Types of Investment Companies: Explained

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the various types of investment companies!

Whether you’re a seasoned investor or just starting out, understanding the different investment vehicles available is crucial for making informed decisions.

From the familiar terrains of Mutual Funds and ETFs to the more complex realms of Hedge Funds and Private Equity, the investment landscape is diverse and full of opportunities.

In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into the unique characteristics, benefits, and risks associated with each type of investment company.

Our goal is to demystify these financial instruments and help you navigate your investment journey with confidence.

Types of Investment Companies - an infographic

Download the above infographic in PDF

1. Mutual Funds

Imagine you and a bunch of friends want to invest in a variety of businesses, but none of you has the time or expertise to pick stocks and manage investments.

This is where mutual funds come in.

A mutual fund is like a big basket that holds a collection of investments—stocks, bonds, or other securities—managed by financial experts.

Why Choose Mutual Funds?

  • Diversification: One of the biggest advantages of mutual funds is diversification. Because your money is spread across many different investments, your risk of losing money decreases.
  • Professional Management: You have experts managing your investment. These managers decide what to buy or sell, aiming to grow your money over time.
  • Affordability: Mutual funds allow you to start investing with a relatively small amount of money.
  • Liquidity: You can buy or sell your mutual fund shares on any business day, giving you flexibility and access to your money.

Types of Mutual Funds:

Types of Mutual Funds - an infographic

  • Stock Funds: Invest mostly in stocks and are further divided into categories like large-cap, mid-cap, small-cap, international, and growth funds.
  • Bond Funds: Focus on investments in government, municipal, or corporate bonds.
  • Balanced Funds: Combine stocks and bonds to provide a mix of safety, income, and capital appreciation.

How to Invest?

You can invest in mutual funds through a broker or directly from a mutual fund company.

Remember, while mutual funds can offer good returns, they also come with fees and, like any investment, are subject to market risks.

That covers the basics of Mutual Funds.

2. Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

Exchange-Traded Funds, commonly known as ETFs, are like mutual funds’ cool cousin.

They’re baskets of securities, just like mutual funds, but they trade on stock exchanges like individual stocks.

This means you can buy and sell ETF shares throughout the trading day at fluctuating prices, unlike mutual funds, which are traded only once a day after the market closes.

Why ETFs Might Be Your Thing:

  • Flexibility: Because they are traded like stocks, you can buy and sell ETFs anytime during the trading day. You can also employ stock trading techniques like limits and stops.
  • Lower Costs: Generally, ETFs have lower fees than mutual funds, mainly due to their passive management style.
  • Diversification: Just like mutual funds, ETFs offer diversification across a basket of stocks or bonds.
  • Transparency: ETFs disclose their holdings daily, so you always know what you’re investing in.

Types of ETFs

Types of ETFs - an infographic

  • Stock ETFs: Invest in a particular industry or sector like technology, healthcare, or finance.
  • Bond ETFs: Focus on government or corporate bonds.
  • Commodity ETFs: Invest in commodities like gold, oil, or agricultural products.
  • International ETFs: Offer exposure to foreign markets.

Investing in ETFs:

Investing in ETFs is as simple as buying stocks.

You need a brokerage account, and then you can buy and sell ETF shares.

Remember, while ETFs offer many benefits, they also carry risks, including market risk and the risk specific to the assets they hold.

In the next segment, we’ll delve into Closed-End Funds.

3. Closed-End Funds

Closed-End Funds (CEFs) are a bit like the exclusive clubs of the types of investment companies.

They’re similar to mutual funds and ETFs in that they pool money from investors to buy a portfolio of securities.

However, they have a unique twist: they issue a fixed number of shares, and these shares trade on stock exchanges, just like stocks.

What Makes Closed-End Funds Special?

  • Fixed Number of Shares: Once the fund’s initial public offering (IPO) is complete, no new shares are issued. This can lead to shares trading at a premium or discount to the fund’s net asset value (NAV).
  • Price Fluctuations: The price of a CEF can be influenced by supply and demand in the market, which can be different from the underlying value of the securities in the fund.
  • Leverage Use: Many CEFs use leverage (borrowing money) to buy more assets, which can lead to higher returns but also increases risk.
  • Income Focus: CEFs often focus on generating income for investors and can be a good option for those looking for regular payouts.

Types of CEFs:

  • Equity Funds: Invest in stocks.
  • Bond Funds: Focus on fixed-income investments.
  • Hybrid Funds: Combine both stocks and bonds.

Investing in CEFs

Investing in CEFs is straightforward if you have a brokerage account.

However, it’s important to understand that their prices can be more volatile due to the fixed number of shares and the use of leverage.

Also, the ability to trade at premiums or discounts to NAV offers unique opportunities and risks.

Next, we’ll talk about Unit Investment Trusts (UITs) and their role in the investment landscape.

4. Unit Investment Trusts (UITs)

Unit Investment Trusts, or UITs, are an often-overlooked but interesting part of the investment universe.

Think of a UIT as a simpler, more straightforward cousin of mutual funds and ETFs.

A UIT buys a fixed portfolio of securities (like stocks or bonds) and then holds these investments for a set period, which could range from a few months to several years.

Key Features of UITs:

  • Fixed Portfolio: UITs have a set portfolio that doesn’t change over the life of the trust. This means you know exactly what you’re investing in from the start.
  • Termination Date: Every UIT has a specified termination date when the trust will be dissolved and proceeds distributed to investors.
  • Transparency: Since the investments don’t change, UITs offer high transparency.
  • No Active Management: Unlike mutual funds, UITs are not actively managed. Once the portfolio is created, it stays as is until the trust dissolves.

Why Invest in UITs?

  • Predictability: You get a clear picture of your investments and can plan around the termination date.
  • Diversification: UITs can provide diversification, much like mutual funds or ETFs.
  • Income Generation: Many UITs are focused on income, often through bonds or dividend-paying stocks.

Types of UITs:

Types of UITs - an infographic

  • Stock UITs: Invest in a group of stocks.
  • Bond UITs: Focus on fixed-income securities.
  • Balanced UITs: Combine both stocks and bonds.

Investing in UITs

You can invest in UITs through a broker.

They can be a good choice if you’re looking for a straightforward, transparent investment with a clear end date.

However, since they’re not actively managed, it’s crucial to be comfortable with the initial selection of securities.

Next up, we’ll explore the world of Hedge Funds, known for their high-risk, high-reward strategies.

5. Hedge Funds

Hedge funds are often viewed as the high-stakes types of investment companies.

These private investment partnerships use a variety of strategies to achieve high returns for their investors.

Unlike mutual funds or ETFs, hedge funds are not as heavily regulated, which allows them more flexibility in their investment choices.

Why Hedge Funds Are Unique

  • Wide Range of Strategies: Hedge funds can invest in almost anything – stocks, bonds, real estate, currencies, derivatives, etc. They often use leverage and derivatives to amplify their bets.
  • High Minimum Investments: Typically, hedge funds are accessible only to accredited investors, which means they require significantly higher minimum investments than mutual funds or ETFs.
  • Fee Structure: Hedge funds are known for their “2 and 20” fee structure – a 2% management fee on assets and a 20% performance fee on profits.
  • Risk and Reward: The strategies used can be risky, but they also have the potential for high returns, often aiming to outperform the market.

Common Hedge Fund Strategies:

  • Long/Short Equity: Investing in stocks that are expected to increase in value and short selling stocks expected to decrease.
  • Market Neutral: Seeking to avoid some forms of market risk by taking offsetting positions in different stocks.
  • Global Macro: Betting on macroeconomic trends through stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities, and options.

Investing in Hedge Funds

Hedge fund investing is typically reserved for more sophisticated investors due to the higher risk and complexity.

It’s important to thoroughly research and understand a hedge fund’s strategy and risks before investing.

In the next section, we’ll dive into Private Equity Firms, another key player in the world of high finance.

6. Private Equity Firms

Private equity firms are like the behind-the-scenes architects in the financial world.

These types of investment companies focus on making investments in private companies or taking public companies private.

Unlike stocks and bonds, which can be bought and sold on public markets, investments in private equity are not as liquid and often require a longer investment horizon.

The Private Equity Approach

  • Direct Investment in Companies: Private equity firms invest directly in companies, often acquiring a significant stake or full ownership.
  • Value Addition: They actively manage these companies, aiming to improve their value through strategies like operational improvements, restructuring, or mergers and acquisitions.
  • Long-Term Horizon: Private equity investments usually have a longer time frame, often several years, as the firm works to increase the company’s value.

Why Consider Private Equity?

  • Potential for High Returns: These investments can offer significant returns if the firm successfully increases the company’s value.
  • Diversification: Private equity can add diversification to an investment portfolio, as it behaves differently from public stocks and bonds.

Types of Private Equity Investments:

Types of Private Equity Investments - an infographic

  • Leveraged Buyouts (LBOs): Acquiring a company using a significant amount of borrowed money.
  • Venture Capital: Investing in early-stage companies with high growth potential.
  • Growth Capital: Providing capital to expand or restructure operations, enter new markets, or finance a significant acquisition.

Investing in Private Equity

Investing in private equity is generally limited to institutional investors or accredited individual investors due to the high minimum investment amounts and the longer-term commitment required.

It’s important to understand the risks, including the lack of liquidity and the dependence on the success of the underlying companies.

Next, we will look at Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which offer a way to invest in real estate without buying property directly.

7. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

REITs are types of investment companies that offer a unique way to dive into the world of real estate without actually having to buy or manage properties.

Think of REITs as companies that own or finance income-producing real estate across a range of property sectors.

They allow anyone to invest in portfolios of real estate assets the same way they invest in other industries – through the purchase of stock.

Why REITs Might Be a Good Choice:

  • Diversification: By investing in properties across various sectors (like commercial, residential, healthcare, etc.), REITs offer diversification beyond traditional stocks and bonds.
  • Income Generation: REITs are required to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders as dividends, making them a popular choice for income-seeking investors.
  • Liquidity: Since REITs are traded on major stock exchanges, they offer the liquidity of stocks.

Types of REITs

Types of REITs - an infographic

  • Equity REITs: Own and operate income-generating real estate. Most REITs are equity REITs.
  • Mortgage REITs (mREITs): Provide financing for real estate by purchasing or originating mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.
  • Hybrid REITs: Combine the strategies of equity REITs and mREITs.

Investing in REITs

You can invest in REITs just like you would in any other stock.

By buying shares of a REIT, you are essentially buying a part of the real estate that the company owns or finances.

While REITs offer the potential for solid returns and steady dividends, they also carry risks, including the impact of real estate market fluctuations.

Coming up next, we’ll explore Venture Capital Firms, key players in funding innovative startups and small businesses.

8. Venture Capital Firms

Venture capital firms are like the scouts of the financial world, always on the lookout for the next big thing.

These types of investment companies specialize in investing in startups and small businesses that have the potential for substantial growth.

Unlike investing in established public companies, venture capital involves putting money into young companies, often in cutting-edge fields like technology, biotech, or green energy.

Key Aspects of Venture Capital

  • High-Risk, High-Reward: Investing in early-stage companies is risky, as many startups fail. However, the potential for outsized returns is significant if the company succeeds.
  • Hands-On Investment: Venture capitalists often play an active role in their investments, providing guidance, expertise, and networking opportunities to help the companies grow.
  • Long-Term Investment: The investment horizon for venture capital is typically long. It can take years for a startup to mature to the point where the investors can exit through a sale or IPO.

Why Invest in Venture Capital?

  • Potential for Exceptional Returns: Successful startups can offer tremendous financial returns.
  • Innovation and Impact: Venture capital supports innovation and can drive significant advancements in technology and society.
  • Portfolio Diversification: Venture capital can add a different dimension to an investment portfolio, diversifying beyond traditional stocks and bonds.

Types of Venture Capital Investments:

Types of Venture Capital Investments - an infographic

  • Seed Stage: Very early investments to help a startup get off the ground.
  • Early Stage: Funding for startups that are developing their products or services but are not yet fully operational.
  • Growth Stage: Investments in more established startups that are looking to expand.

Investing in Venture Capital

Typically, venture capital investments are available to accredited investors, institutional investors, or through venture capital funds.

Individual investors can sometimes participate through crowdfunding platforms or by investing in publicly traded venture capital firms.

Next, I’ll discuss Commodity Pools, which offer a way to invest in the commodities market.

9. Commodity Pools

Commodity Pools are a bit like the adventurers of the investment world, offering a path to the diverse and often volatile realm of commodities.

These types of investment companies gather money from investors to invest in physical goods or raw materials like oil, gold, agricultural products, and other natural resources.

They can also invest in commodity futures, options, and other derivative instruments.

Why Commodity Pools Stand Out

  • Diversification: Adding commodities to your investment portfolio can offer diversification benefits, as commodity markets often behave differently from traditional stock and bond markets.
  • Potential for High Returns: Commodities can be lucrative, especially during periods of high demand or low supply, or during inflationary times.
  • Access to Complex Markets: Commodity pools are managed by professionals who understand the complexities of the commodities markets.

Risks and Considerations:

  • Volatility: Commodity prices can be extremely volatile due to factors like weather, political changes, and global economic conditions.
  • Complex Strategies: Commodity pools often use sophisticated strategies and leverage, which can increase both potential returns and potential risks.

Types of Commodity Investments:

  • Direct Physical Investment: Buying the actual physical commodity.
  • Futures Contracts: Agreements to buy or sell a commodity at a future date at a predetermined price.
  • Options and Swaps: Other financial instruments based on commodity prices.

Investing in Commodity Pools

Investors can join commodity pools by investing a certain minimum amount, similar to a mutual fund.

However, it’s important to have a good understanding of the commodities market or rely on the expertise of the pool managers.

Because of the high risk associated with commodities, this type of investment might not be suitable for everyone.


We’ve journeyed through the diverse types of investment companies, exploring various types that cater to different investment strategies and risk appetites.

From the broad accessibility of Mutual Funds and ETFs to the niche, high-risk avenues of Hedge Funds and Private Equity, the investment universe offers something for every investor.

Understanding these options is key to building a portfolio that aligns with your financial goals and risk tolerance.

Here is a table comparing all of the above 9 types of investment companies:

Types of investment companies - a comparison table

Remember, each investment type comes with its unique set of risks and rewards, and what works for one investor may not be suitable for another.

As always, thorough research and possibly consulting with a financial advisor are advisable steps before diving into any investment.

Armed with this knowledge, you’re now better equipped to make informed decisions and take control of your financial future.

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