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Mutual Funds

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Mutual Funds

Money Market Mutual Fund (MF): Popular as Mutual Funds (MFs) this money market instrument was introduced/organised in 1992 to provide short-term investment opportunity to individuals. The initial guidelines for the MF have been liberalised many
times. Since March 2000, MFs have been brought under the preview of SEBI, besides the RBI. At present, a whole lot of financial institutions and firms are allowed to set up MFs, viz., commercial banks, public and private financial institutions and private sector companies. At present 42 MFs are operating in the country—managing a corpus of over Rs. 20.4 lakh crore (by March 2018).

Mutual Funds

Of all investment options, mutual funds are touted to be the best tool for wealth creation over the long term. They are of several types and the risk varies with the kind of asset classes these funds invest in. As the name suggests, a mutual fund is a fund that is created when a large number of investors put in their money, and is managed by professionally qualified persons with experience in investing in different asset classes—shares, bonds, money market instruments like call money, and other assets such as gold and property. Their names usually give a good idea about what type of asset class a fund, also called a scheme, will invest in. For example, a diversified equity fund will invest in a large number of stocks, while a gilt fund will invest in government securities, while a pharma fund will mainly invest in stocks of companies from the pharmaceutical and related industries.

Mutual funds, first of all, came in the money market (regulated by the RBI), but they have the freedom to operate in the capital market, too. This is why they have the provision of the dual regulator—the RBI and SEBI. Mutual funds are compulsorily registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), which also acts as the first wall of defence for all investors in these funds. For those who do not understand how mutual funds operate but are willing to invest, the move by SEBI is seen as a big relief.

Each mutual fund is run by a group of qualified people who form a company, called an asset management company (AMC) and the operations of the AMC are under the guidance of another group of people, called trustees. Both, the people in the AMC as well as the trustees, have a fiduciary responsibility, because these are the people who are entrusted with the task of managing the hardearned money of people who do not understand much about managing money.

A fund house or a distributor working for the fund house (which could be an individual, a company or even a bank) are qualified to sell mutual funds. The fund house allows the ‘units’ of the MF to the investor at a price that is fixed through a process approved by SEBI, which is based on the net asset value (NAV). In simple terms, NAV is the total value of investments in a scheme divided by the total number of units issued to investors in the same scheme. In most mutual fund schemes, NAVs are computed and published on a daily basis. However, when a fund house is launching a scheme for the first time, the units are sold at Rs. 10 each. There are three types of schemes offered by MFs:

(i) Open-ended Schemes: An open-ended fund is one which is usually available from an MF on an ongoing basis, that is, an investor can buy or sell as and when they intend to at a NAV-based price. As investors buy and sell units of a particular open-ended scheme, the number of units issued also changes every day and so changes the value of the scheme’s portfolio. So, the NAV also changes on a daily basis. In India, fund houses can sell any number of units of a particular scheme, but at times fund houses restrict selling additional units of a scheme for some time.
(ii) Closed-ended Schemes: A close-ended fund usually issue units to investors only once, when they launch an offer, called new fund offer (NFO) in India. Thereafter, these units are listed on the stock exchanges where they are traded on a daily basis. As these units are listed, any investor can buy and sell these units through the exchange. As the name suggests, closeended schemes are managed by fund houses for a limited number of years, and at the end of the term either money is returned to the investors or the scheme is made open ended. However, there is a word of caution here that usually, units of close ended funds which are listed on the stock exchanges, trade at a high discount to their NAVs. But as the date for closure of the fund nears, the discount between the NAV and the trading price narrows, and vanishes on the day of closure of the scheme.
(iii) Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs): ETFs are a mix of open-ended and close-ended schemes. ETFs, like close-ended schemes, are listed and traded on a stock exchange on a daily basis, but the price is usually very close to its NAV, or the underlying assets, like gold ETFs.

(a) diversification of portfolio,
(b) good investment management services,
(c) liquidity,
(d) strong government-backed regulatory help,
(e) professional service, and
(f) low cost for all the benefits.

An investor, by investing in a mutual fund the scheme that has blue chip stocks in its portfolio, indirectly gets an exposure to these stocks. Compared to this, if the same investor wants to have each of these stocks in his portfolio, the cost of buying and managing the portfolio will be much higher.

Mutual funds invest the investor’s money in both the loan and share markets. Buyers of MF units are given choice/option as in which of the markets they wish their money to be invested by the fund managers of the MF. This way investors get the following choices:

(i) Loan (100 percent of the funds will be invested in the loan market),
(ii) Share (100 percent of the funds will be invested in the share market), and
(iii) Balance (60 percent of the funds will be invested in the loan market while the rest 40 percent in the share market— this provision keeps changing depending upon the health of the share market— clearly announced by the MFs).

By October 2017, the SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) announced to classify the mutual fund schemes into five broad categories to cut through the clutter and make it easier for investors to compare plans with similar characteristics—Debt, Equity, Hybrid, Solution-oriented (such as retirement and children funds), and other schemes.

Every class is further finely divided, making for a total of 36 different scheme categories such as Dividend Yield Equity Fund, which would focus on dividend-yielding stocks, or Banking and PSU Debt Fund, which invests a minimum 80 percent of its corpus in debt paper issued by state-owned firms and lenders. A fund house will be allowed to have only one scheme per category to ensure that there is no duplication.

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