Hedge funds are alternative investments that use various methods such as leveraged derivatives, short-selling, and other speculative strategies to earn a return that outperforms the broader market. Hedge funds invest in domestic and international markets alike. They typically impose investment minimums of hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars and target high-net-worth individuals, pension funds, and institutional investors.
As a result, hedge funds invariably carry higher risks than traditional investments. They are not subject to the same regulations as mutual funds and may not be required to file reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Below is our analysis of the 10 hedge fund firms that dominate the space, based on total assets under management (AUM).
- Hedge funds are investment vehicles geared toward the wealthy. Investors are typically high-net-worth individuals, pension funds, and institutions.
- Hedge funds employ unique investment strategies in order to outperform the market. They charge high fees for doing so.
- Hedge funds also require minimum investment amounts to participate, often in the millions.
- The largest hedge funds in the world include Citadel, Bridgewater, AQR, and D.E. Shaw.
The World’s Top 10 Hedge Fund Firms
1. Citadel Advisors
Citadel Advisors is based in Chicago and focuses on five strategies. These are (1) commodities, (2) credit and convertibles, (3) equities, (4) global fixed income and macro, and (5) global quantitative strategies.
In 1987, founder Kenneth Griffin began trading from his dorm room as a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard University. He founded Citadel in 1990 and is currently the CEO and Co-Chief Investment Officer.
As of March 18, 2023, Citadel had $339 billion in assets under management.
2. Bridgewater Associates
Bridgewater Associates is based in Westport, Conn., and provides services to pension funds, foreign governments, central banks, university endowments, charitable foundations, and other institutional investors. Co-chair and co-chief investment officer Ray Dalio founded the firm in 1975 from his two-bedroom New York apartment.
As of March 30, 2023, the firm had $196.8 billion under management.
3. AQR Capital Management
AQR Capital Management is based in Greenwich, Conn., and uses quantitative analysis to develop its strategies focused on equities and alternatives. The firm offers its strategies via investment vehicles and registered funds.
Cliff Asness founded the company along with partners John Liew, Robert Krail, and David Kabiller. The four had worked together on a hedge fund at Goldman Sachs. AQR launched its Absolute Return fund in 1998.
As of May 24, 2023, AQR had $120 billion under management.
4. D.E. Shaw
D.E. Shaw was founded in New York City in 1988. The firm’s founder, David E. Shaw, received his Ph.D. from Stanford and was on the faculty of the Computer Science Department at Columbia University before starting D.E. Shaw. While still involved in strategic decisions, his primary role is chief scientist.
The firm’s systematic strategies are quant based and focus on alternative investments and long-oriented investments.
As of May 17, 2023, D.E. Shaw had $109 billion under management.
The number of hedge funds in the U.S. as of 2023.
5. Renaissance Technologies
Renaissance Technologies is a New York-based quantitative hedge fund that uses mathematical and statistical methods to uncover technical indicators that drive its automated trading strategies. Renaissance applies these strategies to U.S. and international equities, debt instruments, futures contracts, forward contracts, and foreign exchange.
Mathematician Jim Simons founded Renaissance Technologies in 1982. Forbes lists Simons as the 51st wealthiest person in the world as of June 14, 2023, worth $28.1 billion. Mathematician Peter Brown is the current chief executive.
As of May 1, 2023, the firm had $106 billion under management.
6. Two Sigma Investments
Two Sigma Investments is based in New York and was founded by John Overdeck and David Siegel in 2001. The company uses quantitative analysis to build mathematical strategies that rely on historical price patterns and other data.
As of March 31, 2023, Two Sigma Investments had $70.8 billion under management.
7. Elliott Investment Management
Elliot Investment Management has a multi-strategy trading approach focused on equities, private equity, private credit, distressed securities, non-distressed, real estate, and commodities.
In Aug. 2019, Elliot acquired book retailer Barnes & Noble. It had earlier acquired British bookseller Waterstones. The company is based in New York and was founded by Paul Singer in 1977.
As of Dec. 31, 2022, Elliot had $55.2 billion in assets under management.
8. Farallon Capital Management
Farallon was established in 1986 by Thomas Steyer to invest in merger arbitrage. Its investment strategies include credit investments, long/short equity, merger arbitrage, risk arbitrage, real estate, and direct investments.
As of May 8, 2023, Farallon had $41 billion under management.
9. Ruffer Investment Company
Ruffer was founded in 1994 in the U.K. The fund employs different strategies, including total return, diversified return, and total return international.
As of April 12, 2023, Ruffer had $31.6 billion under management.
10. Man Group Limited
This British hedge fund manager has more than 230 years of trading experience. It started in 1783 as a sugar cooperage, and then an exclusive supplier of rum to the Royal Navy, later getting into the sugar, coffee, and cocoa trading business.
As of June 2, 2023, Man had $31 billion in assets under management.
What Exactly Does a Hedge Fund Do?
Hedge funds pool assets from a variety of investors, primarily from institutions and high-net-worth individuals. These assets are then invested using proprietary trading methods that the hedge funds come up with to significantly outperform the market. Hedge funds do not use standard trading strategies but rather seek to actively manage their assets to provide extraordinary returns to their investors.
How Rich Do You Have to Be to Invest in a Hedge Fund?
Hedge funds are typically only open to accredited investors, which the Securities and Exchange Commission defines as those with a net worth of $1 million or more, not including your primary residence, and having an income of at least $200,000 as an individual or $300,000 with a spouse in each of the prior two years.
Why Are Hedge Funds So Rich?
Hedge funds are rich because they are geared to high-paying investors, so the amount of money they have to invest is very large. Additionally, hedge funds employ many strategies that are unique and actively managed to beat the market, so their returns are often very high.
The Bottom Line
Hedge funds seek to employ unique strategies with the goal of providing greater returns than the market or standard investment strategies. Hedge funds come up with unique ideas to employ in the markets and charge a high price for doing so.
They’re not created for the average investor but rather geared toward institutions and high-net-worth individuals, as many hedge funds come with minimum investment amounts, which can often be in the millions. As such, these firms command billions of trading assets.