Closed-End Funds (CEFs)

Closed-End Funds (CEFs)

We may earn a small commission if you sign up for a service or product from this page. This does not affect our rankings and it does not cost you anything. Learn more about how we make money and our review process on our advertising disclosure page.

Investing in financial markets can be a daunting task, especially for new investors looking to diversify their portfolios. With a variety of investment options to choose from, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), it’s essential to understand the benefits and risks associated with each one. One lesser-known but potentially rewarding investment vehicle is the closed-end fund or CEF.

In this article, we’ll explore the basics of CEFs, their advantages and disadvantages, and how to invest in them.

Understanding Closed-End Funds (CEFs)

Before diving into the world of CEFs, it’s crucial to grasp what they are, how they differ from other investment vehicles, and the various types of closed-end funds available in the market.

CEFs are a popular choice for investors looking for diversified portfolios of securities. They offer a unique investment structure that differs from other investment vehicles such as mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). By investing in a CEF, shareholders gain access to a professionally managed, diversified portfolio of securities. The investment manager of the CEF has the discretion to make tactical changes to the portfolio based on market conditions or other opportunities, aiming to generate returns for shareholders.

What is a closed-end fund (CEF)?

A closed-end fund (CEF) is a type of investment company that raises a fixed amount of capital through an initial public offering (IPO) and then lists its shares for trading on a stock exchange. Once the IPO is completed, the fund is considered “closed” because it does not continuously issue new shares or redeem existing ones, unlike open-end funds such as mutual funds.

CEFs have a fixed number of shares outstanding, and investors can buy or sell these shares on a stock exchange, just like they would with any other publicly traded stock. The market price of a CEF is determined by the forces of supply and demand, and as a result, CEF shares may trade at a premium or discount to their NAV, adding an additional layer of complexity and potential opportunity for investors.

How CEFs Differ from Mutual Funds and ETFs

Though closed-end funds may appear similar to mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in terms of providing diversification and professional management, there are some key differences to consider. The most significant distinction is the way shares of these investment vehicles are bought and sold.

Mutual funds are bought and sold at their net asset value (NAV), which is calculated at the end of the trading day. Unlike CEFs, mutual funds continuously issue new shares and redeem existing ones. On the other hand, ETFs, like CEFs, are traded on stock exchanges but have a creation and redemption process that helps keep the market price in line with the NAV.

CEFs trade on stock exchanges and their market price is determined by the forces of supply and demand. As a result, CEF shares may trade at a premium or discount to their NAV, adding an additional layer of complexity and potential opportunity for investors.

CriteriaClosed-End Funds (CEFs)Mutual FundsExchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Share Trading MechanismTraded on stock exchangesBought and sold at NAVTraded on stock exchanges
Creation and Redemption ProcessNo continuous issuance or redemption of sharesContinuous issuance and redemption of sharesThe creation and redemption process helps maintain the market price
Market PriceDetermined by supply and demand, may trade at a premium or discount to NAVEqual to NAVDetermined by supply and demand, generally tracks close to NAV
Diversification and Professional ManagementProvides diversification and professional management like mutual funds and ETFsProvides diversification and professional managementProvides diversification and professional management
ComplexityAdditional complexity due to potential premium or discount to NAVRelatively straightforward trading at NAVCreation and redemption process helps maintain the market price
Intraday TradingYesNoYes
Expense RatiosTypically higher expense ratios compared to mutual funds and ETFsVaries, depending on the fundVaries, depending on the fund

Types of Closed-End Funds

There are various types of closed-end funds available in the market, each focusing on different investment strategies and asset classes. Some common CEF categories include:

  • Equity funds:

These CEFs primarily invest in stocks, aiming for capital appreciation or dividend income. Equity funds can focus on specific sectors, such as technology or healthcare, or can be broadly diversified across multiple sectors.

  • Fixed-income funds:

These funds focus on investing in bonds or other debt instruments, targeting interest income and capital preservation. Fixed-income funds can invest in a variety of bonds, including government bonds, corporate bonds, and high-yield bonds.

  • Alternative asset funds:

CEFs that specialize in alternative investments, such as commodities, real estate, or foreign currencies, offer unique diversification benefits and return potential. Alternative asset funds can provide exposure to investments that are not available through traditional equity or fixed-income funds.

  • Mixed-assets funds:

These CEFs invest in a blend of different asset classes, providing exposure to both equity and fixed-income investments within a single fund. Mixed-assets funds can be a good option for investors looking for a one-stop-shop for their investment needs.

Regardless of the type, CEFs can offer various sector or geographical focuses, providing diverse opportunities for investors to consider. It’s important to research and understand the investment strategy and risks associated with any CEF before investing.

Pros and Cons of Investing in Closed-End Funds

  • Potential for Higher Returns: CEFs have the potential for higher returns due to their unique structure, which allows managers to invest in a broader range of securities and use leverage. Leverage can enhance returns, but it also amplifies risks and can lead to substantial losses if the investments do not perform as expected.
  • Diversification Opportunities: CEFs provide access to a diversified portfolio of securities, which helps reduce portfolio risk and increase long-term returns by spreading investments across different asset classes, sectors, or geographical regions. This diversification can help investors access opportunities that may perform well at different times, ultimately enhancing the potential for higher returns.
  • Professional Management: Investing in a CEF provides access to professional portfolio managers who can make informed investment decisions on behalf of shareholders, potentially adding value by capturing opportunities and minimizing risks that passive investments may not.
  • Trading Flexibility: CEFs offer intraday trading flexibility as they trade on stock exchanges, which allows investors to buy or sell shares at any time during the trading day. This feature enables investors to capitalize on short-term market fluctuations or take advantage of sudden investment opportunities, offering greater flexibility than mutual funds.
  • Market Price Volatility: CEFs are prone to market price fluctuations due to changing economic conditions, financial results of holdings, and investor sentiments. All investments carry the risk of market price volatility, which can be minimized through diversification and a long-term investment strategy.
  • Premiums and Discounts: CEFs may trade at a premium or discount to their NAV, which can create opportunities but also risks. Investing in CEFs requires understanding the factors that affect premiums and discounts, evaluating the potential risks and rewards, and making informed investment decisions.
  • Management Fees and Expenses: CEFs are actively managed with higher management fees and expenses compared to passive ETFs or index funds, which can reduce returns. Investors should evaluate the fees and expenses associated with a CEF and consider them when making investment decisions. 
  • Limited Liquidity: CEFs may have limited liquidity due to lower trading volume, which can make it challenging to buy or sell shares at desirable prices or in large quantities. Restricted liquidity can ultimately affect investment performance, so it’s important to evaluate a CEF’s liquidity before making any investment decisions.

How to Invest in Closed-End Funds

With an understanding of the advantages, disadvantages, and characteristics of closed-end funds, the next step is to explore how to invest in them.

Research and Selection Process

Start by researching various CEFs to identify ones that align with your investment goals, risk tolerance, and preferences. Key factors to consider during the research phase include the fund’s strategy, management team, investment performance, fees, and expenses, and whether the CEF is trading at a premium or discount to its NAV. Online resources, such as financial news websites or fund research tools, can help in the process of selecting a suitable CEF.

Buying and Selling CEFs on Stock Exchanges

Once you’ve identified a closed-end fund to invest in, you can buy or sell shares through a brokerage account or an online trading platform. Trading CEFs is similar to purchasing individual stocks or ETFs, and investors must pay attention to the bid-ask spread, trading commissions, and other potential costs associated with the transaction.

Utilizing a Broker or Financial Advisor

If you’re unsure about which CEF to invest in or need more guidance throughout the process, consider consulting with a financial professional. A broker or financial advisor familiar with CEFs can help you evaluate potential investments, recommend specific funds, and ensure that your portfolio remains diversified and aligned with your overall financial goals.


Closed-end funds offer unique investment opportunities with the potential for higher returns and diversification benefits. By understanding the basics, advantages, and risks of CEFs and carefully selecting funds that align with your financial goals, you can incorporate CEFs into a well-rounded investment portfolio.

Disclaimer: Investing involves risk. Stock prices fluctuate, the market dips and peaks, and interest rates fluctuate wildly. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The opinions expressed on this page are exactly that: opinions, and should not be taken as investment advice. There are potential risks with any investment strategy.