What is a High-Water Mark?

A high-water mark is the highest peak in value that an investment fund or account has reached. This term is often used in the context of fund manager compensation, which is performance-based. The high-water mark ensures the manager does not get paid large sums for poor performance. If the manager loses money over a period, he must get the fund above the high-water mark before receiving a performance bonus from the assets under management (AUM).