment of the FoF, often specializing in a particular market or asset class. This approach aligns with the Investment Company Act, promoting diversification and potentially reducing risks associated with a single manager's strategy. For instance, a FoF could include a gold fund managed by a manager specializing in commodities alongside other funds focused on different sectors or asset classes, thus offering a balanced and diversified investment portfolio.