Monday, June 26, 2017


June 2017

The mutual fund industry's asset base declined marginally by 1.15% to Rs 19.03 lakh crore at the end of May 2017, mainly due to outflow from money market segments. In comparison, the assets under management (AUM) of the MF industry, comprising 42 players, were at an all-time high of Rs 19.26 lakh crore at the end of April 2017, as per the data of Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI). The industry's AUM had crossed Rs 10 lakh crore in May 2014, and it is expected to reach Rs 20 lakh crore this year. There is a drop in overall asset base of the industry due to net outflows from the liquid funds, which are susceptible to sharp inflows and outflows as corporates park short term money in these funds. Flows in equity, balanced and debt funds still remain strong. Overall, outflow in MF schemes stood at Rs 40,711 crore in May 2017 as compared to a staggering inflow of Rs 1.51 lakh crore in April 2017. Of this, liquid funds or money market category — with investments in cash assets such as Treasury Bills, certificates of deposit and commercial paper for shorter horizon — witnessed an outflow of Rs 64,692 crore. However, equity and equity-linked saving scheme (ELSS) saw an infusion of Rs 10,790 crore. Besides, balanced and income funds witnessed an inflow of Rs 7,663 crore and Rs 5,124 crore respectively. Investor awareness programme and paperless investing platform for mutual fund investing are the two major factors that have facilitated this growth in net inflows. In addition to these, even the investors' confidence in mutual funds has increased. Now, they are holding their investments in equity oriented schemes for a longer period of time for both lump sum as well as Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) investments.

Mutual fund houses added close to 19 lakh investor accounts in April-May of 2017-18, taking the total tally to a record 5.72 crore, driven by growing interest from retail and HNI investors alike. This is on top of 77 lakh folios added in the entire past fiscal and 59 lakh in the preceding financial year. In the two years, investor accounts went up following robust contribution from smaller towns. Folios are numbers designated to individual investor accounts though an investor can have multiple ones. According to data from the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) on total investor accounts with 42 active fund houses, the number of folios rose to a record 5,71,90,112 at the end of May 2017 from 5,53,99,631 at the end of March 2017, a gain of 17.90 lakh. Growing participation from retail as well as HNI (high net worth individuals) categories have contributed to higher overall investor accounts. The number of retail investor accounts, which comprise equity, equity-linked saving schemes and balanced categories, surged to 4.60 crore in May 2017 from 4.4 crore at the end of March 2017. A good percentage of investors stay invested in equity oriented schemes for at least 24 months or more than that. Over half of the retail equity AUM remained invested for more than two years in FY 2016-17, shows the latest AMFI data. Of the Rs.3.19 lakh crore retail equity assets as on March 2017, 52% or Rs.1.65 lakh crore has been carried forward since FY 2014-15, i.e, more than 24 months. While as on March 2016, 53% of retail money had been carried forward for more than two years and stood at Rs.1.16 crore. This increase in equity-oriented schemes’ holding period is for applicability of long-term capital gain. Even the investors' confidence in mutual funds has increased. 

Mutual funds' assets under management (AUM) from B15 grew to Rs 3.41 lakh crore in May 2017 from Rs 2.32 lakh crore in May 2016, according to the data available on the Association of Mutual Funds in India website. Contribution of small towns -- known as beyond the top 15 cities (B15) -- to mutual funds' asset base in India surged 47% this year. AMFI data showed that 18 percent of the assets of the mutual fund industry came from B15 locations in May 2017. The growth in the assets can be attributed to a positive sentiment in domestic markets along with well-timed initiatives by SEBI to re-energise the mutual fund industry, particularly higher commission to distributors for going to B-15 cities. To increase penetration and popularise mutual fund products in rural areas, SEBI, in 2012, had mandated fund houses to go to 'B15' cities and for this the regulator had allowed fund houses to charge an additional 30 basis points in the total expense ratio if new inflows from B15 cities are at least 30% of gross new inflows in the scheme or 15% of the average assets under management, whichever is higher. After SEBI's push, many fund houses revised their commission structure for distributors in B15 to incentivise them to get more people to invest in mutual funds. High commission is paid mainly for equity-oriented funds and monthly income plans where the fund houses feel they can earn enough for themselves, before passing on the rest to distributors as commission. A major portion of the products sold within this fast growing pocket of the industry are equity funds unlike the top 15 space, where institutional dominance tilts the balance towards fixed income products. In May 2017, 54% of the assets from B15 locations were in equity schemes, while equity-oriented schemes accounted for 31% of the T15 assets in May 2017 and 27% in May 2016. The higher concentration in debt in T15 locations was due to the presence of institutions in this segment. B15 cities are those which are beyond these top 15 cities New Delhi (including NCR), Mumbai (including Thane & Navi Mumbai), Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kanpur, Lucknow, Panjim, Pune and Surat. Meanwhile, as per SEBI, equity mutual funds added over 6.5 lakh folios in the last month. Besides, 26% of assets held by individual investors was from B15 locations and about 10% of institutional assets were from B15 locations. Institutional assets were concentrated in T15 locations, accounting for 90.03% of the total. The shares of B15 assets, individual and institutional categories, increased since May 2016. The share of T15 assets, individual categories, decreased marginally. In April 2017, 17% of the assets of the mutual fund industry came from B15 locations. Assets from B15 locations have increased from Rs 2.24 lakh crore in April 2016 to Rs 3.23 lakh crore in April 2017, an increase of 43.7%, according to AMFI data.

Piquant Parade

Top mutual fund houses received about 17,569 complaints from investors in 2016-17, a surge of 40% from the preceding fiscal, mainly due to increase in folio numbers. These complaints pertain to data corrections in investor details and non-updation of changes about address, PAN (Permanent Account Number) details and nomination, among others. Large number of complaints was received due to increase in folio base or investor accounts. Besides, illegible data provided by investors as well as errors made by investors while filling up application forms helped in raising the number of grievances. As per Association of Mutual Funds of India (AMFI) data, the top five mutual fund houses - ICICI Prudential MF, HDFC MF, Reliance MF, Birla Sunlife MF and SBI MF - together received 17,569 investor grievances last fiscal compared with 12,579 complaints in 2015-16. The folios - numbers designated to individual investor accounts, though one investor can have multiple folios - grew to 2.72 crore from 2.23 crore during the same period. Among the top fund houses, SBI MF saw the biggest rise in investor grievances last fiscal, with complaints growing four-fold to 6,924. It was followed by Birla Sunlife MF, which saw complaints rising by 51% to 1,831 and ICICI Prudential MF witnessed an uptick of 2% to 4,648. However, HDFC MF witnessed 24% decline in the number of complaints at 2,857, while Reliance MF saw a drop of 10% to 1,309. Markets regulator SEBI first took note of the rising investor complaints in mutual funds in 2011 and hauled up fund houses for not taking serious note of the grievances.

Regulatory Rigmarole

To improve ease of doing business, markets regulator SEBI launched an online registration mechanism for mutual funds. The move would help in making it easier for the existing and new fund houses to complete their registration with SEBI much faster and in a cost-effective way. In a circular, the regulator said that it has decided to operationalise 'Sebi Intermediary Portal' for the entities to submit the mutual funds registration applications online. All the applications for registration of mutual funds would be made through this portal only. The applicants will be separately required to submit relevant documents viz declarations/ undertakings required as a part of application form prescribed in relevant regulations, in physical form only for records, without impacting the online processing of applications for registration. Earlier Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech for 2017-18 announced that the process of registration of financial market intermediaries will be made fully online by SEBI.

Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) has appointed consultancy PwC to prepare a white paper on the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) and its impact on the mutual fund sector. Under the GST regime, asset management companies (AMCs) will have to pay service tax of 18% on the investment management fees they earn. Until now, the rate was 15%. This might lead to an additional tax outgo of Rs 300-500 crore annually, assuming sector revenues of Rs 10,000-15,000 crore. Since the tax is ultimately borne by investors, their expenses will go up marginally. Management fees are part of the total expense ratio charged annually by AMCs. These include marketing and selling expenses, fees paid towards registrar and transfer agents, trustees, auditors, etc. Typically, equity funds charge management fees of 1-1.5% of the assets under management, while debt funds charge between 0.05% and 0.5%. The GST Act says the tax is to be paid at a place where it has been consumed. AMCs will have to do detailed revenue and cost allocation for each of their branches and give the inputs to the individual states. AMCs and distributors need clarity on whether the GST needs to be paid state-wise or in a consolidated manner. AMCs will directly deduct the 18% service tax from distributors that do not take a GST registration, under the reverse charge mechanism. Those taking a GST registration will come under the forward charge mechanism, whereby the tax will have to be paid by the distributor directly. Under existing laws, distributors earning less than Rs 10 lakh annually do not need to pay any service tax or register separately. However, post GST implementation, these distributors will have to register under GST and later claim exemption. However, it is not yet clear if distributors earning less than Rs 20 lakh and catering to investors in different states can claim any exemption under the GST regime. Distributors working on a commission model may not have to register separately in each state. However, registered investment advisors working on a fee model and catering to investors in different states may have to register separately in different states leading to higher compliance costs.

The competition in the online mutual fund distribution space is heating up. India’s largest e-commerce giant Flipkart is likely to start distribution of financial products like mutual funds and insurance. The company has already started offering loans to sellers in partnership with banks and NBFCs. Now, apart from loans, Flipkart is also looking at mutual funds and insurance products. To start with, Flipkart would target its seller to distribute financial products. Other e-commerce giants like Amazon already owns stake in online distribution and robo advisory firm, BankBazaar. Similarly, Snapdeal had also invested in financial services startup Rupeepower, which help people compare credit cards and loans across banks. Two years back, SEBI had constituted a committee headed by Nandan Nilekani to recommend measures to reduce cost structure of mutual funds. The committee had recommended SEBI to introduce a new distribution channel through e-commerce websites like FlipKart, Amazon and Snapdeal. In addition, the market regulator has allowed investors to invest up to Rs 50,000 per financial year per mutual fund using one time password (OTP) through eKYC. SEBI is likely to approach the ministry of finance requesting allowing bank KYC and Aadhar as valid KYC and IPV to invest in mutual funds. If implemented, it will help distributors especially online players to on board clients on a real time basis. In addition, payment banks like Airtel Payment bank and Paytm have expressed their interests to launch financial distribution services. Recently, SEBI has allowed fund houses to facilitate transaction in mutual funds of up to Rs50,000 through e-wallets/digital wallets. The online MF distribution space is already getting crowded with many players looking to cash in on the growing e-commerce trend.

It is vacation time again! The next blog will appear on the last Monday of August 2017, where the mutual fund round-up for the months of July and August 2017 will be covered. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 2017

The fourth largest fund house in terms of AUM, Birla Sun Life has received highest net inflows of close to Rs.40,000 crore in April-December 2016, according to the latest SEBI data. The inflows increased by 202% or by Rs.26,609 crore compared to the corresponding period last year. HDFC Mutual Fund closely followed Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund with inflows of Rs.37,619 crore in April-December 2016, an increase of Rs.23,256 crore or 162% in a year. In terms of percentage, DHFL Pramerica Mutual Fund witnessed the highest growth. The net inflows of the fund house grew from just Rs.19 crore to Rs.1500 crore in April-December 2016. Last year has been a year of transformation. During this time, DHFL Pramerica AMC acquired Deutsche’s Indian asset management business after which they have started building their business. SEBI data shows that top ten fund houses in terms of AUM witnessed inflows during April-December 2016. Other than that, Invesco Mutual Fund and BOI AXA Mutual Fund also witnessed a substantial rise in inflows. Emerging fund houses witnessed net outflows in April-December 2016 with Edelweiss Mutual Fund and Taurus Mutual Fund recording the highest net outflows among emerging fund houses. Edelweiss Mutual Fund saw an outflow of Rs.1,049 crore during Apr-Dec, which led to a 227.46% decline in the net inflows from the previous year. Edelweiss Mutual Fund acquired JP Morgan Mutual Fund last year. Taurus Mutual Fund saw outflow of Rs.985 crore. PPFAS Mutual Fund, IIFL Mutual Fund, HSBC Mutual Fund, Shriram Mutual Fund and Sahara Mutual Fund were the other emerging fund houses that witnessed outflows during the same period.

Regulatory Rigmarole

Investors will be permitted to purchase mutual funds worth up to Rs 50,000 through digital wallets. Investments up to Rs 50,000 per mutual fund per financial year can be made using e-wallets, while redemptions of such investments can be made only to the bank account of a unit holder. E-wallet issuers would not be permitted to offer any incentive such as cash back, directly or indirectly, for investing in mutual fund scheme through them. Besides, the e-wallet's balance loaded through cash or debit card or net banking can only be used for subscription to mutual funds schemes. Balance loaded through credit card, cash back, promotional schemes would not be allowed for subscription to mutual funds. The limit of Rs 50,000 would be an umbrella limit for investment by an investor through e-wallet and/or cash, per mutual fund. Besides, mutual funds and asset management companies have been allowed to provide instant online access facility to resident individual investors in liquid schemes. In this case, the limit would be up to Rs 50,000 or 90 percent of folio value, whichever is lower. For providing such facility AMCs would not be allowed to borrow. Liquidity is to be provided out of the available funds from the scheme and AMCs to put in place a mechanism to meet the liquidity demands. This facility can also be used for investment in mutual funds through tie-ups with payments banks provided necessary approvals are taken from the RBI. Currently, any scheme providing the facility would reduce the limit to Rs 50,000 immediately.

With an aim to bring in greater transparency in dealings of mutual funds, markets regulator SEBI asked mutual fund houses to disclose to investors the remuneration of employees earning Rs 1 crore in a financial year. Like listed companies, mutual fund houses will also have to disclose the annual salary of chief executive officer (CEO), chief investment officer (CIO), chief operating officer (COO) and any other top official and also the ratio of CEO's remuneration to median employee salary. Besides, mutual fund's total Average Assets Under Management (AAUM), as well as debt and equity AAUM and rate of growth over last three years would have to be disclosed. The fund houses will have to disclose these information within one month from the end of a financial year starting with 2016-17. To promote transparency in remuneration policies so that top executive remuneration is aligned with the interest of investors, fund houses will have to make the disclosures pertaining to a financial year on its website under a separate head 'remuneration'. Under this, mutual fund houses will have to disclose name, designation and remuneration of CEO, CIO and COO as well as salaries drawn by top ten employees in terms of remuneration for that financial year. Besides, name, designation and remuneration of every employee whose total pay package is equal to or more than Rs 1.02 crore for that financial year need to be disclosed. Salary details of part-time employees, who received at least Rs 8.5 lakh per month during their stint with the company should also be disclosed.

Complying with the latest Finance Ministry circular on FATCA, AMFI has asked fund houses to freeze non-FATCA compliant accounts with immediate effect. This means, non-FATCA compliant investors cannot execute fresh mutual fund transactions. Earlier, the ministry had directed fund houses to comply with FATCA regulations before April 30, 2017. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is an anti-tax evasion law under which fund houses are required to report information on US investors to US IRS (Internal Revenue Service) through CBDT. India agreed ‘in substance’ to FATCA by signing an Intergovernmental Agreement Model 1 (IGA-1) with the US, in effect from July 9, 2015. Simply put, the legislation is meant to prevent wealthy US individuals from parking money overseas to avoid paying taxes. In a communication sent to fund houses, AMFI has asked them not to entertain any financial service request such as redemption, lump-sum investment, etc. from non-FATCA compliant investors. AMFI has, however, directed fund houses to allow such investors to continue with their SIP/SWP/STP until expiry. Such investors cannot redeem their mutual fund investments. Similarly, fund houses can process payments arising out of dividend or maturity of close-end funds, AMFI added. In addition, AMFI clarified that fund houses can process non-financial service requests such as registration or change in nomination, bank account, mobile number and email address of non-FATCA compliant investors. Non-FATCA compliant investors can still update their FATCA information through all registrar and transfer agents by submitting a self-declaration form. Investors who have invested in mutual funds after August 31, 2015 are FATCA compliant since fund houses insist investors submit a self-declaration form before initiating any transaction. The problem is with the accounts opened between July 1, 2014 and August 31, 2015. The move is therefore likely to affect large fund houses (top 15 AMCs in terms of AUM) as they have old assets.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India has requested the Finance Ministry to allow bank KYC as proof for making mutual fund investments. A slew of fund houses had requested SEBI Chief to simplify onboarding of investors by allowing bank KYC and Aadhaar as valid identification to invest in mutual funds. Currently, a PAN card is required, along with an address proof and a cancelled cheque to be KYC-compliant. Similarly, for opening a bank account, PAN card and address proof is required. But, Aadhar card holders have already undergone In Person Verification (IPV). So, there is no need to do KYC and IPV again. At present, a new investor has to wait for nearly a week after submitting the above documents to invest more than Rs 50,000 in mutual funds. The ones who invest in mutual funds have a bank account so allowing bank KYC and Aadhaar as valid proof of KYC and IPV would make KYC procedure smoother and easier, which will reduce turnaround time to onboard a new client. Although the government had launched Central KYC last year to do away with the requirement of doing multiple KYC, it will take time to get operational.

SEBI has allowed mutual funds, AIFs and PMS to invest in securities of International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs). An IFSC does not follow domestic economic law; instead, they follow international practices. IFSCs deal with flows of finance, financial products and services across borders. Companies setting up offices in IFSCs cannot deal in local currency. In addition, IFSCs can provide fund raising services for individuals, corporations and governments and wealth management services to foreign investors. In India, Gandhinagar has one IFSC called Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT). Fund houses can now invest in securities, which are listed in IFSCs, securities issued by them and securities issued by the companies incorporated in India. Experts say that the move may help AMCs. Only established companies set up offices in FPSCs. In future, stock exchanges having presence in IFSCs may list companies having businesses in IFSCs helping AMCs to invest in such companies to diversify the scope of investments. Currently, fund houses can accept investments from foreign investors through FPI route. In addition, they can invest in securities of foreign companies but such scrips are treated as debt securities for taxation purpose. 

There is good news for the mutual fund industry. The participation of retail investors in the mutual fund industry has increased by 50% to reach Rs.9.28 lakh crore. Retail AUM now constituted almost half of the overall AUM of Rs.19.28 lakh crore. Rising retail AUM is a healthy sign for the industry as retail investors stay put for long term compared to institutional investors. Of the Rs.9.28 lakh crore retail AUM, Rs.2.33 lakh crore or 25% came from B15 cities as on April 2017. Another good sign for the industry is increasing participation of retail investors in equity funds. The AUM in retail investors in equity funds increased by 50% year-on-year to Rs.6.62 lakh crore in April 2017 shows AMFI data. With this, retail equity AUM now constitutes 94% of the overall equity AUM of the mutual fund industry. Equity funds have done well over the years. In addition, people are confident because of GST and other economic reforms.  The confidence of the retail investors can be seen from the fact that a lot of investments is coming through SIPs in equity funds. The investor appetite for equities can also be derived from the fact that the number of folios under equity schemes increased by 17% from 3.87 crore folios in April 2016 to 4.51 crore in April 2017. Overall, the retail folios for the month stood at 5.46 crore.

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 2017

The new financial year started on a positive note for the Indian mutual fund industry as it came within striking distance of the Rs. 20 lakh crore milestone and could touch the magic figure in June 2017 itself if industry assets grow by another 4%. According to data from Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI), the Assets Under Management (AUM) of the Indian mutual fund industry grew 9.8% from Rs. 17.54 lakh crore in March 2017 to Rs. 19.26 lakh crore in April 2017. Of the Rs. 1.5 lakh crore that investors pumped in different categories in April 2017, liquid, income and equity funds (including Equity Linked Savings Schemes or ELSS) saw the highest inflows. The three categories saw net inflows of Rs. 0.99 lakh crore, Rs. 0.35 lakh crore and Rs. 0.09 lakh crore, respectively. Equity funds also got support from the broader market rally as BSE Sensex touched an all-time high of 30,000 in April 2017. Secular growth of Systematic Investment Plans (SIPs) and investor awareness campaigns have been the two mainstays of the Indian mutual fund industry in the recent past.

Mutual fund houses added over 77 lakh investor accounts in 2016-17, taking the total tally to a record 5.54 crore on growing interest of retail as well as HNI investors. In comparison, 59 lakh folios were added in the preceding fiscal. In the last two years, investor accounts have increased following robust contribution from smaller towns. Folios are numbers designated to individual investor accounts, though an investor can have multiple ones. According to AMFI data on total investor accounts with 42 active fund houses, the number of folios rose to a record 5,53,99,631 at the end of March 2017, from 4,76,63,024 at the end of March 2016, a gain of 16% or 77.37 lakh. Growing participation from retail as well as HNI categories have helped in raising overall investor accounts. Individually, HNIs' folios rose by 39% to 25.12 lakh. Last fiscal saw a surge in the number of retail investor accounts, which comprises equity, equity-linked saving schemes and balanced categories, by 15% to 5.23 crore. The fiscal year 2016-17 saw retail and HNI folios touching the highs of March 2010. These folios took almost six years to get back to the March 2010 levels of 4.76 crore. They crossed this mark in June 2016 and as of March 2017 stood at 5.48 crore.

Mutual fund managers purchased stocks worth close to Rs 10,000 crore in April 2017, making it the highest investment in five months, on sustained participation by retail investors. This comes on top of over Rs 51,000 crore investment in stocks in the entire 2016-17 financial year. Fund houses are upbeat about the industry's performance in the ongoing fiscal while expecting investment from new investors to fuel the growth of the sector. As per data released by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), mutual fund managers invested a net sum of Rs 9,918 crore in stock markets in April 2017, much higher than the Rs 4,191 crore infused in March 2017. This was the highest infusion by fund managers since November 2016, when they had invested a net sum of Rs 13,775 crore in stock markets. Apart from equities, fund managers invested a staggering Rs 58,000 crore in debt markets in April 2017.

HDFC Mutual Fund is still the largest fund house in terms of equity AUM. The fund house lost its top position as the mutual fund house managing the largest AUM last year to ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund but it turned out to be a winner in the equity AUM category. HDFC Mutual Fund manages a total AUM of Rs.2.37 lakh crore of which 40% of the assets is in equity funds. Equity AUM of the fund house has increased by over 45% from Rs. 63,900 crore in FY 2015-16 to Rs. 93,000 crore in FY 2016-17. This growth can be attributed to the performance of their funds and strong distribution network of the fund house. ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund which currently manages the largest AUM in the industry stood at the second position with an equity AUM of Rs. 89,377 crore. Similarly, Reliance Mutual Fund stood at third position with equity AUM of close to Rs.67,000 crore. In terms of percentage, SBI Mutual Fund recorded highest equity AUM growth last fiscal. The fund house witnessed 92% growth in equity AUM from Rs.34,165 crore to Rs.65,744 crore. This could be partially due to inflows in ETFs because of EPFO’s contribution. Schemes whose assets have increased manifold in the last year include SBI Bluechip Fund and SBI Magnum Taxgain Scheme. In fact, the AUM of SBI Bluechip has increased from nearly Rs.5,000 crore in March 2016 to Rs.13,000 crore in March 2017. Overall, the total equity AUM of the top 10 fund houses stood at Rs.5.16 lakh crore as on March 2017. Interestingly, this indicates that the top 10 fund houses account for nearly 82% of the total equity AUM in the industry. The total equity AUM of the industry grew by 46% to Rs.6,30  lakh crore as on March 31, 2017 as against Rs. 4.31 lakh crore in the previous corresponding year. Fund houses earn from the total expense ratio charged on schemes. Equity funds, which charge higher expenses as compared to debt funds, are more profitable for fund houses. It saw net inflows of over Rs. 3.50 lakh crore of which Rs. 1.34 lakh crore was from equity funds, including ELSS, balanced funds and ETFs, which helped AMCs grow their PAT.

Piquant Parade

India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) will start selling mutual funds and insurance products of other companies by early 2018 and is open only to "non- exclusive" tie-ups. IPPB will start full-fledged operations in every district of the country by September 2017. The bank had launched its pilot project with a branch each in Raipur and Ranchi on January 30, 2017. IPPB will curate third party products before selling it so as to ensure that it is simple for customers. In addition, there would not be any training of staff necessary as no individual product of any specific company is to be sold. As per RBI norms, Payments banks have to focus on providing basic financial services, including social security and utility bill payments, remittance functions, and can mobilise deposits of up to Rs 1 lakh. In addition, they can distribute insurance, mutual funds and pension products, and act as business correspondent for other banks for credit products. As many as 100 entities including IDBI Bank, HSBC, Axis Bank, Deutsche Bank, Barclays Bank, Citibank, SBI and LIC have evinced interest in partnering with IPPB for various functions given the unmatched rural reach India Post has. The list of insurance companies which has approached the payments bank include HDFC Life, ICICI Prudential, Max Life Insurance and Bajaj Allianz Life. As part of its expansion drive, IPPB plans to open 650 new branches by September 2017. The Postal Department at present has a network of 1.55 lakh post offices and the new branches will be set up within them.

Private equity firms like Blackstone and General Atlantic have reportedly been eyeing a majority stake in Karvy Computershare. Both the PE firms are in separate talks to buy close to 74% stake in Karvy Computershare for roughly Rs.2,100 crore. While Australian R&T Computershare, which has 50% stake in the company, may exit the business by selling its entire stake, Karvy group is likely to offload its 24% stake in the company. In 2013, the National Stock Exchange bought 45% in CAMS from global buyout fund Advent International. Currently, Karvy Computershare services 25 fund houses.

To be continued…

Monday, May 15, 2017


May 2017

Closed-end NFOs rule the roost in the May 2017 NFONEST.

Sundaram Value Fund – Series VIII
Opens: May 2, 2017
Closes: May 16, 2017
Sundaram Mutual Fund has launched a new fund named as Sundaram Value Fund Series - VIII, a close ended equity fund with the duration of 4 years from the date of allotment of units. The objective of the fund is to provide capital appreciation by investing in a well-diversified portfolio of stocks through fundamental analysis. The fund will allocate up to 80% of assets in equity and equity related securities with high risk profile and invest up to 20% of assets in fixed income and money market instruments with low to medium risk profile. The performance of the fund will be benchmarked against S&P BSE 500 Index. The fund managers are S. Krishnakumar, Madanagopal Ramu (Co-Fund Manager - Equity) and Dwjendra Srivastava (Fixed Income).

Axis Equity Advantage Fund – Series I
Opens: May 5, 2017
Closes: May 19, 2017
Axis Mutual Fund has launched a new fund named as Axis Equity Advantage Fund - Series 1, a close ended equity fund. The fund will mature 1590 days from the date of allotment of units. The primary objective is to generate capital appreciation over medium to long-term from a diversified portfolio of predominantly equity and equity related instruments. It also aims to manage risk through use of active hedging techniques. The fund will allocate 65% to 100% of assets in equity and equity related instruments with high risk profile and invest up to 35% in debt and money market instruments with low to medium risk profile. Benchmark Index for the fund is a combination of Nifty 50 Index (75%) and Crisil Composite Bond Fund Index (25%). The fund managers are Shreyash Devalkar and Ashwin Patni.

SBI Dual Advantage Fund – Series XXII
Opens: May 8, 2017
Closes: May 22, 2017
SBI Mutual Fund has unveiled a new fund named as SBI Dual Advantage Fund - Series XXII, a close ended hybrid fund. The tenure of the fund is 1100 days from the date of allotment. The primary investment objective of the fund is to generate income by investing in a portfolio of fixed income securities maturing on or before the maturity of the fund. The secondary objective is to generate capital appreciation by investing a portion of the fund corpus in equity and equity related instruments. The fund will invest 55%-95% of assets in debt and debt related instruments, invest up to 10% of assets in money market instruments with low to medium risk profile and invest 5%-35% of assets in equity and equity related instruments including derivatives with high risk profile. Benchmark Index for the fund is CRISIL MIP Blended Fund Index. Rajeev Radhakrishnan shall manage debt portion and Ruchit Mehta shall manage investments in equity and equity related instruments of the fund.

ICICI Prudential Capital Protection Oriented Fund – Series XII
Opens: May 9, 2017
Closes: May 23, 2017
ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund has launched a new close ended capital protection fund named “ICICI Prudential Capital Protection Oriented Fund - Series XII - Plan A 1168 Days” with maturity period of 1168 days from the date of allotment. The asset allocation of the fund will be in such a way that the objective of the fund to protect capital will be met by investing a portion of the portfolio in highest rated debt securities and money market instruments. Hence, the fund will allocate 65 to 100 per cent of asset in debt instruments and money market instruments and 0 to 35 per cent of asset in equity and equity related instruments. The performance of the fund will be benchmarked against Crisil Composite Bond Fund Index (85 per cent) and CNX Nifty (15 per cent). Rahul Goswami, Ihab Dalwai, Vinay Sharma and Chandini Gupta will be the fund managers.

Sundaram Select Microcap Fund – Series XV
Opens: May 10, 2017
Closes: May 24, 2017
Sundaram Mutual Fund has launched a new fund named as Sundaram Select Micro Cap - Series XV, a closed-end equity fund. The tenure of the fund is 5 years from the date of allotment of units. The objective of the fund would be to generate capital appreciation by investing predominantly in equity/equity-related instruments of companies that can be termed as micro-caps. The fund will invest 80%-100% in equity and equity related securities of companies of micro-caps, invest up to 20% of assets in other equity (including investment in derivatives of large caps) with high risk profile and invest up to 20% of assets in fixed income and money market securities with low to medium risk profile. The performance of the fund will be benchmarked against S&P BSE Small Cap Index. The fund managers are S Krishnakumar and Dwijendra Srivastava.

Canara Robeco Capital Protection Oriented Fund – Series 8
Opens: May 12, 2017
Closes: May 26, 2017

Canara Robeco Mutual Fund has launched a new fund named as Canara Robeco Capital Protection Oriented Fund - Series 8, a close ended capital protection oriented fund. The tenure of the fund is 1140 days from the date of allotment. The investment objective of the fund is to seek capital protection by investing in fixed income securities maturing on or before the maturity of the fund and seeking capital appreciation by investing in equity and equity related instruments. The fund would allocate 70% to 100% of assets in Indian debt instruments and money market instruments with low to medium risk profile and up to 30% of assets in equity and equity related instruments with medium to high risk profile. Benchmark index for the fund is CRISIL MIP Blended Fund Index. The fund managers will be Shridatta Bhandwaldar and Suman Prasad.

Monday, May 08, 2017


May 2017

All the GEMs from the 2016 GEMGAZE but Tata Index Nifty Fund have performed reasonably well through thick and thin and figure prominently in the 2017 GEMGAZE too. 

Reliance ETF Nifty BeES Gem

Incorporated in December 2001, Reliance ETF Nifty BeES (formerly known as Goldman Sacs Nifty ETF Fund) has an AUM of Rs 912 crore. The one-year return of the fund is 22.5% as against the category average returns of 24.83%.  The top five stocks constitute 34.6% of the assets of the fund. The top three sectors finance, energy, and technology constitute 60.87% of the assets of the fund. The expense ratio of the fund is 0.49% and the turnover ratio is 62%. The fund is benchmarked against the Nifty 50. The fund is efficiently managed by Mr. Payal Kaipunjal since May 2014.

ICICI Prudential Index Fund Gem

The Rs 260 crore ICICI Prudential Index Fund, incorporated in February 2002, has earned a one-year return of 21.71% slightly trailing the category average return of 24.83%. Top five holdings constitute 33.87% of the portfolio. 60.67% of the assets are invested in finance, energy and technology, the top three sectors. While the portfolio turnover ratio is very high at 106%, the expense ratio is low at 0.93%. The fund is managed by Kayzad Eghlim since August 2009.

Franklin India Index Fund Gem

Franklin India Index Fund, incorporated in August 2000, has an AUM of Rs 241 crore. Its one-year return is 21.42%, slightly lower than the category average return of 24.83%. Top five holdings constitute 32.98% of the portfolio. 58.05% of the assets are invested in finance, energy and technology, the top three sectors. The expense ratio of the fund is 1.06%. The fund is benchmarked against the Nifty 50. The fund is managed by Varun Sharma since November 2015.

HDFC Index Sensex Plus Fund Gem

HDFC Index Sensex Plus Fund is a fifteen-year old fund with an AUM of Rs 108 crore. Its one-year return is 23.12%, almost nearing the category average of 23.47. Top five holdings constitute 37.7% of the portfolio. 56.24% of the assets are invested in finance, energy and technology, the top three sectors. The expense ratio of the fund as well as the turnover ratio is low at 1% and 7% respectively. The fund is benchmarked against the S&P BSE Sensex. The fund has been managed by Krishan Kumar Daga since October 2015.

UTI Nifty Index Fund Gem

Incorporated in March 2000, UTI Nifty Index Fund has an AUM of Rs 527 crore. The one-year return of the fund is 20.91% trailing the category average of 23.47%.  Top five holdings constitute 32.8% of the portfolio. 57.68% of the assets are invested in finance, energy and technology, the top three sectors. The portfolio turnover ratio is a moderate 49% and the expense ratio is very low at 02%. The fund is benchmarked against the Nifty 50. The fund is managed by Kaushik Basu since July 2011.

Monday, May 01, 2017

May 2017

An index fund is a collective investment scheme that aims to replicate the movements of an index of a specific financial market. Index funds today are a source of investment for investors looking at a long term, less risky form of investment. The success of index funds depends on their low volatility and therefore the choice of the index. An index is a group of securities that represents a particular segment of the market (stock market, bond market, etc.). Among the most well-known companies that develop market indexes internationally are Standard & Poor's and Dow Jones. Index funds will hold almost all of the securities in the same proportion as its respective index. Index funds can be structured as a mutual fund, an exchange-traded fund, or a unit investment trust. Since the index fund directly tracks the index composition, it does not involve active fund management. The lack of active management generally gives the advantage of lower fees (which otherwise reduce the investor's return). The difference between the index performance and the fund performance is called the "tracking error", or, colloquially, "jitter". This is usually because of the administration fees or time delays in tracking.

Index funds provide low-cost access for investors to buy and hold leading stocks. And holding them is a key strategy. In the words of Bogle, the pioneer of index funds “Time is your friend; impulse is your enemy”.

Weighing the balance…

1. Cost of Investments - The cost associated with the management of an index fund is much lesser than that of a managed fund, which requires active trading (churn). Hence, index funds save on expenses like brokerage and transaction costs. Moreover, since a fund manager is not involved, the fund management charges are lower and hence the expense ratio is lower. The average expense ratio of actively managed fund is 2-2.5%, while it is 1-1.5% in the case of index funds.
2. Management Style - An experienced fund manager, following a structured investment approach is like a visionary leader marshalling his resources. Based on the real-time developments and trend analysis, he or she can take strategic decisions that can lead the fund towards outperformance. This aspect is missing for a passive fund.
3. Limited downside - Unlike index funds that mirror the market, managed funds invest in handpicked securities. A fund manager has the freedom to limit the downside by holding only performing securities. In the case of index funds, they fall as the market falls. They are vulnerable to market volatility and systemic risk. For example, during a severe economic recession, an index fund’s value may drop considerably.
4. Fund Manager Risk - There is a chance your fund manager might make a poor decision. He might be subject to some form of systemic pressures or might end-up investing in an underperforming stock. There is a chance of him quitting the fund too. These situations can affect your investments. Index funds negate this risk by passively investing only in securities that represent a particular index.
5. Less risky - Index funds are less risky than actively managed mutual funds, since they are constructed to mirror the market, rather than outperform it. In addition, since market indexes are highly diversified in nature, investing in index funds is far less risky than purchasing one type of security or shares in a few firms.

6. Traded on exchanges - Most mutual funds can be traded only on NAV (i.e. the net asset value declared at the end of the day). However, since index funds are traded on exchanges, one can buy and sell them any time and take advantage of the real-time prices.
7. Profits not restricted to capital gains - Index funds typically also hold extensive securities, which pay dividends to investors, so profits are not restricted to capital gains.

…and the underperformance…

According to data sourced from Accord Fintech, the index fund category has returned 27.34% in the last one year, 13.10% in three years, 11.2% in five years and 7.24% in the last ten years. If you compare these returns with the returns from small cap, mid cap and large cap funds, index funds lag them. In the past one year, the small cap, mid cap and large cap categories have returned 44.47%, 38.09% and 28.66%.
The latest SPIVA India suggests that the average rupee invested in equity mutual funds continues to grow faster than the index. The report points out that in the large cap fund segment 66.3%, 54.6% and 54.95% of large cap equity funds in India underperformed the S&P BSE 100 respectively over a one year, five year and ten year periods ending December 2016. But considering the asset weighted performance, large cap funds outperformed the index indicating that large cap equity funds have performed better than the index.
In the midcap space, while 71.11% of the funds lagged the S&P BSE Mid cap index over the one year period ending December 2016, a majority of the funds outperformed the index over the three, five and ten year periods.
In ELSS the underperformance was limited to 10.81% and 25% over the three and five year periods while 64.29% and 50% of the funds underperformed over the one and ten year periods. On an asset weighted basis, both categories witnessed underperformance relative to the relevant index over one year but registered outperformance over longer time frames.

…Index funds not in vogue in India

Index funds in India are not as popular in India as they ought to be. Why? Globally, it has been witnessed that as markets become more efficient, it becomes harder for fund managers to beat their benchmarks. Passive funds progressively become the preferred investment vehicle in such markets. In the Indian market's most efficient segment, the large-cap space (funds with more than 80% allocation to large-cap stocks), passive funds have a significant presence. Today, returns from index funds are smaller compared to other diversified equity mutual funds, and investors generally avoid these funds. It has been proven that some random stocks could beat market returns.

Warren Buffett and Benjamin Graham have recommended index funds as one of the best investments for small investors who do not have the capacity to pick their own quality stocks or mutual funds. This is exactly what peddlers of index funds have been using as their rationale to sell such funds in India for long. However, it may make sense for American investors to invest in index funds simply because the index funds there are far more indicative of the broader market (as they track indices that contain 500 to 5,000 companies). In India, you have just two indices available – the 30 share BSE-Sensex and the 50 share NSE-Nifty. Such a small number of companies are not indicative of the broader Indian market. If a great company is not big or if a large percentage of its shareholding is held by promoters (which means a low free-float), it will never find itself in an index fund (while a smart fund manager would own it in his actively managed fund). Alternatively, just because it is a big company and has seen a great rise in its stock price in the ‘past’, it will sneak into the index, and thus the index fund.

Why they falter

There are several reasons index funds falter. Here are three big ones…

Index funds buy high and sell low

Index funds largely track the market capitalization of companies that form part of the index. So as a company gains in market capitalization (and thus gets expensive in terms of valuations like price-to-earnings or price-to-book value), the index fund manager has to buy more of it to get it to a higher weightage in his fund as well. On the other hand, a company that falls in market capitalization and also in terms of valuations gets a lower weightage in the index. The index fund manager follows by selling a part of this company from his fund to match its new weightage. An index fund is therefore an automatic mechanism to buy high and sell low. This tactic can never be given as a sane investment advice.

Index funds buy the past and ignore the future

Index funds tend to have the most significant portion of their assets in large, mature companies. While this may sound a ‘safe’ strategy on the face of it, the problem with this is that the largest companies in a stock market index are yesterday’s winners. They got to be the largest by delivering exceptional returns to investors over the course of many years, but in the past. However, given the way industries develop, grow, mature and then decline, it is likely that most of these companies will earn much lower returns in the future. This is however barring a major reinvention led by a strong management team, which we find in very few companies in India. So an index fund is largely a portfolio of mature companies, many past their prime and with years of stagnation or decline ahead of them. While preference needs to be given to the past performance of companies, our interest should lie in where these companies are headed in the future (not in terms of EPS numbers, but in terms of their businesses). So a company that has a great future ahead of it in terms of business potential is what should attract us. Index funds do not tend to hold such companies.

Index funds stick with stocks till they are kicked out

The ranking of the 30 largest companies in India changes nearly every second as stock prices fluctuate up and down. This is not a big deal for companies that are at the top of the rankings. However, at the bottom of the table, some companies drop out of the list while other companies manage to sneak into the top 30. As a result, the BSE periodically drops some companies from the Sensex (that are not doing well in the stock market) and adds others (that are doing well). What do you think happens before and immediately after the BSE makes these changes to the index (the Sensex)? Since index fund managers have to follow the indices’ portfolio weights in order to minimize their tracking error, they hold on to the dropped companies till the last second while active managers sell them weeks or months before they are dropped from the index (and for other reasons that are related to business performance instead of stock market performance). Index fund managers also do not start buying the newly added companies until they are officially added while active managers already have the new (and better) stocks in hand.

The bottomline, managed mutual funds still dominate the mutual fund landscape in India.

Monday, April 24, 2017

April 2017

The Assets Under Management (AUM) of the Indian mutual fund industry witnessed an exceptional growth of 42% in the FY2017. According to Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) data, AUM grew from Rs. 12.3 lakh crore in March 2016 to Rs. 17.5 lakh crore in March 2017. The Quarterly Average Assets Under Management (QAAUM) also registered a QoQ growth of 8% in the last quarter of FY2017. The growth can be attributed to strong retail participation and overall market gains. FY2017 turned out to be a very good year for the mutual fund industry with investors pouring in Rs. 3.4 lakh crore across categories. The net inflows in liquid, income and equity (including Equity Linked Savings Schemes or ELSS) categories have been to the tune of Rs. 1.2 lakh crore, Rs. 0.96 lakh crore, and Rs. 0.70 lakh crore, respectively. Equity funds (including ELSS) witnessed net inflows of Rs. 8,216 crore in March 2017 compared with Rs. 6,462 crore in February 2017. In March 2017, the assets of Equity funds (including ELSS) reached an all-time high of Rs. 5.4 lakh crore. The category witnessed MoM jump of 4.5% and YoY growth of 40.7%. In FY2017, total inflow in the category has been Rs. 70,367 crore with net inflows in every month. Retail participation in the equity category is high because of the popularity of the Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) route. According to AMFI, the mutual fund industry added about 6.2 lakh SIP accounts every month on an average during FY2017 (till February 2017), with an average ticket size of Rs. 3,100 per account.
The total folio count at the end of March 2017 stood at 5.54 crore, 1.9% higher than February 2017, according to data from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). In FY2017, the mutual fund industry added 77.4 lakh new folios or around 6.4 lakh new folios every month despite volatility in overall market conditions. March 2017 saw the highest number of folios added in a month in FY2017 at 10.1 lakh. The growth was driven by the ELSS category that added 3.2 lakh folios in the month. Out of the 10.1 lakh folios, 7.4 lakh came from the equity (including the ELSS) category. The folio count for the liquid category more than doubled in FY2017, suggesting retail investors are looking at this route for surplus cash deposit.

SBI Mutual Fund saw the highest growth in its AUM in absolute terms. The fund house has added over Rs.16,000 crore to its kitty to reach 1.57 lakh crore AUM in March 2017 as against Rs.1.41 lakh crore in December 2016, a growth of 11%. HDFC Mutual Fund and Reliance Mutual Fund closely follow SBI in terms of AUM growth in absolute terms. Both the fund houses added over Rs.15,000 crore to their AUM kitty. In terms of size, fund houses like ICICI Prudential, HDFC, Reliance and Birla Sun Life still rule the roost with the highest recorded AUM for the last quarter at Rs.2.43 lakh crore, Rs.2.37 lakh crore, Rs. 2.11 lakh crore and Rs.1.95 lakh crore respectively. In terms of percentage, emerging fund houses like Mahindra, IIFL and BOI AXA have recorded growth of 37%, 33% and 23% respectively, largely on account of small base. The growth is largely due to sustained inflows in equity funds through SIP and mark to market gain. While fund houses have been receiving close to Rs.4000 crore each month through SIP, BSE Sensex has gained 11% in the last quarter of FY 2015-16. Thanks to increasing participation of retail investors in mutual fund through SIP and mark to market gain, the industry has witnessed a healthy growth in its assets in FY 2016-17.

Piquant Parade

BSE Star Mutual Fund distribution platform claims to have received nearly 10 lakh orders in March 2017. The total value of these orders is over Rs. 15000 crore. The platform has received over 1 lakh order in a single day on March 10, March 15 and March 27.The number of transactions has doubled in FY 2016-17. Such transactions have increased from 33 lakh in FY 2015-16 to 65.5 lakh in FY 2016-17. In terms of value, it has grown to Rs.75,000 crore in FY 16-17 from Rs.44,000 crore in FY 15-16. It is now the largest distribution platform for mutual funds in India. Currently, there are 3400 members registered with the platform of which 1340 members are active.

Tata Sons are planning to globalise their mutual fund by getting a foreign strategic partner, who will hold a stake of at least 26%. Discussions were underway with Vanguard Group, Allianz SE, Japanese and Belgian asset management firms. Currently, Tata Sons hold 67.9% stake in Tata Asset Management; and the remaining 22.09% is with Tata Investment Corporation.

AMFI, the mutual fund industry body has launched a multimedia campaign, as a part of the investor awareness programme. The campaign will aim to position mutual funds as a preferred investment option. The core message will be “Mutual Funds Sahi Hai”, and will be delivered through different media outlets such as TV, Digital, radio, print, cinema and outdoor hoardings. The campaign will aim at assuring the prospective investors that mutual funds are the right option for them. To improve the investment environment in equity markets, and to create awareness on mutual funds as a distinct asset class, SEBI has mandated mutual funds to set apart two basis points (bps) of their net assets for investor education. 1 bps of the said collection, i.e. half the amount given out by each fund house will be used by the financial literacy committee of AMFI to spread financial awareness.

While the mutual fund industry is spending a large sum of money on television and digital platforms to spread awareness, newspapers and distributors remain the major sources of information for mutual fund investors. In a survey called SEBI Investor Survey (SIS) 2015, the market regulator has found that many investors prefer traditional channels such as newspapers, distributors and SID to gather information about mutual funds. While 55% of respondents acquire information about mutual funds through newspapers, 47% rely on mutual fund distributors for this information. Another key source of information for the mutual fund investors is friends and family members. SEBI has said that the influence of financial intermediaries and word of mouth marketing are extremely important in the mutual fund market. Surprisingly, mutual fund investors do not prefer acquiring information through internet and television. SEBI attributed this to a large number of young population in this segment. SEBI said, “It has remained a young person’s domain with 75% of internet users below the age of 34, 16% of users in the 35-44 years range, and only 9% users over the age of 45-64. Since Indian investors tend to be older (average age of surveyed investors is 41 years), despite the rising internet penetration in India and the large television audiences in the country, information flow concerning mutual funds and new fund offerings is still controlled by traditional news sources. According to the SIS 2015 data, although 55% of investors acquire information concerning mutual funds from newspapers, a mere 24 percent use the Internet to receive information while an equal percentage procures this information from television,” said SEBI. However, SEBI believes that investors will increasingly leverage digital media to access the information about mutual funds in future.

Regulatory Rigmarole

SEBI has instructed credit rating agencies (CRAs) to give one-month notice to investors before withdrawing ratings from any open end mutual fund. In a circular, SEBI has said, “Open ended mutual fund schemes being perpetual in nature and having no specified maturity, withdrawal of rating of such schemes is permitted. However, as units of such schemes are held by many investors, such ratings shall be placed on notice of withdrawal for at least 30 days, which shall be publicly available on the CRA’s website.” In addition, CRAs will have to cite appropriate reasons on withdrawal of rating. Further, CRAs will have to issue a press issue before such a withdrawal. Typically, credit rating agencies incorporate assessment of debt funds depending on investment objectives, management and creditworthiness of the portfolio. Though credit rating gives confidence to investors and distributors, the fund selection largely depends on the portfolio of a scheme. Further, the market regulator has asked CRAs to withdraw their ratings after receiving request from AMCs. Currently, very few AMCs use CRAs to rate their funds. The primary purpose is to cater to institutional clients as such clients have internal guidelines for selecting a fund for investments.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India is mulling a review of performance benchmark index for mutual fund schemes. The country's market regulator is considering a Total Returns Index for benchmarking equity mutual fund schemes. Currently, equity schemes are benchmarked against exchange provided indices Sensex and Nifty. SEBI’s argument for bringing a new index is that while computing the net asset value of any scheme it takes into consideration the valuation of security and also needs to factor in the dividend or the corporate announcement. Say an equity scheme is benchmarked against the Nifty. Suppose the Nifty has given 8 percent and the scheme has delivered 10 percent return in one year. Within this scheme, return 1.5-2 percent dividend yield is also included. So, when the Net Asset Value performance is compared to Nifty, it is misleading as it does not consider the dividend yield. This means SEBI may change a methodology to calculate NAV of an equity scheme. Also, these guidelines will be in line with global standards as SEBI gradually intends to move towards uniform calculation standards adopted overseas. As per Global Investment Performance Standards or GIPS, all portfolios must be valued in consonance of fair valuation. In 2012, SEBI had amended regulations to incorporate the fair valuation norms, which prescribes that "in order to ensure that there is fair treatment to all investors, including prospective investors, the portfolio should be valued on the principles of fair valuations and it should be reflective of the realizable value of the assets". The SEBI regulations also prescribed that a uniform method should be used to calculate Total Returns. In total returns index, it assumes that the figure representing returns, is a measure after all dividends are re-invested. However, the practice of dividend distribution is not uniform across all equity mutual fund schemes. A few schemes also have the dividend option and a few have only growth option. A total returns index may not be a uniform measurement for both the dividend and growth schemes. While total return index will more aptly represent portfolio stocks that regularly issue dividends, some Nifty stocks may not issue dividends, whereas a total return index assumes all stocks issued dividends. If a regulator decides to go ahead with Total Return Index, it needs to address this dichotomy to avoid confusion among investors. Further, it remains to be seen whether the National Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange will follow suit and make a total returns index on Nifty and Sensex public and transparent on a daily basis to enable the fund industry have a transparent benchmark provided by exchanges. SEBI may have to address the issue with the exchanges. In the reform of mutual fund regulations in 2012, when realisable value of assets was installed as the fair value principle, this was the over-riding principle for all valuations. Thus, re-prescribing a standard formula will take the situation back to the prescription days again rather than the principle-based days (Principle based regulation is high on IOSCO [International Organisation of Securities Commission] agenda in developed markets). If a total return index is prescribed, the actual total returns for each equity portfolio may be different. So, will a single formula based Total Returns Index do justice to all schemes in that category? That is the question that SEBI has to consider.

SEBI’s Investor Survey (SIS) 2015 had some key findings on mutual fund investors. Among the 5,356 respondents with financial investments, around 66% (or 3,536 investors) have put money in mutual funds, making mutual funds the most favoured financial instrument among Indian investors. The survey found that 42% of the mutual fund investors are regular investors; 60% of them prefer the SIP route; 88% are aware that schemes can be bought and sold online, but the medium is not used frequently; 24% use exchanges and platforms offered by stock exchanges for their investment; 58% claimed that they will continue with their investment even in market volatility, but only 25% hold onto their investments beyond three years.