Two and Twenty

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on September 07, 2023

Get Any Financial Question Answered

What Is the Two and Twenty Fee Model?

The two and twenty fee model is prevalent in the hedge fund industry.

The "two" denotes a 2% management fee applied to the total assets under management (AUM) collected annually, irrespective of the fund's performance. It's primarily designated for operating expenses.

The "twenty" signifies a performance or incentive fee, usually 20% of the fund's profits exceeding a certain benchmark or hurdle rate. This fee only applies when the fund generates a profit, motivating fund managers to yield superior returns.

Despite its commonplace usage, this model has faced criticism due to the substantial costs it can incur, particularly when the funds underperform. Recently, many funds have adapted to a more investor-friendly, flexible fee structure.

Understanding this fee structure is crucial as an investor because it directly affects your potential net return and the overall cost of investing in hedge funds.

Calculating the Two and Twenty Fee Structure

To fully comprehend the two and twenty fee structure, it is essential to understand how the management and performance fees are calculated. Here's a breakdown of how each fee is determined:

Calculating the Management Fee

The management fee in the two and twenty structure is relatively simple to calculate. It is typically a fixed percentage, commonly 2%, of the total assets under management (AUM) for the year. The calculation is as follows:

Management fee = 2% of AUM

For instance, if a hedge fund manages $100 million in assets, the annual management fee would be:

Management fee = 2% of $100 million = $2 million

This fee is often deducted quarterly and is independent of the fund's performance.

Calculating the Performance Fee

The " Twenty " performance fee in "Two and Twenty" is more complex. This fee is typically 20% of the fund's profits above a particular benchmark or "hurdle rate."

To calculate the performance fee, you first need to calculate the profits:

Profits = End of year AUM - Beginning of year AUM - Management fee

If the calculated profits exceed the hurdle rate (if one exists), the performance fee is then:

Performance fee = 20% of (Profits - Hurdle rate)

Suppose the same fund ends the year with $115 million in assets. The profits would be:

Profits = $115 million - $100 million - $2 million = $13 million

If there is no hurdle rate, the performance fee would be:

Performance fee = 20% of $13 million = $2.6 million

Therefore, the total fees paid to the hedge fund would be the sum of the management and performance fees, which in this case would be $4.6 million.

Please note that these calculations can vary slightly based on individual hedge funds' specific agreements and structures.

Two and Twenty Fees Calculations

Practical Application of Two and Twenty

The two and twenty fee structure is predominantly employed in the hedge fund industry and, to a lesser extent, private equity firms and certain other types of investment vehicles. The structure serves a number of practical purposes:

  • Incentivizing Fund Managers: The structure is designed to motivate fund managers to generate the highest possible returns. Fund managers are incentivized to outperform the market since a substantial portion of their earnings comes from the performance fee.

  • Covering Operational Costs: The management fee, usually 2%, provides a steady income stream that helps cover the fund's operational expenses, including administrative costs, research costs, salaries, and office space.

  • Aligning Interests: The performance fee aligns the interests of fund managers and investors. Since the manager's compensation is directly tied to the fund's performance, they are financially incentivized to act in the best interests of their investors.

  • Attracting Capital: The potential for high returns can attract investors willing to pay these fees. This structure particularly appeals to high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors seeking aggressive growth strategies.

Practical Applications of the Two and Twenty Fee Structure

Advantages of Two and Twenty

Incentive for Fund Managers

The two and twenty structure incentivizes fund managers to maximize returns since their compensation is directly tied to the fund's success. The promise of a significant payday can drive fund managers to work diligently and creatively to enhance fund performance.

Attractiveness to High-Skilled Managers

The potential for high earnings can attract top talent to the fund management role. Skilled managers are more likely to be drawn to roles where their compensation is tied to their performance, which can result in better outcomes for investors.

Potential for High Returns for Investors

Investors may benefit from the drive and expertise of motivated fund managers. As the fund managers work to increase the fund's profitability to enhance their compensation, investors stand to reap the benefits of these high returns.

Criticisms of Two and Twenty

Perceived as a High-Cost Structure

The two and twenty structure can be perceived as costly, particularly during lower returns. Investors may question the value of paying high fees when returns are not commensurate.

Issues Related to Performance Fee Calculation

Critics point out that performance fees are often calculated without accounting for risk. Fund managers may be incentivized to take on excessive risk to pursue high returns.

Concerns About Alignment of Interests

While the two and twenty structure is designed to align the interests of fund managers and investors, it can sometimes create conflicts. For example, fund managers may favor investments that offer the potential for higher short-term returns at the expense of long-term stability.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Two and Twenty

Alternatives to Two and Twenty

While two and twenty is a commonly used fee structure in the hedge fund industry, it has been criticized for its high costs. Therefore, several alternatives have been developed over time:

  • Fulcrum Fees: This is a performance-based fee structure where the management fee adjusts depending on the fund's performance relative to a benchmark.

    If the fund outperforms the benchmark, the management fee increases; if it underperforms, the fee decreases.

  • High-Water Marks: While not an alternative to two and twenty per se, high-water marks are a feature that can be added to the fee structure to protect investors from paying performance fees for poor long-term performance.

    A high-water mark ensures that performance fees are only paid on net profits above the highest previously recorded value of the fund.

  • Hurdle Rates: Similar to high-water marks, a hurdle rate is a minimum return that a fund must achieve before the manager can collect a performance fee.

    For instance, if a 5% hurdle rate is set, a fund must generate returns exceeding 5% before performance fees are collected.

  • Index Fund Investing: For investors seeking lower fees, index funds often charge a flat fee well below 1% and no performance fee, as these funds simply aim to replicate the performance of a specific market index.

Alternatives to Two and Twenty

Conclusion

The two and twenty model is a widely employed fee structure in hedge funds and other investment vehicles.

It entails a 2% annual management fee, calculated on total assets under management (AUM), plus a 20% performance fee levied on profits above a specific benchmark.

This structure motivates fund managers to generate substantial returns, benefiting investors and attracting top talent to the fund. Nevertheless, it's often considered costly, particularly when the fund's performance doesn't justify the fees.

Understanding the intricacies of this fee model, including its calculation and practical applications, is crucial for anyone considering hedge fund investments.

It's equally vital to be aware of the alternatives to this model, such as fulcrum fees and index fund investing. This enables investors to choose a fee structure that best suits their risk tolerance and investment goals, optimizing their potential net returns.

Two and Twenty FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

Discover Wealth Management Solutions Near You