PMS vs AIF - Key Difference between PMS and AIF

by Alina Khan

Published On June 17, 2024

In this article

Portfolio Management Services (PMS) and Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) present two distinct but sophisticated options tailored for seasoned investors. This article delves into the core of PMS vs AIF, providing clarity on the fundamental difference between PMS and AIF to help investors make informed decisions based on their financial goals and risk appetites. While PMS offers individualized portfolio management tailored to meet specific investor needs, AIF encompasses a broader range of non-traditional investments pooled from several investors.

Understanding what is AIF and how it contrasts with PMS in terms of structure, regulatory frameworks, minimum investment requirements, and potential returns is crucial for any investor considering these advanced investment strategies. This comparison will not only outline key differences but also highlight scenarios where one may be more suitable than the other, depending on individual investment objectives.

What is PMS (Portfolio Management Services)?

Portfolio Management Services (PMS) represent a specialized investment service in India, where individual portfolios are managed across various asset classes such as stocks, bonds, and commodities. In understanding the difference between PMS and AIF, it's crucial to recognize that PMS offers tailored investment solutions that align closely with an investor’s personal financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon.

Under PMS, portfolio managers leverage their expertise and in-depth market research to construct and manage portfolios aimed at achieving specific investor objectives. This bespoke service typically commands higher fees, which may be structured as a fixed percentage of the assets under management (AUM), or as fixed fees , varying based on the portfolio's size, the degree of customization required, and the complexity of the investment strategies employed.

The entry threshold for PMS is set at a minimum investment of Rs. 50,00,000 . This high entry barrier underscores the service’s focus on more affluent investors seeking personalized investment management, which starkly contrasts with AIF (Alternative Investment Fund), where the investment is pooled and managed collectively for multiple investors. This key distinction highlights the tailored and individual-centric approach of PMS in comparison to the collective investment schemes found in AIFs.

Want to learn more about PMS? Read this article What is Portfolio Management Service - Types and Benefits

What is AIF (Alternative Investment Funds)?

Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) represent a category of investment vehicles in India that pool funds from investors to invest in non-traditional assets beyond the scope of typical stocks, bonds, and cash. These funds are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) under the SEBI (Alternative Investment Funds) Regulations, 2012, which underscores the structured and controlled framework within which they operate. Understanding what is AIF is crucial when examining PMS vs AIF and grasping the difference between PMS and AIF.

AIFs are primarily geared towards high-net-worth individuals given their higher risk profiles and substantial investment thresholds, with a minimum investment requirement of Rs 1,00,00,000. This significantly limits access for retail investors. AIFs encompass a broad spectrum of assets including private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, real estate, and infrastructure. These platforms often target higher returns, albeit with a higher risk profile compared to traditional investment avenues.

SEBI categorizes AIFs into three distinct types:

  • Category I: These funds invest in start-ups, early-stage ventures, and other sectors deemed economically desirable by the government. Investments may include small businesses and social ventures that offer potential for high growth and enjoy certain tax benefits. This category is typically perceived as lower risk relative to other AIF categories.

  • Category II: This includes Private Equity funds, debt funds, and Fund of Funds which do not fall into Category I or III. These funds are not allowed to leverage or borrow significantly, other than short-term needs for operational purposes.

  • Category III: Funds in this category engage in diverse or complex trading strategies, often using leverage. This can include hedge funds and Private Investments in Public Equity (PIPE) funds, aiming to generate short-term, high returns. They are the least regulated, hence potentially higher in risk.

In the PMS vs AIF debate, while both offer tailored investment strategies, AIFs differ by involving pooled investments across a diverse array of high-risk, high-return strategies that extend beyond conventional markets. Understanding these nuances is critical for investors trying to navigate the intricate landscape of advanced investment opportunities in India.

PMS vs AIF : Key Difference Between PMS and AIFs

When comparing PMS vs AIF, it's important to understand the distinct regulatory, investment, and operational frameworks that define each option. Here is a structured comparison highlighting the difference between PMS and AIF based on various aspects such as regulatory oversight, minimum investment requirements, investor limits, and more.


PMS (Portfolio Management Services)

AIF (Alternative Investment Funds)


Regulated under SEBI (Portfolio Managers Regulations, 1993)

Regulated as per SEBI (Alternative Investment Funds Regulations, 2012)

Minimum Investment

Minimum investment is Rs. 50,00,000 in some cases.

The minimum investment required is Rs. 1,00,00,000.

Number of Investors

No cap on the number of investors.

Maximum number of investors in any AIF scheme is restricted to 1000 (as per SEBI regulations).

Minimum Corpus

No minimum corpus mandate.

Minimum corpus for every scheme under AIF should be Rs. 20,00,00,000 and Rs. 10,00,00,000 for Angel Funds.

Segregation of Funds

Requires segregation of funds; each client's funds are maintained separately.

Pooling of funds is essential, and there is no requirement to segregate client funds.

Lock-in Period

No lock-in period typically exists for PMS.

Close-ended AIFs have a lock-in period that can vary from a few months to several years.

Asset Allocation

Includes a variety of assets such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Investments depend on the AIF category, including start-ups, hedge funds, private equity, real estate, and PIPE Funds.


Higher risk compared to mutual funds but generally perceived to be less risky than AIF.

Invests in high-risk, non-traditional investments with a longer investment horizon, thus considered higher risk than PMS.


Registration is valid for 3 years and can be renewed.

Registration is valid for 3 years and can be renewed.

Benefits of PMS

Portfolio Management Services (PMS) offer several distinct advantages for investors looking to customize their investment approach tailored specifically to their individual financial goals and risk tolerance. Understanding these benefits is essential in discerning the difference between PMS and AIF.

  • Personalized Portfolio Management: PMS provides a high degree of personalization. Each portfolio is uniquely tailored to meet the specific investment objectives, risk profile, and time horizon of the investor. This personalized service is particularly beneficial for high-net-worth individuals who seek a bespoke investment strategy.

  • Direct Ownership: Unlike AIFs, where investments are pooled, PMS clients enjoy direct ownership of the financial instruments in their portfolio. This can include stocks, bonds, and other securities, providing clear visibility and control over the assets.

  • Active Management and Expertise: PMS accounts are managed by experienced portfolio managers who actively monitor and make decisions about asset allocation and stock selection based on their expertise and rigorous market analysis. This active management approach aims to capitalize on market opportunities and manage risks effectively.

  • Flexibility in Investment Choices: PMS offers flexibility in terms of investment choices and strategies. Investors can opt for strategies that align with their goals, whether it’s growth-oriented, value-driven, or income-focused. This flexibility extends to adjusting the portfolio in response to changing market conditions or personal circumstances.

  • Transparency and Reporting: PMS clients receive detailed reports and communications regarding their investments, including performance reports, financial statements, and market analysis. This level of transparency ensures that investors are well-informed about how their portfolios are performing and why certain decisions are being made.

  • Tax Management: Since each investor's portfolio is independent, PMS allows for more efficient tax management. Capital gains or losses are specific to the individual's transactions, enabling tailored tax planning strategies that can potentially optimize tax liabilities.

  • Regulatory Oversight: Being regulated under SEBI (Portfolio Managers Regulations, 1993), PMS adheres to strict compliance and operational standards, ensuring a secure and transparent investment environment for the clients.

In understanding what AIF is and comparing it with PMS, it becomes evident that while AIFs offer an opportunity to invest in non-traditional assets with potential for high returns, PMS provides a more controlled, transparent, and customized investment experience. The choice between PMS and AIF should therefore align with an investor’s personal investment preferences, risk tolerance, and financial goals.

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Benefits of AIF

Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) offer a distinct set of advantages for investors seeking to diversify beyond traditional investment avenues. These benefits are central to understanding what is AIF, as well as the difference between PMS and AIF.

  • Access to Non-Traditional Investments: AIFs allow investors to access a variety of non-traditional investments, such as private equity, real estate, hedge funds, and distressed assets. This diversification can potentially provide higher returns than traditional stocks and bonds.

  • Higher Potential Returns: By investing in markets and assets not accessible through traditional investment funds, AIFs often target higher returns. Their ability to employ sophisticated strategies, including leverage and derivatives, can further enhance earning potential.

  • Portfolio Diversification: AIFs contribute to portfolio diversification by including assets with a low correlation to traditional markets. This can help reduce overall portfolio risk and volatility, providing a buffer against market downturns.

  • Professional Management: Managed by experienced fund managers, AIFs benefit from expert insights and strategies tailored to maximize returns from alternative assets. This professional management is critical in navigating the often complex and opaque markets in which AIFs operate.

  • Regulatory Oversight: Regulated under SEBI (Alternative Investment Funds Regulations, 2012), AIFs offer a structured and secure investment environment. This regulatory framework provides a level of security for investors, ensuring compliance with investment norms and protection of investor interests.

  • Innovative Investment Strategies: AIFs are known for their innovative investment strategies, which can include private equity placements, venture capital, and structured debt. These strategies often allow for operational or financial restructuring of entities in which AIFs invest, leading to potential value creation.

  • Limited Investor Pool: The high minimum investment requirement limits the investor pool to those who can commit substantial capital, reducing the number of participants and allowing for more focused investment strategies.

  • Tax Benefits: Certain categories of AIFs, especially those investing in startups and early-stage ventures, may enjoy specific tax benefits under Indian tax laws, making them an attractive option for eligible investors.

While AIFs carry higher risks and are suited for investors with a higher risk tolerance, their benefits make them an attractive option for those looking to expand their investment horizon. Understanding these benefits is crucial when evaluating PMS vs AIF, as both offer distinct approaches to meeting diverse investment goals.

Choosing Between PMS and AIF: Factors to Consider

When deciding between Portfolio Management Services (PMS) and Alternative Investment Funds (AIF), investors must weigh several critical factors to align their investment choices with their financial objectives, risk tolerance, and market outlook. This evaluation is pivotal in understanding the difference between PMS and AIF and resolving the PMS vs AIF dilemma.

1. Investment Goals

  • PMS: Best suited for investors seeking personalized management of their portfolios with direct ownership of securities. PMS may be ideal for those who have specific financial goals and prefer active involvement in the management of their investments.

  • AIF: Appropriate for investors looking to diversify into non-traditional assets with potentially higher returns. AIFs are typically targeted by those willing to take on more risk for potentially higher rewards, particularly through investments that are not correlated with the standard market indices.

2. Risk Tolerance

  • PMS: Generally considered to have a moderate risk level, depending on the market and chosen investment strategy. However, the direct control over asset selection can potentially mitigate some risks.

  • AIF: Often involves higher risk due to investments in unlisted, illiquid assets and the use of leverage and complex strategies. Suitable for investors who are comfortable with a higher risk profile.

3. Minimum Investment Requirement

  • PMS: Requires a lower minimum investment compared to AIFs, at Rs. 50,00,000, making it more accessible for a broader investor base.

  • AIF: The entry threshold is considerably higher, usually at Rs. 1,00,00,000, targeting more affluent investors or institutional participants.

4. Liquidity Needs

  • PMS: Offers relatively higher liquidity compared to AIFs, as the securities are often listed and can be sold relatively easily, depending on market conditions.

  • AIF: Investments are generally less liquid, especially those in categories that involve venture capital, private equity, and real estate. Investors in AIFs should be prepared for longer lock-in periods and limited exit opportunities.

5. Regulatory Framework

  • PMS: Governed by SEBI (Portfolio Managers Regulations, 1993), which ensures transparency and investor protection with regular reporting and strict operational norms.

  • AIF: Regulated under SEBI (Alternative Investment Funds Regulations, 2012), providing a structured framework particularly for pooled investment vehicles.

6. Tax Considerations

  • PMS: Tax implications are based on individual transactions within the portfolio, which can be managed for tax efficiency depending on the holding period and type of asset.

  • AIF: Certain categories of AIFs may offer tax advantages, especially those investing in startups or other sectors that enjoy specific tax benefits under Indian law.

7. Investment Control and Customization

  • PMS: Offers high levels of customization and individual control over the investment decisions made within the portfolio.

  • AIF: While offering less direct control, provides exposure to specialized strategies managed by expert fund managers, which might not be accessible through PMS or other investment forms.

When considering what is AIF and how it contrasts with PMS, investors must carefully evaluate these factors. The choice between PMS and AIF should ideally reflect an investor’s personal investment philosophy, financial needs, and readiness to engage with different levels of market complexity and exposure.

PMS or AIF - Which is Right for You?

Deciding whether to invest in Portfolio Management Services (PMS) or Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) involves a comprehensive analysis of personal investment goals, risk tolerance, and financial capacity. This decision is pivotal when exploring the PMS vs AIF landscape and understanding the difference between PMS and AIF. Here are some guidelines to help determine which investment vehicle might best suit your financial aspirations.

Assess Your Financial Goals

  • PMS: If your goal is to have a tailored investment portfolio where specific preferences and objectives are addressed, PMS might be the right choice. PMS offers customized portfolios that can be adjusted to meet individual risk profiles and investment targets.

  • AIF: If you are inclined towards alternative investments and are seeking potentially high returns through diverse and often complex strategies, AIF could be more appropriate. AIFs are suitable for those looking to invest in non-traditional asset classes like private equity, real estate, or hedge funds.

Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance

  • PMS: Suitable for investors who are looking for personalized management but with a somewhat conservative approach compared to AIFs. PMS allows for direct investment in stocks and bonds, offering a balance between risk and potential returns.

  • AIF: Ideal for high-risk tolerance investors, as AIFs frequently engage in riskier investment strategies that are not typically accessible through public markets. AIFs may use leverage and other sophisticated methods to achieve their investment objectives, which can result in higher volatility and risk.

Consider Investment Minimums

  • PMS: With a lower entry of Rs. 50,00,000, PMS is more accessible for individual investors who may not have substantial capital but desire active portfolio management.

  • AIF: Requires a significantly higher investment minimum, usually Rs. 1,00,00,000, limiting it to more affluent investors or institutional entities.

Understand Liquidity Needs

  • PMS: Offers greater liquidity compared to AIFs. Investments are typically in listed securities which can be liquidated relatively easier, making PMS a better option for those who might need access to their funds on relatively short notice.

  • AIF: Investments in AIFs are usually less liquid, often involving longer lock-in periods. This makes AIFs more suitable for investors who can afford to have their capital tied up for extended periods without impacting their financial stability.

Reflect on the Level of Active Management Desired

  • PMS: Provides active management with a high degree of involvement and regular updates, allowing investors to be more hands-on with their investment decisions.

  • AIF: While also actively managed, investors in AIFs typically cede control to fund managers who execute complex strategies. This is ideal for investors who prefer to be less involved in the day-to-day management of their investments.

Analyze Regulatory Comfort

  • PMS and AIF: Both are regulated under SEBI, though their frameworks and compliance requirements differ. Investors should be comfortable with the level of regulatory oversight and the protections it affords.

Making the right choice between PMS and AIF depends on a careful evaluation of these factors. Investors should consult with financial advisors to better understand which option aligns more closely with their personal investment profile and long-term financial objectives.


Choosing between Portfolio Management Services (PMS) and Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) requires a thoughtful assessment of your financial landscape, investment goals, and personal risk tolerance. Both PMS and AIF offer unique advantages and cater to different types of investors within the spectrum of investment opportunities.

PMS provides a more personalized investment approach, allowing for direct control over individual securities and tailored portfolio strategies. This makes it an excellent choice for those who prefer hands-on engagement with their investments and have specific financial goals that need personalized attention. On the other hand, AIFs offer access to a broader range of non-traditional investments and strategies that have the potential for high returns, suited for those willing to accept higher risks and longer lock-in periods for a part of their investment portfolio.

Ultimately, the decision to choose between PMS and AIF should be based on a careful analysis of your investment capacity, the desired level of active management, and liquidity needs. By understanding the key differences between PMS and AIF, you can align your choice with your long-term financial objectives and risk appetite, ensuring that your investments not only meet your current financial situation but also pave the way for future financial growth and stability. Consulting with a financial advisor can also provide personalized insights and help refine your decision, ensuring that you choose the most appropriate path for your investment journey.

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  1. What is the minimum investment required for PMS and AIF?

The minimum investment for PMS is Rs. 50,00,000 depending on the provider. For AIF, the minimum investment is Rs. 1,00,00,000.

  1. How are PMS and AIF regulated in India?

PMS is regulated under the SEBI (Portfolio Managers) Regulations, 1993, while AIFs are governed by the SEBI (Alternative Investment Funds) Regulations, 2012.

  1. Who should consider investing in PMS vs AIF?

Investors seeking personalized portfolio management with direct control over their investments might prefer PMS. Those looking for higher potential returns through non-traditional investment avenues and can handle higher risk might consider AIF.

  1. Can I invest in both PMS and AIF simultaneously?

Yes, investors can choose to allocate parts of their portfolio to both PMS and AIF if they meet the investment minimums and are comfortable with the risk profiles of each.

  1. How does the risk profile of PMS compare to AIF?

PMS generally involves a moderate risk level, often perceived as less risky than AIF. AIFs typically engage in riskier investment strategies, including leveraging and investing in non-traditional assets, presenting a higher risk and potentially higher returns.

Want to learn more about PMS? Here are some interesting articles related to Portfolio Management Services in India:

  1. What is Portfolio Management Service - Types and Benefits

  2. What is the Minimum Investment Ticket Size for Portfolio Management Services (PMS)?

  3. Complete Guide to Factor Investing & the Wright Factor Fund PMS

  4. Fee Structure for the Wright Portfolio Management Service
  5. Path to Wealth Creation: Timeline To Initiate a PMS Account in India
  6. Understanding the PMS Process: Fund Pooling and Fund Accounting
  7. How to Open a PMS Account as an Investor in India?
  8. Understanding Portfolio Rebalancing in PMS: A Crucial Strategy for Wealth Management
  9. Risks of Investing in Portfolio Management Services (PMS): A Comprehensive Analysis

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