What Is a Fund Manager?

A fund manager is responsible for implementing a fund's investing strategy and managing its portfolio trading activities. The fund can be managed by one person, by two people as co-managers, or by a team of three or more people.

Fund managers are paid a fee for their work, which is a percentage of the fund's average assets under management (AUM). They can be found working in fund management with mutual funds, pension funds, trust funds, and hedge funds.

Investors should fully review the investment style of fund managers before they consider investing in a fund.

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What's a Fund Manager?

Understanding Fund Managers

The main benefit of investing in a fund is trusting the investment management decisions to the professionals. That's why fund managers play an important role in the investment and financial world. They provide investors with peace of mind, knowing their money is in the hands of an expert.

While a fund's performance may have a lot to do with market forces, the manager's skills are also a contributing factor. A highly trained manager can lead his or her fund to beat its competitors and their benchmark indexes. This kind of fund manager is known as an active or alpha manager, while those who take a backseat approach are called passive fund managers.

Fund managers generally oversee mutual funds or pensions and manage their direction. They are also responsible for managing a team of investment analysts. This means the fund manager must have great business, math, and people skills.

The fund manager's main duties include meeting with his or her team, as well as existing and potential clients. Since the fund manager is responsible for the success of the fund, he or she must also research companies, and study the financial industry and the economy. Keeping up to date on trends in the industry help the fund manager make key decisions that are consistent with the fund's goals.

Before investing in a fund, investors should review a fund manager's investment style to see if it is compatible with their own.

The Path to Fund Management

To qualify for a position in fund management—mutual funds, pension funds, trust funds, or hedge funds—individuals must have a high level of educational and professional credentials and appropriate investment managerial experience. Investors should look for long-term, consistent fund performance with a fund manager whose tenure with the fund matches its performance time period.

Most fund managers often pursue a chartered financial analysts (CFA) designation as a first step in becoming the head stock-picker for a portfolio. CFA candidates undergo rigorous coursework pertaining to investment analysis and portfolio management.

Typically, these analysts assist portfolio managers with individual research on investment ideas and subsequent buy, sell, or hold recommendations. After a number of years working for the fund, familiarity with fund operations and management style aid in the analyst in a career path. Successful CFAs build a quality case for an internal promotion to manager if the opportunity arises.

Responsibilities of Fund Managers

Fund managers primarily research and determine the best stocks, bonds, or other securities to fit the strategy of the fund as outlined in the prospectus, then buy and sell them.

At larger funds, the fund manager typically has a support staff of analysts and traders who perform some of these activities. Multiple managers at some investment companies oversee client money, and each may be responsible for a portion or make decisions via committee.

Some other responsibilities of the fund manager include preparing reports on how well the fund is performing for clients, developing reports for potential clients to know the risks and objectives of the fund, and identifying clients and companies who may make good fits as clients.

Key Takeaways

  • A fund manager is responsible for implementing a fund's investment strategy and managing its trading activities.
  • They oversee mutual funds or pensions, manage analysts, conduct research, and make important investment decisions.
  • Most fund managers are highly educated, have professional credentials, and possess management experience.
  • Fund managers fall into two categories: active managers and passive managers.

Active vs. Passive Managers

Active fund managers try to outperform their peers and the benchmark indexes. Managers who engage in active fund management study trends in the market, analyze economic data, and stay current on company news.

Based on this research, they buy and sell securities—stocks, bonds, and other assets—to rake in greater returns. These fund managers generally charge higher fees because they take on a more proactive role in their funds by constantly changing their holdings. Many mutual funds are actively managed, which explains why their fees are generally high.

Passive fund managers, on the other hand, trade securities that are held in a benchmark index. This kind of fund manager applies the same weighting in his or her portfolio as the underlying index. Rather than trying to outperform the index, passive fund managers normally try to mirror its returns. Many exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and index mutual funds are considered passively managed. Fees for these investments are generally much lower because there isn't a lot of expertise involved on the part of the fund manager.

Notable Mutual Fund Managers

One of the most iconic fund managers in history piloted Fidelity Investments' Magellan Fund. Peter Lynch managed the company's notable equity portfolio from 1977 to 1990. Lynch was a proponent of selecting stocks in industries with which he was most comfortable. Magellan's chief amassed remarkable average returns of 29% per year throughout his tenure, growing AUM from $20 million to $14 billion.

One of the longest-tenured fund managers is 85-year old Albert "Ab" Nicholas. Founder of the Nicholas Company, the seasoned portfolio manager has run the five-star Morningstar Nicholas Fund since July 14, 1969, besting the S&P 500 Index each year from 2008 through 2014.

A Hedge Fund Icon

Hedge funds differ from mutual funds in that hedge fund portfolios require large investment minimums only from accredited investors. Ken Griffin's Citadel Global Equities hedge fund returned almost 6% after fees in 2018.

Griffin had a net worth of $9.1 billion as of 2018. Buying and selling stocks from his Harvard dormitory in the 1980s, Griffin leaped right into the world of private equity management, launching Citadel with $4 million in 1990.