Different investment avenues are available to investors. Mutual funds also offer good investment opportunities to the investors. Like all investments, they also carry certain risks. The investors should compare the risks and expected yields after adjustment of tax on various instruments while taking investment decisions.
Mutual funds are pooled investment vehicles actively managed either by professional fund managers or passively tracked by an index or industry. Investments in securities are spread across a wide cross-section of industries and sectors and thus the risk is reduced. Diversification reduces the risk because all stocks may not move in the same direction in the same proportion at the same time. They offer an attractive way for savings to be managed in a passive manner without paying high fees or requiring constant attention from individual investors. Mutual funds present an option for investors who lack the time or knowledge to make traditional and complex investment decisions. By putting your money in a mutual fund, you permit the portfolio manager to make those essential decisions for you.
A mutual fund is required to be registered with Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) which regulates securities markets before it can collect funds from the public.
The History of Mutual Funds in India
Unit Trust of India was the first mutual fund set up in India in the year 1963. In early 1990s, Government allowed public sector banks and institutions to set up mutual funds.
In the year 1992, Securities and exchange Board of India (SEBI) Act was passed. The objectives of SEBI are – to protect the interest of investors in securities and to promote the development of and to regulate the securities market.
As far as mutual funds are concerned, SEBI formulates policies and regulates the mutual funds to protect the interest of the investors. SEBI notified regulations for the mutual funds in 1993. Thereafter, mutual funds sponsored by private sector entities were allowed to enter the capital market. The regulations were fully revised in 1996 and have been amended thereafter from time to time. SEBI has also issued guidelines to the mutual funds from time to time to protect the interests of investors.
All mutual funds whether promoted by public sector or private sector entities including those promoted by foreign entities are governed by the same set of Regulations. There is no distinction in regulatory requirements for these mutual funds and all are subject to monitoring and inspections by SEBI. The risks associated with the schemes launched by the mutual funds sponsored by these entities are of similar type. It may be mentioned here that Unit Trust of India (UTI) is not registered with SEBI as a mutual fund (as on January 15, 2002).
Different Types of Mutual Fund Schemes?
A mutual fund scheme can be classified into open-ended scheme or close-ended scheme depending on its maturity period.
Open-ended Fund/ Scheme
Close-ended Fund/ Scheme
|An open-ended fund or scheme is one that is available for subscription and repurchase on a continuous basis. These schemes do not have a fixed maturity period. Investors can conveniently buy and sell units at Net Asset Value (NAV) related prices which are declared on a daily basis. The key feature of open-end schemes is liquidity.||A close-ended fund or scheme has a stipulated maturity period e.g. 5-7 years. The fund is open for subscription only during a specified period at the time of launch of the scheme. Investors can invest in the scheme at the time of the initial public issue and thereafter they can buy or sell the units of the scheme on the stock exchanges where the units are listed. In order to provide an exit route to the investors, some close-ended funds give an option of selling back the units to the mutual fund through periodic repurchase at NAV related prices. SEBI Regulations stipulate that at least one of the two exit routes is provided to the investor i.e. either repurchase facility or through listing on stock exchanges. These mutual funds schemes disclose NAV generally on weekly basis.|
Mutual Fund Schemes Basis Investment Objectives
A scheme can also be classified as growth scheme, income scheme, or balanced scheme considering its investment objective. Such schemes may be open-ended or close-ended schemes as described earlier. Such schemes may be classified mainly as follows:
Growth / Equity Oriented Scheme :
The aim of growth funds is to provide capital appreciation over the medium to long- term. Such schemes normally invest a major part of their corpus in equities. Such funds have comparatively high risks. These schemes provide different options to the investors like dividend option, capital appreciation, etc. and the investors may choose an option depending on their preferences. The investors must indicate the option in the application form. The mutual funds also allow the investors to change the options at a later date. Growth schemes are good for investors having a long-term outlook seeking appreciation over a period of time.
Income / Debt Oriented Scheme :
The aim of income funds is to provide regular and steady income to investors. Such schemes generally invest in fixed income securities such as bonds, corporate debentures, Government securities and money market instruments. Such funds are less risky compared to equity schemes. These funds are not affected because of fluctuations in equity markets. However, opportunities of capital appreciation are also limited in such funds. The NAVs of such funds are affected because of change in interest rates in the country. If the interest rates fall, NAVs of such funds are likely to increase in the short run and vice versa. However, long term investors may not bother about these fluctuations.
Balanced Fund :
The aim of balanced funds is to provide both growth and regular income as such schemes invest both in equities and fixed income securities in the proportion indicated in their offer documents. These are appropriate for investors looking for moderate growth. They generally invest 40-60% in equity and debt instruments. These funds are also affected because of fluctuations in share prices in the stock markets. However, NAVs of such funds are likely to be less volatile compared to pure equity funds.
Money Market or Liquid Fund :
These funds are also income funds and their aim is to provide easy liquidity, preservation of capital and moderate income. These schemes invest exclusively in safer short-term instruments such as treasury bills, certificates of deposit, commercial paper and inter-bank call money, government securities, etc. Returns on these schemes fluctuate much less compared to other funds. These funds are appropriate for corporate and individual investors as a means to park their surplus funds for short periods.
Gilt Fund :
These funds invest exclusively in government securities. Government securities have no default risk. NAVs of these schemes also fluctuate due to change in interest rates and other economic factors as is the case with income or debt oriented schemes.
Index Funds :
Index Funds replicate the portfolio of a particular index such as the BSE Sensitive index, S&P NSE 50 index (Nifty), etc these schemes invest in the securities in the same weightage comprising of an index. NAVs of such schemes would rise or fall in accordance with the rise or fall in the index, though not exactly by the same percentage due to some factors known as “tracking error” in technical terms. Necessary disclosures in this regard are made in the offer document of the mutual fund scheme.
There are also exchange traded index funds launched by the mutual funds which are traded on the stock exchanges.
Tax Saving Schemes
These schemes offer tax rebates to the investors under specific provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961 as the Government offers tax incentives for investment in specified avenues. e.g. Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS). Pension schemes launched by the mutual funds also offer tax benefits. These schemes are growth oriented and invest pre-dominantly in equities. Their growth opportunities and risks associated are like any equity-oriented scheme.
Sip (Systematic Investment Plan)
Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) is a financial planning tool that helps you to create wealth, by investing small sums of money every month, over a period of time. A Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) is a vehicle offered by mutual funds to help investors invest regularly in a disciplined manner.
Why is SIP a Smart choice?
- Helps in inculcating financial discipline.
- Helps you put investments on your priority list.
- Average out your cost of investment and hence reduce your risk.