Managed Accounts vs. Mutual Funds


A managed account is an investment account that is owned by an investor but managed by somebody else. The account owner can either be an institutional investor or an individual retail investor. A professional money manager hired by the investor then oversees the account and the trading activity within it.

Armed with discretionary authority over the account, the dedicated manager actively makes investment decisions pertinent to the individual, considering the client’s needs and goals, risk tolerance, and asset size. Managed accounts are most often seen among high-net-worth investors.


Professional Money Manager

A managed account is a portfolio that is owned by one investor but is supervised by a professional money manager who has been hired by that investor. Money managers can demand higher minimum investments to manage accounts and are compensated by a fee, calculated as a set percentage of assets under management (AUM).

Mutual Fund

A mutual fund is a type of managed account, but it is open to anyone with the means to buy its shares, rather than personalized for a particular investor.

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Managed accounts and mutual funds both represent actively managed portfolios or pools of money that invest over a variety of assets—or asset classes.

Technically, a mutual fund is a type of managed account. The fund company will hire a money manager to look after investments in the fund’s portfolio. This manager may alter the fund’s holdings per the fund’s objectives.

When mutual funds began to be marketed in earnest in the 1950s, they were touted as a way for the “little guy”—that is, small retail investors—to experience and benefit from professional money management. Previously, this was a service available only to high-net-worth individuals.

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Customized managed accounts address the account holder's needs; mutual funds invest according to the fund's objectives.

Managed account trades can be timed to minimize tax liability; mutual fund investors have no control when a fund realizes taxable capital gains.

Managed account-holders have maximum transparency and control over assets; mutual fund-holders don't own the fund's assets, only a share of the fund's asset value.

Some managed accounts require five-figure minimum in funds; mutual funds demand much lower initial investment amounts.

It may take days to invest, or de-vest managed account assets; mutual fund shares are more liquid and can be bought or sold daily.

Managed account managers tend to charge high annual fees that impact overall returns; mutual funds' expense ratio fees tend to be lower.


Both managed accounts and mutual funds are overseen by professional managers. Managed accounts are personalized investment portfolios customized to the specific risks, goals, and needs of the account holder. Management of the mutual fund is on behalf of the many mutual fund holders and all about meeting the fund’s investment and return objectives.

With a managed account, the investor allocates funds, and the manager purchases and places physical shares of securities into the account portfolio. The account holder owns the securities and may direct the manager to trade them as desired.

In contrast, mutual funds are classified by investors’ risk tolerance and the funds’ investment objectives, not by individual preferences. Also, investors purchasing shares of a mutual fund own a percentage of the value of the fund, not the fund itself or the actual assets in the fund.

Transactional Considerations

On the transactional side, events might move more slowly in a managed account. Days may pass before the manager has the money fully invested. Also, depending on the holdings selected, managers may be able to liquidate securities at specific times only.

Conversely, shares of mutual funds may typically be purchased and redeemed as desired, daily. However, some mutual funds may carry penalties if redeemed before holding for a specified period.

The professional guiding a managed account may attempt to offset gains and losses by buying and selling assets when it is the most tax beneficial to the account’s owner. In doing so, it could result in little or no tax liabilities on a significant profit for the individual. In contrast, mutual fund shareholders have no control over when portfolio managers sell the underlying securities, so they may face tax bites on capital gains.

Source from Investopedia

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