The Hidden Costs Of Investing In BDCs

Business Development Companies (BDCs) are often lauded for their attractive yields, appealing to investors seeking substantial income from their portfolios. However, beneath the allure of high returns, BDCs harbor hidden costs that can significantly erode investor profits. Central to these costs are the management and performance fees that, if not carefully considered, can dampen the overall investment outcome.

Understanding BDC Fee Structures

BDCs typically charge a range of fees that can impact investor returns. The most common are management fees, which compensate the BDC’s managers for the day-to-day administration of the fund. These fees are usually calculated as a percentage of assets under management (AUM), typically ranging from 1% to 2% annually. In addition to management fees, BDCs often impose incentive fees based on performance, which are designed to align the interests of the managers with those of the shareholders. These fees can be structured as a percentage of returns that exceed a specified benchmark, commonly about 20% of the income above the hurdle rate. Additional costs can include expenses related to administration, marketing, and transaction-specific charges, all of which add up to reduce net investor returns.

Impact of High Fees on Returns

The compounding effect of these fees can be substantial. For instance, a BDC that charges a 2% management fee plus a 20% incentive fee over a hurdle rate of 8% can diminish investor returns significantly, especially in scenarios where the BDC generates high returns. To illustrate, if a BDC invests $100,000 and achieves a 10% return ($10,000), the management fee alone would account for $2,000. If the return exceeds the hurdle rate, an additional $400 (20% of the $2,000 above 8%) would be due as a performance fee, totaling $2,400 in fees for the year. This scenario reduces the effective gain from $10,000 to $7,600, illustrating how fees impact investor take-home returns.

Case Studies of Fee Excesses

Real-world examples abound where BDC fees have eroded much of the investment gains. Consider the case of a hypothetical BDC, "InvestCo Growth," which in recent years has seen an annual return of approximately 12% but charges a 2% management fee and a 20% performance fee over an 8% hurdle. Despite strong gross performance, the net return to investors has been significantly lower than anticipated due to these fees. Another example is "Capital Yield BDC," which reported substantial asset growth but whose high fee structure led to shareholder returns that lagged behind those of comparable investment vehicles.

Investor Strategies for Fee Mitigation

Investors can adopt several strategies to mitigate the impact of these fees. Firstly, selecting BDCs with a lower fee structure is crucial; some funds offer reduced management fees or lower performance fees, which can lead to better net returns. Investors should also scrutinize the fee arrangements detailed in the fund’s prospectus, looking out for fee caps or breakpoints that can limit expenses. Additionally, direct negotiation, particularly for larger investment stakes, might result in more favorable fee structures. Understanding all associated costs and actively seeking BDCs that offer greater fee transparency and investor-favorable terms are essential practices for prospective BDC investors.


While BDCs can offer compelling yield opportunities, the associated costs due to fees should not be overlooked. The impact of these fees on returns can be significant, necessitating a careful and informed approach to BDC investment. By understanding the fee structures and exploring ways to minimize their impact, investors can better position themselves to achieve the attractive returns that BDCs can potentially offer, without unpleasant surprises eroding their gains.

Author: Gerardine Lucero


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